In recent years, the landscape of sales and negotiation has become more open for buyers while also being more complicated and stressful. There is a wealth of information available to customers now, and they have more access to comparing various offers and similar products – all with the click of a few buttons. However, this open access is also overwhelming. With so much more information available, it also becomes significantly more difficult to sort through. The less understanding a customer has of the industry or landscape they’re searching for, the harder it is to parse through the information for relevant and useful information.
Insight selling is an idea that’s been around in business for a while but isn’t utilized as often as it could be. Many salespeople are unable to fully define what insight selling is, despite the fact that many experts consider it to be the next most effective new process in B2B sales and negotiation tactics.
Previously, salespeople could simply explain the benefits of a product they were selling, and buyers either took it or left it based on only those factors. Then, the process of selling became understanding the big hopes and goals of customers, then using those needs to shape solutions or ways of selling. With the internet and its wealth of information, this method, albeit a more personal method of selling, became less useful as it was drowned out by the amounts of information available for customers. When all this information became available to buyers, it became harder for them to sort through all the options presented and determine the importance of it.
Nowadays, presenting a pitch of your product isn’t as necessary as a step in selling it because such a pitch or summary is easier to find on the internet. Now, instead, customers want their salespeople to explain the wealth of information and learn more about the process and procedures others use in their situation. Ultimately, they want to feel as though they fully comprehend and can make sense of the process to make a more informed and confident decision. This is part of what insight selling is.
What Is Insight Selling?
At its most basic level, insight selling relies on insight, or, accurately understanding someone or a situation by intuition. Insight selling, then, is applying those ideas to sales and negotiations by using the information you have at hand to form a clear and accurate picture for a customer. By compiling information such as market research and trend analysis, then discussing that data with a customer with regard to their needs, interests, and issues, you can provide them with a more informed perspective on sales and negotiation.
As a salesperson utilizing insight selling in the B2B landscape, you want to become the strategy consultant for a buyer throughout the process of purchasing and help them work through any questions or misconceptions with a clear understanding of their needs. Buyers favor sellers who coach them about the business of sales and negotiation rather than simply sell a product with sales jargon. Current customers prefer a salesperson who will advise them on the procedures and understand the specific struggles of the buyer’s profession and organization, becoming a partner in the procedure who brings value rather than strictly a seller who brings easily accessible information.
Using Insight Selling in Negotiations and Sales
Insight selling is utilized for relevant and useful sales tactics and works on leveraging an intuitive understanding of the buyer. The unique approach used by insight selling works to make that understanding clear during discussion and negotiation. It creates trust and rapport through that perception. This means being prepared before you talk with a customer. Instead of asking questions to understand their directives and needs, sellers have to come with that knowledge prepared and become an active participant – someone who they see as a source of information on what the buyer needs. That information must be valuable information, not easily searchable information.
Finding the right information means understanding the objectives and goals of both the buyer and the buyer’s organization. Customers would rather learn and engage with insights about their organizations and businesses rather than be told something. The struggle that buyers have is not with hearing sales information but with understanding and interpreting it into something useful to them.
The recent practices for B2B buyers are now more complex than they have ever been. Where buying cycles were once predictable and buyers had a good scope of information, now the process is more complicated and more stressful. It’s important that sellers understand this. Customers are facing buying cycles that are less predictable, longer, and less comprehensible. Changes to digital formats and changes in data privacy have also had a severe effect on buying cycles. If salespeople understand these challenges, as well as buyer-specific challenges, they can better find out how to use insight selling to the advantage of both parties.
Insight Selling Categories
Using insight selling can come about in two ways, and these methods generally work hand-in-hand. These are opportunity insight and interaction insight. Making use of both types of insight selling and understanding when each is effective will help you better your insight selling tactics. Understand that your main purpose is to bring valuable knowledge to the buyer that they can’t find somewhere else.
- Opportunity Insight
This is utilized by salespeople who don’t wait for a buyer to ask for assistance but instead talk to those who haven’t yet demonstrated interest and present them with solutions to problems they may not have even noticed. Even customers already interested in what a seller has to offer can be informed of a problem they didn’t anticipate, effectively using opportunity insight.
Sellers can do this by bringing up ideas and solutions proactively, thereby creating awareness for the potential problem by already having a solution in hand. By engaging a customer this way and guiding them through the process, a seller can effectively address the problems of a party who was unaware one existed.
- Interaction Insight
This strategy for insight selling can either be utilized after and during opportunity selling, or it can be used with a customer who has already expressed interest. Interaction insight utilizes the personal connection between customers and sellers. Salespeople can strengthen relationships by asking questions, encouraging critical and creative thinking, and challenging the preconceptions of the buyer.
By working on getting the buyer to reach outside of what they expect, they likely can come to their own conclusions about the best solution and what result would best suit their goals. Then, the seller can offer the perfect answer to this solution. Interaction insight can also refer to the connections and bonds made through meaningful conversation and connection over goals and issues the customer is facing.
Utilizing Emotional Intelligence
Old tactics of being pushy and sales-focusing often fail in the current market. Instead, insight selling focuses on more personal tactics by being an advisor for the buyer. The best insight selling occurs when the seller can offer new understanding and awareness to the buyer and consult with them through emotional intelligence. Buyers want a salesperson who can connect with them and their needs and become a trusted advisor for their business and organization.
Selling Strategies of the Past
- Alligator Selling
This version of selling strategy refers to when sellers could simply list the features and benefits of a product and a buyer would believe them. This strategy worked well before the increased access to information. Now, customers can simply compare the product to alternatives to know if the salesperson was correct. The strategy is called alligator selling on account of the fact that the strategy employed a lot of talking and very little listening.
- Solution Selling
This strategy in sales and business has been widespread for a few decades and relies on broad questions to determine the base needs of a buyer. The questions are open-ended and often include questions like, “What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced this year?” or “What are your main priorities for the future?” Then, sellers use the answers to these questions as a baseline for presenting the buyer with potential solutions.
This is the current popular method of selling, but the effectiveness decreases as it becomes more widespread and more buyers become aware of the tactics. It also becomes less effective when the buyer has access to similar information that the seller is presenting and is aware of the traditional pitches used by salespeople. The more educated B2B buyers are, the more likely it is that they come to negotiations with a solution in mind and want someone to partner with to work towards those goals, rather than a salesperson trying to feel out their needs through open-ended questions.
How to Apply Insight Selling in Negotiations
There are several steps you can take to apply insight selling in negotiations and key actions to focus on while discussing.
- Prepare Research Beforehand
Research is always important in negotiations, and insight selling is no different. However, you have to learn more than the basic numbers and data about your customer. You have to have an entire understanding of what the buyer wants to achieve and how they might be able to achieve those things. Come to the negotiation table with information about what your client wants so you can form better insights into their needs, as well as the needs of their company and business.
Sometimes this goal could be tangible, or sometimes it’s a deeper goal or unsolved problem. By learning these directives, a salesperson can create new and interesting solutions, even before the meeting has begun. Use this gathered research to talk through trends and statistics with the buyer and discover where the problems lie that prevent them from reaching their objectives.
- Communicate and Utilize Your Value
Because individual sellers often have experience working in one field, use that expertise to your advantage. Understand that you are the expert here, and you can bring the buyer new insights and information. Because of your experience in this field, you are better equipped to spot the industry-specific issues that come up often and bring up these potential problems before a customer has even encountered them. By clearly communicating these insights, you can begin building a strong relationship with the buyer.
- Listen to the Buyer
Unlike old methods of selling strategies, which incorporated more talking by the seller and less listening, insight selling requires the opposite. To gain the proper insights, it’s important to ask intuitive questions and listen carefully to the answers given. While you must come to a negotiation prepared with information, you have to listen to understand what problems need to be solved for your customer. The only way to identify the obstacles in their path is to listen to what they have to say about their issues in business, rather than trying to sell them quickly on a product. By listening and ensuring your customer feels heard, you can become an effective and trusted advisor.
Moving Forward with Insight Selling
Utilizing insight selling requires showing that you have value to a buyer beyond the potential purchase they are making. By discussing with the customer and bringing forward new and innovative ideas, you can discuss with confident buyers and present them with solutions to their problems, becoming an invaluable advisor.