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Insight Based Selling — It’s Not Rocket Science

by David Brock on December 6th, 2011

There’s a lot of talk about Insight Based Selling.  It’s a great conversation, but to some degree, I’m confused.  Hasn’t it always been the sales person’s job to provide customers insight?  I think most sales people recognize this, but the problem is the “insight” customers value has changed profoundly.  Those sales people that have not recognized and adapted to that change are not providing insight—they’re wasting the customers’ time, telling them things they already know.

It used to be the insight customers’ valued was help with their problems—sales would come and educate customers on solutions to those problems, focusing on the capabilities of our products and solutions.  Sales people would tell customers about how others used the solutions and benefits they realized.  Customers appreciated this, they had no source of this information before.

But now, our customers don’t need as much of that–at least from sales people.  They are getting that information themselves–from our websites, from discussion groups, and countless other sources.  We’re wasting their time if we just repeat what they already know.

So how do we provide insight, how do we create value for our customers?  If in the new “conversations” we are supposed to focus on things they have never conceived—addressing new opportunities to grow their business, help them imagine the unimaginable–showing them a path to achieve this; it seems like a daunting–almost impossible process.

We aren’t trying to solve world hunger or peace in providing insight–more often it is little differences that have such an impact.  Think about it for a moment.  Everyone is hopelessly over committed and time poor.  They are so focused on getting their jobs done and surviving, they don’t have a chance to pause, reflect, look around.  Here’s the opportunity for sales people to provide real insight—things that are happening in the industry or in their markets that they are too busy to understand or be aware of.

Insight doesn’t have to be new–it just has to be new to the customer.  Are there trends we are seeing in the markets that might be useful to for the customer to be aware of?  Are there approaches or techniques we are seeing others use that might be helpful for our customers to be aware of (without violating confidentiality)?  Are there practices in other industries that might be novel and have application in our customers’ industries.

Insight should not be difficult.  Nobody should be better than us in the application of our solutions within our target markets and functions.  In our product and service development, if we have really been involved in understanding our customers, understanding their business, there should be a lot of knowledge and insight in our companies–the problem is this knowledge is usually buried in product development teams or engineering.  Some years ago, I was involved with a Business Intelligence software company.  I was speaking to some of their product developers.  One of them made the statement, “When customers look at leveraging data and doing deep analysis on problems, they usually make this mistake…….  This is what causes them difficulty in getting accurate analysis and being able to take advantage of this of the results.”  This simple statement became the cornerstone of our sales strategies.  Very sophisticated customers didn’t understand this.  Learning this was like opening a door to a whole new world for them.  For the product development team, this wasn’t a “big insight,” but for the customers it was groundbreaking.  The trick was getting these insights out of our product development teams and presenting them to customers–not keeping them bottled up in our own organizations.

I’ve often made the statement in this blog, “we’re prisoners of our own experience.”  When we realize our customers are prisoners of their own experiences, that opens the opportunity for us to provide great insights.  Our customers only know what they have always done.  Or they know what they have done in previous jobs, along with their current jobs.  As sales people, we get exposed to dozens to hundreds of ways of doing things.  Different organizations do things differently, different industries do things differently.  As sales people we see all of this, we can share those experiences with our customers, helping them discover something new, something that is completely outside their experience base but well within ours.

Sometimes insight is making what should be obvious obvious.  We all get stuck in a rut, insight could be as simple as “I never thought of it that way,”  “I had completely overlooked that,”  “I never realized you could do that.” Or as a sales person said to me, “I feel like such a putz, I should have thought of that.”

Insight Base Selling is important to creating value for our customers.  But let’s not make that process more complicated than it need be.  Insight doesn’t have to be earth shaking, it just has to make a difference to a person–our customer.  It has to help them achieve something they had not believed possible.  In some cases that may be survival.  More often, it may be adding sanity to their work lives, enablig them to do something new, or simply providing the capability to get home to their families at a reasonable hour.

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3 Comments
  1. michael hershfield permalink

    Great point. It is about insight ,or a new way of looking @ solving a problem. But also, creating an environment or rappoport with prospects & clients, is also critical to allow the type of insigthful momments to arise.

    Once again, it’s about the relationship & climate that facilitates the aha or insightful energy to come through. Very much an art & sceince. Science to strategically& purposefully approach a relationship & artfully relate to your clients with a collabrative mentality which provides for insightful / breakthrough communications.

    • Michael, outstanding insight! Thanks for contributing. Too often, we underestimate the need to “earn the right” to present insight.

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