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The B2B selling environment is in a state of constant flux. Insight selling is becoming more and more critical to sales success. Insight selling involves a fundamental shift from solution selling—from attaching solutions to customers’ problems—to insight selling—to using insights to coach a customer through a sale. Several years ago Harvard Business Review identified insight selling as a key characteristic of high-performing sales professionals (defined as sales professionals ranking in the top 20% in terms of quota attainment). Its relevance and importance have only increased. 94% of B2B decision makers are now seeking out sales teams that exhibit specific insights into their company’s problems. 74% of buyers choose the sales rep who is first to add value and insight. In today’s selling environment, insight sellers boast a clear advantage.
What separates insight sellers from the rest of the pack? In addition to leveraging AI and data to glean deep insights about their customers, insight sellers share three key characteristics:
Insight sellers are aspirational.
There’s long been a tendency among sellers to focus on customers’ pains. “Pain point” and “problem” are two of the most common terms uttered by sales reps. They seem to roll off the tongue with great force and consistency. Traditional sellers tend to assume the role of a doctor of sorts, focusing on what’s “wrong” with customers. This approach does not marry well with insight selling.
Insight sellers don’t focus on trying to fix problems. They don’t see customers as patients. Instead, they focus on identifying future opportunities—opportunities that the customer might not even be aware of. They are aspirational in their approach and focus on helping customers uncover a world of possibilities they haven’t considered.
Why is this tactic effective? Research indicates that buyers already know their problems before engaging with sales reps. According to research by CSO Insights, more than 70% of sales reps fully define their needs before engaging with a B2B sales rep. They don’t want to be diagnosed. They want to be inspired. According to research by bestselling authors and world-renowned sales experts, Mike Schultz and John Doerr, who studied more than 700 B2B purchases made by buyers who collectively represented $3.1B in annual purchasing power, buyers are 3x more loyal to sellers who proactively bring opportunities to their attention. They value the non-prescriptive approach. They want to engage with aspirational insight sellers.
Insight sellers are collaborative.
Research has shown that top-performing sales reps are 10x more likely to use collaborative words and phrases (such as “our” and “we”) than low-performing ones. Insight sellers are necessarily collaborative. They’re unlike most traditionally sales reps in that they don’t dominate conversations. The average B2B sales rep consumes the vast majority (65-75%) of customer conversations, according to research by Gong.io. Instead, insight sellers listen so that they can deeply understand buyers’ individual needs. They leave most of the talking up to customers because they know that customers offer insights that aren’t available in any database.
When they’re collaborative, insight sellers are able to truly understand customers’ specific needs. They are, in turn, better able to personalize conversations in a way that is most relevant to customers. These deep insights and personalized conversations allow insight sellers to act as advisors and consultants. This selling approach is in high demand. 79% of B2B buyers say that it’s absolutely critical or very important that they interact with a salesperson who is a trusted advisor. Schultz and Doerr’s research revealed that buyers believe top performing sales reps—insight sellers— collaborate with customers throughout the buying process “by working together to achieve mutual goals.” Customers gravitate toward collaborative insight sellers.
Insight sellers are empathetic.
In today’s selling environment, humans buy products. While segmentation and persona development can inform selling strategies, at the end of the day, personas do not buy products. Insight sellers are empathetic. They focus on stepping inside customers’ shoes and understanding their perspectives. They put buyers in the driving seat. Fueled by empathy, sellers are motivated to truly invest the time and effort into understanding buyers’ perspectives. As Schultz and Doerr explain, “Everything the seller does should serve the master of being relevant to the buyers, presented in their context, and focused on how to make them successful. With the buyer as the hero, sellers do a much better job connecting while they convince, ultimately persuading the buyer to take action.” Indeed, research has found that empathy has a direct influence on sales outcome performance. It also has a direct impact on buyers’ level of trust. Scores of research indicate that empathy heightens trust. Trust is especially important in today’s selling landscape where only 3% of buyers trust reps (car sales, politics, and lobbying represent the only professions for which buyer trust levels are lower). Today’s buyers crave interaction with empathetic insight sellers.
Insight selling is the way of the future. Insight sellers are a different breed. In addition to being prerequisites to effective insight selling, the traits that characterize insight sellers inspire positive emotions that are highly contagious. Research has revealed that emotions, both positive and negative ones, are contagious, a phenomenon known as emotional contagion. When sellers are aspirational, so too are buyers. Traditional solution sellers focus on pains, challenges, and problems. They are more near-sighted, less optimistic, and more individualistic in their approach. These emotions readily transfer to buyers. In sharp contrast, insight sellers inspire future-thinking, a sense of togetherness, and a deep sense of trust. These positive emotions move waters in terms of positively orienting buyers towards a solution and vision for the future.
December 13, 2018 at 07:01PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs