Selling with Insights™: What We Have Learned, and What Is Necessary for Successful Execution
We have seen an interesting trend emerging among our clients and prospects. Many acknowledge that buying behavior has changed, that buyers have more information and do a tremendous amount of due diligence on sellers, and that sellers need to use insight to shape and disrupt buyer mindset. Sales leaders want their sellers to be more assertive and more proactive, but most have failed miserably in making this transition. Now, sales leaders are coming to us to help them design a solution that will work for their organization.
Organizations that we are working with us on Selling with Insights™ often have several challenges to overcome. First, they have challenges harvesting insight from across their organization and packaging that insight in a format that can be used by their sellers. Our Insight Framework™ gives them a model to become self-sufficient, and provides step-by- step guidance to their sellers to personalize insight that resonates with their buyers.
Second, our clients come to realize that the presentation of insight is only a small part of the overall customer dialogue. Some sellers have been led to believe that a 15-minute insight monologue will lead to a sale. If it were only that easy! What they learn is that you can pitch an insight, but you still need to: identify buying influences, ask questions, listen, answer questions, resolve objections, collaborate on solutions, close, negotiate, and deliver. The insight is the spark that begins to get the buyer to think differently. Introducing the insight doesn’t guarantee you a sole-sourced contract. It is just the start of a process, and the buying process may turn out to take a long time with many twists and turns.
Last, but not least, sellers may have all the best of intentions to present insight, but the minute they get a little bit of resistance they shut down. Sellers go down a line of questioning with a buyer, and once the buyer isn’t expressing interest, pushes back, or creates some discomfort, the seller moves in another direction. Rather than pressing forward with a concept that is in the client’s best interest, the rep takes the easy way out. One of the challenges for the salesperson is to not give up too easily, especially when they have a strong hunch that what they are proposing is the right thing to do.
Requirements for Selling with Insight™
1. The Right Mindset
Sellers need to have the right mindset about doing the right thing for a client. According to research by IT services, Christine Crandell’s (F100 study) on how the Fortune 100 buyers have the following expectations:
- Have a long-term partner orientation
- Act like a trusted business advisor
- Always have a sense of urgency and care
- Be relevant and credible
- Set realistic expectations
- Be transparent and forthright
- Honor your word
- Be fair and flexible
- Maintain a positive & broad reputation
- Be consistent and predictable
- Focus on overall success vs. a transaction
- Products perform “as advertised”
The minute buyers get the sense that sellers aren’t working in their best interest, they will become defensive and dismissive. Sellers must recognize the areas in which they have expertise that the buyer doesn’t readily have and then bring this expertise to the table to help themselves.
2. Knowing How Far and How Hard to Push
Sellers have to accept that they can’t just roll over when they encounter resistance from a buyer. This is difficult because sellers must strike the right balance between being persistent and not creating an awful experience for the buyer.
Sellers need to recognize when the buyer is unaware of an issue or opportunity or misinformed. When this is the case, the seller has a duty to inform the buyer or help the buyer realize that their thinking about an issue may not be correct. This takes some finesse because nobody like to be told they are wrong, especially a senior-level executive. Sellers must also get a feel for how far and hard to push their buyers. This requires a feel for reading customers and knowing when they have been pushed far enough. From our experience, if you have a good relationship with a buyer, he or she will tell you when they’re at their limit. It is important to let the buyer know that you are pushing them because you have concerns that they haven’t really grasped the issue.
The rep should be thinking, “I am not going to give up. I am not going to accept your no because it is not good for you. You do not understand enough yet for us to take this off the table.” Prefacing also helps, such as “Okay, I can see why you might think about it that way. Let me share what we are seeing and what we’re learning working with other organizations. Please hear me out. Then, I would like to get your feedback on these things.”
3. Preparation to Anticipate Objections
Selling with Insight™ requires more than just getting uncomfortable and going further. It is not just the skill of doing that, it is thinking in advance of what those questions are going to be so that when you do go there you are comfortable with it. Most reps do not prepare that horizon of questions that is going to help them when they are in that moment.
Organizations need to take measures to help their reps by anticipating the objections a buyer will raise to a given insight. During the insight creation process, we encourage teams responsible for the insight to identify as many of these objections as possible and to work with sales management on reasonable responses to these objections.
As sellers prepare to share insight with buyers, they can select the objections they expect to hear from a particular buyer in advance, and then take extra measures to prepare for these objections. This advanced-level of preparation gives the seller more confidence to stay the course and follow through.
Selling with Insight™ requires a high-level of skill, preparation and confidence to execute. Having the right mindset, knowing how hard and how far to push, and being prepared for objections are table stakes for successful execution.