Insight Selling: What’s an Insight, and How Do You Sell It?

    By Michael Harris | Small Business

    Insight Selling: What’s an Insight, and How Do You Sell It? image InsightSelling Fish 150x150Insight Selling: What’s an Insight, and How Do You Sell It?Everyone is talking about how salespeople must now learn how to deliver insights to their customers, but what is an insight?

    Because customers today do most of their own research online, they’re 60% of their way through a sales cycle before they engage a salesperson. So they don’t need more information, what they need from a salesperson is insight.

    But how are salespeople supposed to fill their sales bag with insights? And what happens if they can only find insights 20% of the time? What do they do the other 80% of the time? Do they try to create insights, and if so how?

    First, let’s define what an insight is, and second let’s look at how to find and create insights. When Insight Sellers deliver insights, they seek to not only shock customers by breaking their thought patters, but they also seek to provide relief by replacing the broken pattern with a new and improved pattern. That’s the Aha experience. Because if a salesperson can’t break the customer’s pattern, then how else are they going to take a customer who’s already down the road on a sales cycle, and reframe their thinking so that they can insert their unique capabilities into the customer’s buying vision? Without reframing the customer’s thinking, salespeople only option is to follow the customer down a buying cycle that leads to a very bad place; namely, to commoditization and discounting or to no decision.

    So, Insight Selling is a cleaver sales technique to reframe the customer’s thinking, because it taps into our primal desire to seek patterns. Pattern seeking is hard wired into our DNA, because our survival is depended on it. Imagine, for example, if Lucy, a hominid, 3-million years ago on the plains of Africa mistakenly sees a tiger in the grass, and she runs for cover. No big loss, right? But imagine if she didn’t see the pattern of the tiger until it was too late. What happens? She’s taken out of the gene pool. So, our survival is contingent on correctly identifying patterns. We’re always seeking the meaning behind patterns, because accident and chaos terrifies us. So when we see a new pattern, we tell ourselves a cause and effect story to try to predict its outcome so that it can’t hurt us. But when we see an established pattern, we discount it as common sense, because without this filter we’d drown in information. So common sense is the enemy of an Insight Selling.

    Now that we know what insight is, how do salespeople find or create it? They find it by trying to figure out what’s counterintuitive about their core sales message? Where’s the gap between what the customer believes today, and what they need to believe to buy our product? An example could be that a salesman generally gears their sales message towards why customers should buy from them vs. the competition. But because it’s counter intuitive that their largest competitor is their customer deciding to do nothing, and not another company, they lose out on a lot of business, because they’re pushing why us and the customer’s wondering why change. So, the Insight Seller could offer a way to fix the broken pattern by suggesting that the salesperson’s message first addresses why change, before why us.

    You may be wondering, “OK, I’ve got an insight to deliver, but are there any tips that Insight Sellers can offer on how to deliver the insight effectively?” Yes, the first tip is that you have to open before you close, so use a question or a statistic to open the knowledge gap. And the second tip is to avoid immediately answering the questions with three bullet points, because no one wants to hear a boring lecture. So instead of spoon feeding the answer, Insight Sellers prolong the customer’s curiosity by providing the answer through a story that shows instead of tells.

    But what happens the other 80% of the time when you can’t find a clever insight to lead with? Insight Sellers create insights by increasing the contrast between hell if the customer remains with their current broken pattern, and heaven if they adopt your new and improved pattern. However, the Insight Seller knows that if they use a direct approach to challenge the customer’s pattern, it can come across as an attack. Instead, the Insight Seller tells the customer a story, and because it’s about someone else, it’s non-confrontational, so the customer can relax and listen to the story. And as they listen to the story, they begin to realize that they’re no longer ankle deep in problems, but that they’re really drowning in the middle of the lake. And that’s the time, not before, that the Insight Seller completes the circle of insight by offering to rescue the customer with their new and improved pattern. This approach is in stark contrast to a typical sales call where a salesperson only paints a superficial picture of the problem, such as the customer’s current system is prone to error or lacks timeliness, before they prematurely try to sell the solution. The traditional salesperson is trying to rescue customers who are only ankle deep in problems with their product. No wonder 60% of sales opportunities end with the customer deciding to do nothing.

    But Insight Sellers have one last tool that they use to increase the impact of the insight on the customer by 34.9%, and that is a Darth Vader Star Wars toothbrush. How? Well, a quick story will provide the answer. In a mock trial experiment there were two sets of jurors. And they were tasked to assess the fitness of a mother to see if a seven-year-old child should remain in their mother’s care. To help them decide, they were presented with eight equal points for and against the fitness of the mother. One of the positive points was that the mother would have her child brush their teeth every night, and the other group of jurors were presented with the same point- except for one minor detail; namely, that the child would brush their teeth every night with a Darth Vader Star Wars toothbrush. So what you say. Well, this one detail was able increase the verdict in favor of the child remaining with their mother from 4.3 to 5.8 out of 10 or +34.9%. Why? Without these details, you’re asking someone to step inside your idea simulator that is just an empty white room devoid of details. And on a little white table is a power point slide deck full of fact and figures. Because you can’t see or feel facts and figures, they don’t feel like they affect you-either directly or indirectly. But if you make it real by telling them a story about how real people solved real problems, you’ve enabled the customer to do the next best thing to actually being there, and that is to step inside your story and take your idea out for a virtual test drive.

    In conclusion, Insight Sellers reframe their customers thinking so that they can sell value and differentiate their product. They do this by using insights to break, and then fix their customer’s patterns. To make sure that their sales bag is always full of insights, Insight Sellers are always looking for ways to find or create insights. And when they deliver insights through stories that are rich with details, they make customers care; because stories make abstracts facts and figures feel real. That’s why charities donation letters are able to pull two times the donations when the letter is about one real person vs. facts and figures about many.

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