I’ve been thinking about the rise of “insight” selling. I’ve been thinking a lot about why so many sales organizations are struggling with the models and methods. The last few newsletters I’ve sent described my view that as we evolve, we add greater layers of complexity on top of what already exists; we don’t replace it.
I’ve described insight selling as the highest rung on the ladder (at least the highest rung visible to us now), making the point that you still need all of the other rungs in order to reach the highest rung.
Insight is also very much like an algebra class. If you missed the first two semesters, you are going to have a lot of trouble walking in and solving for x. You missed the fundamentals, and without them, you don’t know what you’re looking at.
If you want to be an effective salesperson, you need a whole range of skills.
– You need to be able to open relationships that allow you to create opportunities (prospecting)
– You need to be able to ask for and obtain the commitments you need from your prospective client (closing).
– You need to be able to listen well and build a story together with your prospective client (presenting).
– There has never been a time when different sales organizations were capable of creating such vastly different levels of value, and it is critical that salespeople be able to capture the appropriate share of the value they create (negotiation).
– You won’t find anyone talking about features, benefits, and advantages, even though describing features and benefits creates value for many of the end user stakeholders salespeople engage with on their way to building consensus (features and benefits). Sometimes this even separates you from other potential partners (differentiation).
And yes, you need insight. But too many sales organizations are trying to leap to insight when they major challenge is that they are opportunity-starved. All of the insight in the world is useless without a plan–and a willingness–to prospect. Insight makes prospecting easier, but doesn’t replace the need to open relationships.
Too many salespeople want to share their insights, but they are petrified to close, believing it is somehow beneath them (and lacking the language to do so). I could go on and on, but you get the idea: insight is worthless without the fundamentals–especially a good and effective sales process.
Mistakenly, some believe that the slide deck is the insight. But the insight that creates value for clients isn’t captured in a slide deck. It’s hard won by salespeople who acquire the business acumen, the situational knowledge, and the relationships that allow them to share disruptive ideas and build the case for change with your prospective clients.
Salespeople pass through stages of development. They don’t go from “hired” to “insight seller” without passing through all of the stages between. Your personal sales effectiveness lies somewhere along the development continuum right now. Your organization’s effectiveness is likely the average of where your salespeople live on this continuum. Jumping to insight without all the supporting structures in place isn’t going to produce the results you need now. You need to plan to march up that continuum. There is no shortcut.
Lest you think I am anti-insight, I am not. I’ve been writing about business acumen and situational knowledge since before The Challenger Sale was published. Listen to this week’s podcast with Mike Schultz of Rain Group on their new book Insight Selling (and buy the book and support a great cause).