Today’s topic: Insight selling. But first, let’s take a quick look back at how the world of sales has evolved over the years. It’s no secret that the landscape has changed dramatically from the days when the people selling the products controlled the buyers’ access to information. Salespeople in those days could simply “show up and throw up their pitch,” a technique humorously described as alligator selling “because the salesperson had a big mouth and little ears (i.e., all talking and no listening).”
It is also no secret that the advent of the internet changed everything by flooding buyers with all the information they need to figure out what products they want, and to compare what various providers have to offer.
Enter solution selling — an approach that involves “asking big, open-ended questions to understand customer needs before crafting a potential solution.” For example, questions like: “What keeps you up at night?” and “What are the biggest challenges you’re facing right now, and how did those arise?”
Increasingly in B2B sales, providers and suppliers are moving to add value for customers by developing and sharing helpful business insights. This involves closely studying current and prospective clients, studying their industries and how they’re evolving, conducting related research and reviewing data — all with the aim of adding value and forging deeper relationships with clients.
What is Insight Selling?
Now let’s dive a little deeper into the concept of insight selling and why it is important today. Insight selling, according to HubSpot, is “the act of using insights to move the deal forward by speaking directly to prospect needs in a way that traditional sales techniques cannot.”
Business.com answers the question “what is insight selling?” by describing it as an approach in which you “use data, trends analysis, market research and experience to help customers sift through all relevant information, diagnose problems, determine their needs and ultimately, make informed buying decisions.”
Since many sales techniques today rely on building a deeper relationship with the customer, it is also helpful to examine several methodologies that are in the same ballpark as insight selling:
- Relationship selling
- Challenger selling
Relationship selling is a technique that prioritizes building a connection with customers and potential buyers to close sales. Rather than solely using the price and other details to sell a product or service, the salesperson focuses on the interactions they have with their customers. Customers are more likely to foster loyalty toward a product or service when a salesperson establishes a personal relationship with them. This familiarity helps retain long-term customers and gain new ones because they feel valued by the company. (Indeed)
The challenger sales method relies on delivering insight about an unknown problem or opportunity in the customer’s business that the supplier is uniquely positioned to solve. … Challengers intentionally dispute their customer’s way of thinking and force them to contemplate a new perspective. … By encouraging their customers to consider new opportunities, the challenger can begin to offer an alternative way forward. (Pipedrive)
Insight selling leverages key aspects mentioned above — building relationships, challenging customers to consider new perspectives and adding value through insights. Where relationship selling is based on developing deeper relationships with customers, insight selling takes this several steps further; the idea is that building stronger relationships with customers helps you understand them better, which combined with additional research leads to unique insights on how to help them (which further strengthens the relationship).
Customer relationship building in sales is getting more and more attention these days, as countless B2B and B2C organizations respond to newfound consumer expectations around doing business with providers who are focused on customer experience and customer success.
Benefits of Insight Selling
One of the chief goals of insight selling is to move beyond simply pitching your products and services to customers, and instead look to actively engage with them — digging deeper to truly understand their biggest business challenges, separate from your own portfolio of possible solutions. This process not only opens a conduit for shared insights, it also builds trust when customers see that you are not solely focused on trying to sell them something.
“With insight selling, you come to the table bubbling with new ideas, perspectives, and potentially, data points. Insight selling is about becoming a true partner to your customer, not just a salesperson,” says Steve Wunker, author and managing director of New Markets Advisors.
Among the top benefits of insight selling:
- Wowing/delighting prospects with advanced understanding of their unique business challenges
- Advancing the relationship from salesperson to trusted advisor
- Developing longer, stronger customer relationships
- Achieving greater customer lifetime value
Two Types of Insight Selling
The insight selling model includes two distinct types of insights:
- Opportunity insights
- Interaction insights
Opportunity insights might be best described as proactively presenting current or prospective customers with an idea or strategy that they might not know about but that is highly relevant to their business goals or challenges. An example of an opportunity insight would be an intriguing or helpful business idea that is developed through research, independently of communicating with the customer.
Interaction insights spring from that process of engaging customers in open-ended conversations about their business and using one’s ingenuity and imagination to introduce outside-the-box ideas. An example of an interaction insight would be an idea that involves connecting the dots on something you’ve learned about the customer and their business while digging deeper with that customer in a face-to-face or virtual conversation. Such insights are sometimes characterized as “aha moments.”
Strategies for Insight Selling
Focusing on strengthening customer relationship skills is an essential first step for successful insight selling. Additionally, the Business.com article specifies three “key actions” needed for success:
“Don’t just learn the basic metrics about your customers – instead, push to develop a deep and holistic understanding of the jobs your buyer is trying to get done. Some jobs might be functional, like building a business case for a new venture. Other jobs might be more emotional, like being the hero to a tough, unsolved problem,” says Steve Wunker. “Once you understand what your buyer is trying to do, you can pinpoint obstacles that are getting in the way of that, and you can help them overcome those pain points.”
Especially helpful for sales professionals who primarily serve a particular market or niche, this action emphasizes leveraging your unique knowledge of the challenges faced by others in the same market or industry. This positions the seller to add value by communicating knowledge and insights garnered from others who face similar obstacles and challenges.
“Getting insights requires the ability to ask really good questions and actively listen to the responses. Insight selling works most successfully when salespeople start their interaction with the buyer by listening,” according to the article. “They use their knowledge to help customers identify what they need instead of simply telling them what to buy.”
In summary, HubSpot emphasizes that your ability to generate valuable business insights for customers “requires a deep understanding of their goals and strategies … as well as the strategic initiatives they must take. It also means you must encourage prospects to think in a way that’s outcome-oriented. If you can demonstrate where they are vs. where they should be, you can then begin to build the bridge between those points with your solution.”
Salespeople who can master the art of insight selling gain a significant competitive edge and are more apt to earn sought-after status as long-term trusted business advisors.
How to Implement Insight Selling [Training Opportunities]
The intricacies of insight selling can be challenging to master. For example, exactly how do you develop that next-level understanding of customers’ big-picture issues that enables you to support them by offering high-value insights?
Well, obviously one of the most effective strategies for developing that type of insight is to find ways to engage with senior leaders at the companies you’d like to do business with.
As a pioneering sales training provider, we have developed innovative sales and service training programs that continues to deliver proven results and measurable ROI to top brands in technology, industry, health care and beyond.
Uniquely aligned with many of the key principles of insight selling, Engaging Up™ is a sales training program focused on connecting with key decision-makers using many of the strategies discussed above.
We encourage you to take a closer look at the philosophy and methodology behind our training initiatives, and then contact us to discuss empowering your team with next-level sales training that is tailored to your company’s real-world challenges and opportunities.