We sometimes reduce a strategy to a brief description, without providing a deep enough explanation to communicate how and why to pursue it. This is often the case with insight-based selling and, in some ways, the entire modern sales approach. Insights and a provocative perspective are merely tools. We use these tools because they allow us to achieve a desired result, one that benefits the prospective client by helping them change and improve their business.
Obliterating Outdated Assumptions
The first reason a modern salesperson uses insights is that it allows them to effectively dispatch one of the most difficult obstacles to creating an opportunity, by helping the client recognize that their world has changed in some meaningful way.
You often find decision-makers and stakeholders struggling to produce the results they need because they cling to the status quo, one handcrafted from a set of assumptions they acquired sometime in the past. They often built successful business strategies on these assumptions, which makes it even harder to hear that they’re now the root cause of their increasingly poor results.
An insight-based approach allows you to obliterate your prospective client's outdated assumptions. Without removing and replacing their assumptions, you make it more difficult for them to change. You will find this especially true when your contact has changed suppliers several times, only to be disappointed that their results are no better. When all the lookalike sales organizations provide the same experience of discovery, you can see why decision-makers are reticent to change.
Providing a Paradigm Shift
We often underestimate how difficult it is for human beings to change. Most sales strategies from the past half-century were built on identifying a client's problem. The novelty of this approach evaporated long ago. Today, you can be certain your client is intimately aware of their many problems, and that they have learned to live with many of them. An insight-based approach needs to produce a paradigm shift, one that compels the client to change.
Imagine two salespeople are competing for a company's business. The first salesperson shows up and uses a traditional approach, identifying the client’s problem and their pain, then explaining how their company’s solution can address the client’s problem.
The second salesperson shows up and provides a briefing that removes and replaces the outdated assumptions underlying the client’s problems. This salesperson provides a new paradigm, a higher-resolution lens through which the client can now view their business.
Which salesperson do you suppose created the greatest value for their prospective client inside the sales conversation? Which do you suppose the company's contacts believe is the best person to buy from and help them change?
What We Get Wrong about Insights
Many of the modern sales approaches start with insights and end by pitching "why us," reversing the order of the legacy discovery call. Saying "why us" isn't the same as proving "why us.'' By providing insights that remove and replace the client's assumptions, eventually providing a paradigm shift, you prove that you are the right person to move forward with, and ultimately, the right person to buy from.
The more consultative you are, the more you realize your clients need to make changes outside of your "solution." A salesperson who has no other advice or recommendations outside of what they sell will struggle to compete with a salesperson who can provide the exact advice to allow the prospective client to generate the outcomes they need. Your insights need to extend beyond your "solution."
The Future of B2B Sales
In a recent conversation, a sales leader explained to me that they were focused on product training, as they have a new offering for their clients. The new product will likely create value for their clients, but to capture that value, the client must buy the new products.
The problem is that value is not self-evident: clients may not find the new or different performance valuable enough to invest in. Instead of providing their sales force with an approach that will create greater value for their clients and a preference to buy from their salespeople, the organization is training them to explain the features, benefits, and advantages of their products. In doing so, they are going forward in reverse.
Sales long ago left pitching products: the more transactional the approach, the more certain your offering will be commoditized, as reciting features and benefits will do little beyond annoying your prospective client. We have finally started to leave the legacy approach built on describing how our "solution" solves a "problem." Every approach eventually outlives its effectiveness, in this case by decades.
The future of B2B sales is one in which the salesperson can provide their clients a paradigm shift that allows them to make the changes that will produce target outcomes. Some of that value will come from what they sell, but most will be from their insights, their counsel, their advice, and their recommendations. As buyers struggle to make decisions in a time that author Sean McFate describes as "durable disorder," they need a salesperson who can offer more than a product or a solution. They need help understanding their changing world and changing with it.
No one needs the counsel or advice of a person who knows less than they do. Instead, they need an advisor with the subject matter expertise and experience that they're missing. The modern sales approach isn't about the insights; it's about the outcomes those insights enable. Those who fail to recognize the massive, evolutionary change in B2B sales and B2B buying will find selling more difficult than ever.