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  • Writer's pictureAlex Handsaker

What is sales complexity, how should I account for it and how does it impact ramping?

sales complexity

Sales complexity is a pretty sparsely talked about topic in tech, but it can have a huge impact on the success of the business, and the individuals trying to sell for it.


But what do you need to understand about it and the impact that it can have across your efforts to build a sales team?


Sales complexity is a grouping of the various factors that can influence sales performance, from customer needs to market conditions, even through to internal processes. Accounting for these complexities can be pretty difficult, so understanding them is key to ramping up your team’s success.


Let’s dive into what sales complexity is, how you should account for it, and how it impacts your ability to ramp new starters (or people you promote) into being productive members of your sales team.


What Is Sales Complexity?


Sales complexity is a term used to describe the various factors that can affect sales performance. All of these elements combine to create a unique set of challenges that need to be controlled as best as possible to keep moving in a profitable and predictable direction.


All of these elements combine to create a complex environment in which sales teams must operate if they want to achieve success. Especially in the context of onboarding, greater complexity in certain areas can have a significant impact on how long it takes to get to grips with selling.


Even for some of the most tenured hires, excessive complexity to the sale can lead to longer sales cycles, including longer times to get on the board, which can have a dramatic impact on the confidence of reps.


What are some of the key factors?


Some of the key factors can be boiled down to:


1. Customer needs


These can be difficult for a rep to know and understand out of the gates, and can be slowed down by not effectively providing new starters with a broad enough context and understanding of the market that you operate in, and the significance of that market, the needs it generates and how that impacts your ability to sell.


Helping someone quickly get into the mindset of a customer not only helps them understand why they would buy, but also helps give them more confidence and credibility in early stage conversations, of which are pretty critical to ramping up within a business.


2. Market conditions


Market conditions can feel more relevant now, but an honest understanding and recognition that market changes happen is important for understanding how deals work within a business.


After all, if a new rep fails to make traction despite there being clear needs and pains through discovery (and despite it being identical to other historically successful sales processes) it could be all too easy to chalk it down to a problem in following the process or lines of questioning.


Understanding and recognising that market forces not only impact the conversations that you have through a sales cycle, but will work to potentially impact the rate at which a rep ramps up to success is a vital bridge to cross, and even more important to understand when it comes to planning.


3. Competitive dynamics


Like market conditions, competitive dynamics can grow also. Knowing what conversations a prospect might have had can be simple if there’s only a handful of competitors out there, but what happens when it grows to many?


As business competition grows, so do the enablement approaches of helping understand and contextualise where and how competitors come in and how the compare. Failing to do so can add to the complexity of learning both the product and customer conversations, and can again work to increase the time it takes for a new starter to ramp.


4. Product features


Product can be one of (if not the biggest) aspect of sales complexity, especially when it comes to ramping (and even more so in the case of tenured sales people).


Sales processes can be pretty translatable from one company to another, but how often do people really cross over to competitors? More often than not, sales people are moving within the realms of understanding, but far enough to avoid the headaches of non-competes!


Product can have a huge impact on the ability for sales people to get their heads around the concept of what they are selling and how they go about doing it. Thankfully, it’s also one of the areas when leaders can have the biggest ability to help mitigate


5. Pricing models


Product features aren’t understood, competitive dynamics not yet processed and customer needs not fully appreciated this can be a challenge to grasp, it does however typically fall much later on in the process for a salesperson to need to have a more acute understanding and appreciation of this.


As long as sales aren’t leading with pricing, and are able to understand the general principles that affect pricing, this needn’t be a factor that causes to much complexity, or slows down ramping too much.


6. Organizational structures


Whilst this covers both internal and external businesses (i.e your own and the business of your prospect), the way that you plan and build your organization can have a huge impact on the complexity of sales, both for your sales teams and also for your prospects.


Nailing your own internal structure to remove as much sales complexity as possible can work to speed up the process of a new salesperson ramping into your business, and in return can work to reduce overall sales cycles.



Specialisation is key to reducing it


Not a new concept in sales, but harnessing specialisation is an important part of moving towards building more profitable and sustainable commercial organisations.


Specialisation can have a huge impact not only on the effectiveness of an individual's contribution to a sales cycle, but also on how quickly they are able to get to a point of being able to contribute.


Especially in the case of a more technical sale, the amount of technical sales support and the point at which they can be brought into a sales process can have a huge impact not only on the success of a sales process, but also on the time it takes for a salesperson to ramp.


The more onus put on a salesperson to pick up all aspects of a sale, including the technical parts, the more you actually find that they not only ramp slower, but also impact team members and managers around them. Through necessitating leaning into the shorter-term onboarding support frameworks, where they are managers and team-mates you’ll find that it takes someone a lot longer to feel comfortable and independent.


Specialising also works from an opportunity generation perspective also, in the context of Account Executives - By ensuring that prospecting is carried out by Sales Development Representatives (or equivalent outbound reps), the onboarding emphasis moves towards practising and mastering the sales cycle, with the knock on impact of faster mastering.


Mitigating through technology


Technology can be another great ally in reducing the impact of sales technology - Where you might not be able to reduce it, you can expose people to the complexity more easily using it.


Using a structured approach to deploying learning, development and reinforcement is only really possible if using a dedicated LMS, and not all LMS’s are effectively geared towards commercial learning and practice.


One of the biggest areas of opportunity is in conversational intelligence, and the ability to hear the problems, challenges and product fit solutions that are put forward to prospects and clients.


The benefit of a faster ramp


Ramping isn’t exclusive to new starters, promotion paths should ideally take a variation of the paths that people new into your business take - There might be less introduction to the industry landscape and fewer internal processes to absorb, but ultimately they should share common material and learnings.


The net of this is that anyone new into the role, regardless of how they enter it finds success at a faster rate, and less time is spent unproductive, which translates into less lost revenue.


Other knock ons are on the sales cycle for those already ramped. By making meaningful changes to the impact of sales complexity, areas such as sales cycle times can decrease, and potentially even impact sales win rates positively.



Accounting for Sales Complexity


Accounting for Sales Complexity in sales headcount and capacity planning can be a difficult or borderline impossible task, without the right tools. We’ve already spoken about how ramping is more than zero, zero, 5k, 5k, 15k, 20k ramped, however the reality is that truly understanding the effect of ramping comes from looking at the progress of reps as the months progress, and digesting performance to understand if there’s reasons as to why certain aspects take longer to grasp than others.


These factors are all bespoke to organisations, however spotting the key parts that slow the sales onboarding ramp shouldn’t be too difficult to spot (and it might not even be sales complexity) - The challenge is finding a suitable solution to fix it.


Sales complexity and capacity go hand in hand, and if teams aren’t built to make the most of opportunity closing capacity, it might be the opportunity generation capabilities that need addressing.


Ultimately, sales complexity should be on the mind of commercial leadership when it comes to planning, and looking at initiatives to improve success and revenues within a business, as the value of getting it right can be seriously underestimated.


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Here at Clevenue we believe that people are more than just numbers in a spreadsheet, and that there's a formula behind revenue and growth, it just needs to be accessible to all.


When businesses are able to use this approach, they enable the ability to scale in a more predictable & sustainable way.



F.A.Q's


Q. What is sales complexity?

A. Sales complexity refers to the various factors that can make it difficult to close deals and achieve sales targets. This can include factors such as a long sales cycle, multiple decision-makers, complex products or services, and more.


Q. How should I account for sales complexity?

A. To account for sales complexity, it's important to understand the specific factors that are making it difficult to close deals. This can involve conducting research to identify common pain points, analyzing data on your sales process, and talking to your sales team to gain insight into their experiences. Once you have a better understanding of the complexity, you can develop strategies to address it, such as building a more robust sales team, implementing new technologies, or modifying your sales process.


Q. How does sales complexity impact ramping?

A. Sales complexity can have a significant impact on ramping, which refers to the process of bringing new sales reps up to speed and getting them to a point where they can consistently close deals. Complex sales processes or products can make it more difficult for new reps to understand the value proposition and develop the necessary skills to close deals. This can lead to longer ramping periods and lower productivity for new reps, which can have a negative impact on overall sales performance.


Q. What are some strategies for addressing sales complexity?

A. There are several strategies that can be used to address sales complexity, including:

  1. Building a more experienced sales team

  2. Implementing new technologies that can automate or streamline the sales process

  3. Aligning your sales process with the specific needs of your target market

  4. Providing sales reps with the necessary training and resources to help them navigate complex situations

  5. Creating a culture of continuous improvement within your sales organization

Q. How can I measure the impact of sales complexity on my business?

A. To measure the impact of sales complexity on your business, you can track key performance indicators (KPIs) such as sales volume, win rate, average deal size, and ramping time. These metrics can provide insight into the effectiveness of your strategies for addressing sales complexity and help you identify areas for improvement. Additionally, you can conduct surveys of your sales team and customers to gain insight into their experiences and identify common pain points.



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