In our What Sales Winners Do Differently research, we found that the number one factor separating sales winners from second-place finishers is this: Sellers educated buyers with new ideas or perspectives.
In other words, the seller became known as a source of insight.
You can do this, even before you meet people, by sharing content such as:
- White papers
The content doesn't necessarily need to be your own, but it must be worthwhile content containing insights that matter.
The mistake many sellers make is to just send the content. Don’t do this. Personalize it to make sure the buyer knows you’re focusing on them—and investing time and effort in them specifically.
For example, instead of sending something like this:
Attached you’ll find our newest white paper on open innovation. The companies that are using open innovation best are doing so in four ways: 1...2...3...4... Download now to have a look and see for yourself.
I look forward to answering any questions you have.
I saw on your website and in the XYZ news outlet that your strategy is to innovate, and you’re studying everything you can to apply open innovation.
Since is a consumer products company, I’ve highlighted sections on pages 3, 4, and 7 for you on how you might want to consider applying open innovation based on the four open innovation best practices of leading companies.
I look forward to discussing the ideas with you. How about Tuesday at...
But don’t just send the content and leave it at that. Use these insights in your sales conversations and you’ll gain an advantage over your competition.
Five Approaches to Using Education and Insights in Sales
- New Ideas Approach
With the New Ideas approach, your goal is both to introduce ideas and to work with the buyer to generate them together.
Here’s an example for how you can use the New Ideas approach when developing an existing account:
"I was talking with Gina and Rich about the XYZ priority we discussed a few weeks ago, and the conversation got pretty involved. Next thing we knew, we looped in Steve Smith, one of our leadership development experts here at ABC Company.
We were talking about a number of ideas that we thought could have a pretty strong impact on XYZ, but after a while, we realized that we really needed you—and perhaps someone like Sherry Jones at your company—in a meeting to see if the ideas are worth discussing.
I could get the team together here for a discussion and come see you in a few weeks. What are your thoughts?"
The point here is that the conversation doesn’t stop at sharing insights. You bring the buyer specific insights that can spark a collaborative discussion.
- Best Practice Approach
The earlier example about content Dave could share with Sarah is a good example of the Best Practice approach. Here’s another example:
"I’m reaching out because we just completed a major study in XYZ that showed some interesting and surprising results. Of the top 10 most common leadership development initiatives, only three are having a major impact on business results.
If you’re interested, I’d be happy to come out (or lead a call) and give a research briefing for your HR and executive team. Do you think your team might be interested?"
As a more advanced strategy, if you’re working with existing accounts and you’re willing to invest time and effort into expanding your business with them, you might suggest something like:
"We’ve just completed a major benchmark study in the best practices in X. As you’re one of our top accounts, we'd like to offer to compare your company to the best practices database and share the results with you."
Of course, you can only do this if you have this kind of research available. If you’re at a larger company, you might already have suitable research. If you’re at a smaller company, perhaps talk to your president or the vice president of marketing to get something underway.
- New and Different Approach
With the New and Different approach, the idea is to talk about how something new and different on the scene is changing the game and can affect the buyer. It could be a new technology, a new method, or some other kind of innovation that buyers need to know.
Here’s an example:
"I’m reaching out because we discussed how employee retention at X% at the senior level is starting to become an issue. There are three things we’re doing with clients that have been able to get it down to under Y%. Of course, we already work with you in one area, but the other two are new. We’ve been working with other clients collaboratively to create a “test kitchen” so to speak, to see whether we could get the ideas to work.
And they are. I think you’d find it pretty interesting to hear what we’re doing and what’s happening. It’s possible you may be able to modify and apply some of the ideas."
- Straight Results Approach
The Straight Results approach focuses on some kind of outcome or return on investment.
See below for an example using the New and Different approach, but using return on investment as the focus.
"The reason I’m reaching out is that, given the shifts in the market such as X and Y, we’ve been testing out some innovations in how we approach Executive Search in the Z area. A few of our other clients have allowed us to experiment with some new ideas that are quite different from the typical way of doing things and they are producing some surprising results.
Unwanted executive turnover in our test groups has dropped by 11%, the total cost of hiring new employees has dropped by 14%, and one client almost doubled their employee engagement measures in the span of about 18 months.
I thought you might be interested in hearing about what we’ve been doing and how it’s all panning out. Are you interested in discussing this?”
- First Step Approach
Perhaps one of the most overlooked ways to sell with education and insights is to invite people to an event focused around educating them.
In RAIN Group’s benchmark research study How Clients Buy, we analyzed 20 of the most common ways buyers find providers.
Following referrals, the top ways buyers found providers included seeing them speak at a conference or event, or by attending an educational seminar.
Many sellers can create events themselves, or work in companies that run events of this type. As a seller, you can reach out to buyers and invite them to these events. This is a low-risk way for buyers to interact with your company’s content and expertise—and see what you can do.
Here’s an example:
"The reason I’m reaching out is that we have a best practices retreat for CIOs on how to build and develop the highest performing technology teams. Only 20 CIOs from companies with large tech teams will be joining. I realize we have never met, but as a way of introducing ourselves, I’d like to invite you to join as my guest."
And, of course, during or after the event, you can engage buyers in discussion about applying the ideas. Another First Step approach is to bring insights to the table and simply create a discussion around them. For example:
"As a way to introduce ourselves, I’d like to share with you the results of our breakthrough research on XYZ."
"As a way to introduce ourselves, I’d like to offer a discussion around industry trends with our VP of strategy and research."
The possibilities are endless, but the idea is to use the “stepping stones” principle of influence. Give buyers something low risk and potentially good return to respond to first. Once you get them to respond and start interacting with you, your chances of getting to the next stage in the process increase greatly.
While these examples focus on generating meetings, these five approaches can be used throughout the sales process to educate prospects and provide new insights and ideas. Do this and you’ll not only position yourself as a source of insight, but also find yourself winning more deals.