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Complex Sales

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If your average sale is seven figures or more, every detail of every deal requires close personal attention. It might take months to develop the right relationships. You might make a sale only once every year or two. Then you’ll usually have to follow up during installation and service the product long after the deal is done. It’s hard to do, but this kind of “complex sales” is the only way to sell some of the most valuable products. SpaceX shows that it can be done. Within just a few years of launching his rocket startup, Elon Musk persuaded NASA to sign billion-dollar contracts to replace the decommissioned space shuttle with a newly designed vessel from SpaceX. Politics matters in big deals just as much as technological ingenuity, so this wasn’t easy. SpaceX employs more than 3,000 people, mostly in California. The traditional U.S. aerospace industry employs more than 500,000 people, spread throughout all 50 states. Unsurprisingly, members of Congress don’t want to give up federal funds going to their home districts. But since complex sales requires making just a few deals each year, a sales grandmaster like Elon Musk can use that time to focus on the most crucial people—and even to overcome political inertia.
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