September 9th, 2014

Insight Selling – How to Move Beyond an Inward Focus and a Product-based Message

Product-Based Message

Insight Selling – How to Move Beyond an Inward Focus and a Product-based Message

The Problem – Ultra Informed Buyers

Today’s buyers are savvier than ever, which makes selling to them a greater challenge for sales reps and teams. Whether they’re interested in a one-off transaction for a particular product or service, or a long-term strategic partnership, customers from companies of any size and industry can research just about anything they desire online, which puts them in a position of strength over sellers.

If your salespeople are selling the same old products the same old way, then you could very well be deep in a rut. Have you backed yourself into a corner as a commoditized order fulfillment broker rather than someone who can truly add value?

As an example of what’s going on in the Financial Services sector, all buyers from individuals and wealthy families to investment committees, chief investment officers, and corporate treasurers are shielding themselves from sales pitches – using RFPs, consultants, procurement officers, and other gatekeepers. They are instead looking for insights and solutions relevant to their goals and challenges. This most obviously changes the game for the new business development officer who is finding it increasingly difficult to break through the clutter and get an appointment. However, this impacts every member of a client-retention or new-business pitch team, including senior leaders and subject matter experts, and their ability to communicate with clients in a way that causes them to engage rather than withdraw.

Who can blame them? “Why should I buy (let alone listen to) what you’re selling? If I’m interested, I’ll research it myself and will contact you if I think you can help me.” We’ve been so conditioned to Google everything and to keep those purse strings tight for so long that it’s now Pavlovian. (I’d also add that Caller ID has also further conditioned us to avoid picking up calls from unknown senders, which further confounds sellers, but that’s another topic.)

With these barriers, how can sales reps regain some control and influence in the selling process?

The Solution – Engaging and Selling with Value-Based Insights

Many sales teams are anchored by experienced client-facing professionals who over time have developed a set way of talking about industry issues, your organization’s capabilities, and their own qualifications and experience. Even if they’re credible and brilliant, too often these ideas sound generic and frequently fall short of compelling clients, prospects, referral sources, and colleagues to act. It is easy to become complacent and inwardly focused. Unless you’re in a fast-changing business and have a lock on what the market needs, your salespeople need to find a way to move away from an inward, product-based focus and find a more enticing scenario to sell.

Developing and delivering insights and solutions that resonate with clients, prospects, gatekeepers, and centers of influence is a remedy to overcome the same old approach. But as with many dialogue skills, execution is a trickier matter. Effective sales insights and solutions require preparation, deep and current industry and client knowledge, and a communication framework and skills that connect an issue that is relevant to your client with your organization’s ability to help. This should include examples of how this work has impacted others. Finally, value-based insights and solutions require practice to ensure that your people are at their most confident in delivery and, with the help of feedback, that the language they choose is easy to follow and relevant.

Properly prepared and practiced value-based insights have wide application in building your business, enabling:

  • Business developers to gain initial meetings;
  • relationship managers to expand perceptions about your organization’s capabilities in a new area;
  • you and other senior managers to differentiate your organization in a client or sales meeting; and
  • subject matter experts to distinguish their ideas as being not just smart, but relevant to the client.

Winning leaders engage their teams in this area by modeling and coaching on the preparation and delivery of relevant insights and solutions.

Instead of allowing your sales team to go out and sell more widgets or widget-based services, teach them how to sell the value and need of those widgets through insights. “Here’s what’s happening in your industry. Maybe this is a surprise to you, or perhaps you knew about it, but didn’t realize the scope of the issue. We’ve helped other clients to overcome this problem (or take advantage of this unique opportunity), and here was the impact. We believe can help you, too. Would you be interested in learning more?”


Help your Sales Team Sell More Effectively by Selling with Insights 

Click the following to learn more about Richardson’s Selling With Insights sales training program.


About The Author: Dario Priolo

As Chief Strategy Officer, Dario Priolo is responsible for driving Richardson’s market, product, and corporate strategy and planning — sharing critical insights with clients to help them win in today’s changing market place. Dario gathers intelligence and market and customer knowledge to: drive Richardson’s innovation; ensure that Richardson offers the best and most relevant solutions for clients that exceed client satisfaction; and raise awareness of Richardson’s extensive capabilities with sales and business leaders.

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4 Responses to “Insight Selling – How to Move Beyond an Inward Focus and a Product-based Message”

  1. September 09, 2014 at 10:51 am, Kurt Haug said:

    Great, direct message, Dario. And an excellent example of the the RIGHT way to approach insight– based on VALUE to the CUSTOMER rather than as a personality trait emanating from the salesperson (are you listening, all you “Challengers” out there?)

    The one thing I would add– which I know aligns with your view as well– is that in order to present “valuable” insight, it has to be placed on what the CUSTOMER “values.” Not what WE think the MIGHT or even SHOULD value. And especially at the C-Level this includes alignment with financial metrics.

    Not all companies have the same generic financial values of “revenue,” “profit” or “utilization.” At various times and under different situations, we as CxOs will not only shift our fiscal priorities, but will use different and even changing KPIs to measure them.

    Earn the right to share useful insights with me, sure. Now make sure the insights are relevant to ME, based on my OWN values, priorities, parameters and KPIs, and I may even answer to phone next time I see you on Caller ID.


  2. September 10, 2014 at 8:20 am, Chris Kiadii said:

    “preparation, deep and current industry and client knowledge…” require a lot of time & energy resources. I think one of the problems some firms may have (and correct me if I’m wrong), is that if they are already running on thin margins, this will be viewed as increasing the cost-per-lead / cost-per-sale figure. Now, one could counters that the increase in closed transactions will render said cost increases negligible, but is this guaranteed?


  3. September 10, 2014 at 11:00 am, Jenifer Jepson said:

    Understanding industry and market challenges allow you to speak with empathy, intelligence, and with common language when engaging your prospects and most certainly this is truth at higher executive levels. Needs based analysis, and Solution Selling leveraging value and financial benefit to prospect & company are a large part of a successful sales process, but what I feel is important to note about this post is the end. Open ended meaningfully crafted questions relevant to the industry and, specifically, to the buyer are key! Closed ended generic questions or passive speeches will not get the job done and will not allow your prospect to be open to new ideas- or even a conversation. You are asking to be shut down. They don’t want to listen about your product (unless they have an active project- and you probably are too late or just lucky at that point). They want to hear how you can help THEM. And please salespeople, stop sending the 26 slide deck via email with no meaningful conversation or appointment secured. You are 1 of 250 in their email box today.


    • September 10, 2014 at 8:21 pm, Kurt Haug said:

      Great additions Jennifer.

      When I conduct 3-day workshops on executive selling at the C Level, the program ends on the third day with participants role-playing 15 – minute PowerPoint pitches to me, as a CEO. I only give them a few specific guidelines before they begin preparing their “slide decks.”

      1) No more than 15 slides. And if they are just a written version of what you’re going to say anyway, don’t bother. A slide deck should never be just a pretty, email-able pitch.

      2) Don’t even tell me about your company until AFTER you’ve earned credibility that you know about MY company. And by the way– I’m not impressed that you have a logo, no matter how cool you think it is. I don’t need to see it plastered on every slide.

      3) Don’t tell me what we’re going to do or how you’re going to do it until AFTER you tell me what it’s going to do for me.

      It’s “Impact->Action,” the exact OPPOSITE of the “Action->Impact” model we often see.

      Tell me about the fabulous, life-changing Prince’s Ball I can expect to be attending before explaining the whole pumpkin-into-carriage, home-before-midnight thing.


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