How to sell something complicated

Those of us who work with innovative offerings in the STEM space are no strangers to complexity. It’s part of our BAU. You can’t do the groundbreaking, awesome stuff you do without the means of getting there being at least a little complicated or requiring heaps of specialist knowledge. But, when it comes to actually selling that offering, complexity is our enemy. It’s hard to hear, especially when you’ve poured months or even years of your hard work into wading through all that complicated stuff to get to something that works, but the truth is, people just don’t care.

So, why is complexity our enemy?

Take the example in the image accompanying this post. An aircraft cockpit is extremely complex, with so many different components and relationships between those components, it’s mind boggling to pretty much anyone who doesn’t build them for a living. But that’s the point, it’s mind boggling. It’s hard work even beginning to think about how all those different elements come together to form something capable of propelling us through the air.

When we book a flight, we don’t want to think about the level of effort it took to make it possible for us to take it. We buy into being able to get where we want quickly and safely. In some instances, we buy into the onboard experience. But, we sure as hell don’t want to read the tech spec for the plane. Airlines understand this. They don’t try and sell us the plane, they sell us the destination and sometimes the experience of flying.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But I don’t sell to consumers, I sell to businesses, surely that’s different?” Unfortunately not. People are people at their core, whether at work or at home. They don’t have the motivation to look at what you have to offer in any degree of detail. Not until you’ve engaged them at a very basic emotional level. They’ve got to believe in the promise of what your offering will do for them personally and for their business, before they’ll give you any head space at all to explain how you’re going to do it.

How to sell something complicated in 3 easy steps
  1. Identify the emotional driver of the people doing the buying. What are you going to do for me personally? Are you going to make it easier for me to get a promotion or a pay rise? Are you going to make me less stressed, make my life easier in some way? Are you going to stop my colleagues complaining to me? There has to be a concrete pain alleviation, gain to be had, or both for each person that’s part of the buying decision. And be warned, they may well be different for different people.
  2. Identify the benefit for the business. No-one ever got sign off for spending company money just so they could get promoted. It might be the core motivator that’s driving them to push through the purchase, but they can’t openly say so. That’s why there needs to be an equally clear business benefit – think pain/gain again – that they can state as the reason for spending company time and potentially money considering and buying your product or service.
  3. Tell them a story. What you’re doing is super clever. It’s probably got something really smart or complex behind it. But we need to explain that in a relatable way, so people instantly get what you’re about. That’s why we need to take all that clever and complex stuff and translate it into a story anyone can understand or relate to. One of the most powerful ways to do this is through analogies. What could you compare what you’re doing with? A sport? An everyday activity? We need to find a parallel between what you’re doing and something far more typical that everyone can immediately grasp and relate to.

If you implement these three steps across all your marcomms and sales activity, I can guarantee you’ll sell more of what you have to offer, more often, more easily and potentially for more money. If this all sounds great, but too much like hard work or too far out of your skillset, get in touch. This is our brand of magic and we’d love to make it work for you.