Almost a year to the date, I posted a blog called Dumbing it Down: 5 Secrets for Getting Smart People to Buy. It was one of our most popular posts breaking the 100 tweet barrier. That post, along with the one you’re reading now, is aimed at complex sales. The characteristics of a complex sale are typically wider and deeper business challenges that require longer sales-cycles and result in larger average deal sizes.

Complex sales are to be contrasted with transactional sales where decisions are made in minutes or days rather than in months or longer. Buyers often need help understanding available options for solving their business challenges as well as what they should consider when talking with potential solution providers. They don’t wake up one day and say, “I know the exact extent of my challenges, who I should talk with, and what I need to know in order to solve them.”

Because they lack this insight, it’s natural to want to start slowly. They will likely start by searching the web for informative content and by attending conferences. They may form a committee or ask colleagues and business associates for input and advice. At some point, however, they will make a decision to contact a solution provider and have an actual conversation with a salesperson. Whatever it was that led them to engage with you you can be sure of one thing: they will turn on their heels and run the other way with the slightest provocation.

Are you unwittingly provoking buyers to look elsewhere (or to give up altogether)? You are indeed, if you haven’t considered these four reasons why dumbing it down is the smartest way to sell to buyers.

    1. Complexity = Risk
      B2B buyers are smart people, especially within the framework of their roles and responsibilities. That framework is the lens from which they will view all information. They know and care about their business not yours. They don’t care to know everything you know about your solutions.  They want to know how you can help them with their business problems. Taking them outside their interest (or comfort) zone will be a disservice to both you and the buyer. Too much information often adds deal-killing complexity. Complexity adds uncertainty and uncertainty equals risk in the minds of – oh, just about anyone.  You don’t need to dumb it down because of a buyer’s lack of intelligence. You need to dumb it down because buyers are risk-averse. Gauge the buyer’s ability and patience for assimilating information being careful not to introduce too much information or too quickly.


    1. Change = Fear
      In order to make a decision to buy something, people need to be willing and prepared to embrace change. Change is certainly required for a buyer to solve existing problems and to implement new technology or processes. No one likes to be pushed into making a change, however. The best way for you to reach them effectively is to help the prospect self-discover. You can participate in that self-discovery step by carefully-crafted step, by asking a series of ‘phase-specific’ questions. People learn by answering questions that get them to think for themselves—much more than when they’re told something. If buyers themselves create the mental transformation from problem to solution (with strategic ‘cues’ offered by you at the right moment) the change process will unfold naturally and therefore with less trepidation. Don’t tell buyers what they need to know. Help them discover it.


    1. Analysis = Paralysis
      Rational analysis requires time and energy. When people consider how to dove-tail solutions with complex problems, their rational side takes over to process the data. Rationality requires focused analysis which requires an abundance of both time and energy. The key is to simplify the buying process so that your prospect’s “buying stamina” never starts running on fumes or worse yet, flames out altogether. When that happens, your buyer has fallen into a black-hole of inertia. It is very difficult to ignite interest momentum once a buyer’s stamina is spent. When it’s gone, it’s typically gone. Recognize that buyers have a limited supply of energy and do what you can to help them reach a decision before it dies.


  1. One Big Step = lots of little steps
    Big changes come from a succession of smaller, more easily enacted changes. Asking buyers to focus on the end-goal may be too overwhelming. It’s important to focus on ‘next-goals’ because it’s the totality of an endeavor that often short-circuits a buyer’s ability to envision reaching their end-objective. You risk a deal when you make buyers focus on making a decision at the expense of taking a next step. Be warned however, that the buyer putting one foot forward won’t automatically result in them picking up and placing the alternate foot forward. Each step needs to be earned. It helps if you have diagrammed a road-map of the steps to take and in what order. No one likes to walk with a blindfold on. Make sure your buyers know what the typical path is and instill confidence that you’ve made the trek successfully with others in their shoes.

These are reasons why you should dumb it down. For ideas on how to dumb it down, you’ll want to refer to the original post. In the end, it really all boils down to this. Don’t scare buyers away with too much information that they can’t yet process or will never need to process. Recognize that change induces discomfort and vow not to feed into that. Time kills deals and considered thought based on rational analysis of a complex problem is nothing if it isn’t time-consuming. And finally, don’t expect your buyer to enthusiastically accompany you on your long trek to a sale without understanding what to expect along the way.

I recommend considering each of these four areas, how they relate to your sales cycle, and specific ways to dumb it down so your buyers don’t go running for the hills.  I’m not professing it will be easy to do. But it is the smart thing to do.

Author, Nancy Nardin is the foremost expert in sales productivity tools. As President of Smart Selling Tools, she consults with many of the top sales productivity software vendors as well as end-user organizations looking to select the right tools. Click to get Nancy’s What & When weekly digest with invitations to complimentary webinars and informative publications. Follow Nancy on Twitter @sellingtools or subscribe to her Tool Talk blog. Nancy can be reached at 916-596-3035. To schedule a free 30 minute consultation click here.