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What Is Insight-Based Selling?

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Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

Insight-Based Selling Defined: Insight selling is the process of creating and winning sales opportunities, and driving change, with ideas that matter. There are two applications of insight selling: interaction insight and opportunity insight.

  1. Interaction insight: Providing value in the form of creating insights through buyer and seller conversation
  2. Opportunity insight: Selling a particular idea or strategy a buyer should pursue but might not know about

In this video, Ago Cluytens, Practice Director of RAIN Group EMEA, discusses the two categories of insight selling and what you must do if you want buyers to move forward with you.



What Buyers Look For in a Seller

Think about someone you seek out when you're working through a challenge.

They help you think things through, see what’s important. They ask the right questions. They listen. They don’t just give you answers—they help you come up with them.

On the other hand, they’re not afraid to tell you what they think, share their ideas, and take a stand when they feel strongly about something.

People like this make us better. They help us see what's possible. That's why we get so much from interacting with them. That's why we seek them out. Again and again.

The sellers who are winning major sales these days are starting to look just like these people.

Today's buyers have a lot of information and choices, but they don’t necessarily have more wisdom or confidence. They need people to share ideas and help them think ideas through.

Yet this is where so many sellers struggle, fall short, and lose, while a few select get it right and win.

How do we know?

We studied 700 business-to-business purchases from buyers with $3.1 billion in purchasing power. Our goal was to find out what the winners of these sales did differently than second-place finishers (you can download our findings by clicking here). We weren’t looking for any strategy or tactic in particular. All we wanted to know was if there were commonalities among sellers winning sales these days, and differences between the winner group and the close-but-no-cigar group.

Insight—What Sales Winners Do Differently

The top three things winning sellers do most differently than second-place finishers are:

  1. Educated me with new ideas and perspectives
  2. Collaborated with me
  3. Persuaded me we would achieve results

The common thread? They’re all about ideas (thus the title of our book, Insight Selling). These also make up the first 3 of these 10 essential selling skills

Education is pretty straightforward in this regard. When sellers educate with new ideas, they bring ideas to the table directly.

Great collaboration often inspires ideas. In fact, there’s plenty of research to suggest that great ideas come from collaboration because the ideas can mingle and swap. Finally, "persuaded me we would achieve results" is about belief in the ideas and their merits.

When sellers employ insight selling, which we define as, "the process of creating and winning sales opportunities, and driving change, with ideas that matter," they find themselves in the winner’s circle most often.

Two Categories of Insight Selling

Sales winners employ two types of insight-based selling: opportunity insight and interaction insight.

Opportunity Insight

Focuses on selling a particular idea that is likely to lead to a sale. To do this, sellers must bring up the idea proactively. It’s the rare buyer that calls and says, "Hey, do you have any new ideas for me?" It’s up to the seller to create the opportunity and communicate it so the buyer says (or thinks) something like, "Very interesting. I didn't know that was possible. If it works, it’ll be a huge win."

Opportunity insight also creates customer loyalty. In our research, we found that buyers were three times more loyal to sellers who proactively brought opportunities to their attention. Educating buyers not only shares the seller's expertise, but also demonstrates the seller's willingness to collaborate with the buyer. In fact, that's the second type of insight selling.

Interaction Insight

Provides value in the form of sparking ideas, inspiring "AHA! moments" and shaping strategies based on interactions between seller and buyer. You're not just there to sell them something; you're there to shape ideas and inspire changes that could benefit their business.

Much as a trusted colleague might help you come up with your own ideas, so does the savvy seller who practices interaction insight. These winning sellers help buyers think outside the box by asking tough questions, pushing them out of their comfort zones, and challenging their assumptions. When they do, buyers often come to insights on their own. The net effect is that the buyer wants to keep that seller around. To do that, they buy from that provider more often.

Opportunity insight and interaction insight work together to build customer loyalty and earn repeat sales. Whether presenting the buyer with a new opportunity, or simply collaborating with them, insight sellers drive change with ideas that matter.

The Upshot—Harness the Power of Ideas

Sellers who win harness the power of ideas.

Insight sellers recognize that how they interact with buyers transforms them into indispensable resources to buyers. This is a big change from the days of focusing only on the value of products and services.

The cold reality, however, is that a lot of sellers don't bring anything worthwhile to the table. For those who do, it makes a big difference in results for their buyers…and themselves.

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RECOMMENDED READING >> Bringing Insight to B2B Sales: Sell Like the Winners Do


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Topics: Insight Selling