b2b sales, selling, complex sales, sales leadership, shiftability

One of my favorite things about our book Shiftability is that we turn some conventional wisdom on its head and offer new perspectives on common assumptions.

In the world of complex sales our natural instinct is to drive to simplicity – but the truth is the complexity of a client’s needs actually opens up opportunity. Instead of running from complexity, we need to wade right in and lead our client through it. Here is an excerpt from the introduction to our chapter on embracing complexity:

The ostrich is native to the savannahs of Africa and is the largest species of bird, weighing in at 350 pounds. It is also the fastest mammal on two legs. And, as everyone knows, when an ostrich senses danger or sees a predator it will bury its head in the sand, thinking that if it can’t see the predator, the predator can’t see it. Of course, this is the origin of the common idiom to bury your head in the sand.

Except it’s not true.

An ostrich actually does what any sensible creature does in the face of danger: it runs away and it runs away quickly. The myth about ostriches burying their heads in the sand probably originated from observations of them with their heads down tending their nests or eating pebbles and sand to aid with digestion. But it is a myth that endures and is widely believed by most people.

Here is another myth that many believe: simplicity is always best and complexity is bad.

Complexity makes us nervous, overwhelms us and even scares us because we don’t know what to do with it. Our instinct is to seek simplicity and avoid complexity by desperately trying to reduce complex situations to simple variables.

So when we are confronted with complicated situations, like the mythical ostrich or the real ostrich, we bury our heads in the sand and hope it will go away, or we run in the other direction as fast as our two legs can carry us.

In the world of complex B2B sales, the reality is that complexity is actually our friend. If we shift away from favoring simplicity and instead choose to embrace complexity and look it square in the eye, we will be able to open up so much more opportunity to create value with and for our clients. Because, here’s the thing – your client is probably running away from complexity, too.

In a simple sale, there is little differentiation and everything usually comes down to a simple proposition of price. This is a basic scenario with limited opportunity to influence or add value. But a salesperson that can take that simple proposition of price alone and open it back up to exploring more complex underlying fundamentals will be able to create more opportunity and more value. And, in a complicated sale, with multiple variables and challenges that demand a complex solution, most clients will welcome the help of a skilled navigator.

Complexity really is our friend.

Get a copy of Shiftability and read the whole chapter on navigating complexity.

All proceeds from the sale of Shiftability support the mission of charity water.org.