Insight Alone Isn’t Challenging Enough

In selling, the latest rage is “customer insight.”

Consider what leading sales experts have to say about this emerging essential.

From Changing the Sales Conversation by Linda Richardson: “Client insight is a marketing term that refers to the data that is gathered about clients to predict their future needs and shape their current ones… You job is to ensure the insights you bring to your clients are relevant and specific to them.”

From Anthony Iannarino: “Insight is the highest rung on the ladder (so far as we can see from here). But you can’t stand on that rung until you’ve climbed up using all of the lower rungs. You need business acumen and situational knowledge. This isn’t easy to acquire, and it should be a top priority for your personal and professional development.”

From Insight Selling by John Doerr and Mike Schultz: “Not only do sales winners sell differently, they sell radically differently, than second-place finishers. Today’s sales winners harness the power of ideas.”

So much stock has been put into customer insight that the authors of The Challenger Sale went so far as to say that solution selling and relationship selling were dead, giving rise to insight selling as the new imperative.

Researchers and experts generally agree, even if there is some departure on how extreme this trend may or may not be. The fact is that buyers do, indeed, value sellers who bring insights and those who ask questions to promote self-discovery of new insights.

In addition to bringing insights, however, buyers still want trust-based relationships with sellers and solutions developed in collaboration with sellers.

Insights + Relationships + Solutions = Sales. But, wait, that’s not all.

The term “insight” may be too narrow to adequately describe what your buyers want when they say they want to be challenged. Technically, the definition of “insight” is to apprehend the true nature of something, to intuitively understand, to discern the underlying or inner truth, to perceive the motivational forces behind one’s actions or thoughts.

Developing insight, then, requires empathy and patience to look beyond the obvious. It requires superior listening and question-asking skills plus the ability to assimilate data points and subtle emotional cues to draw conclusions.

With insight, a seller gets a closer look at the buyer and the situation at hand. In a hurry-up world, this is a gift to time-pressed buyers who may not be able to gather their own thoughts and develop their own insights.

But in this strictest sense of the word, some gaps remain.  With insight alone, your buyer won’t get everything they want from you.

Insight is about looking inward. It deals with the known variables and uses, albeit at a deeper level, what is already apparent.

Using insight alone would be the equivalent of being near-sighted, able to see near things more clearly than distant ones. This myopic view is inadequate in sales.

Buyers want sellers to bring more than insight. The sales experts who are using the term “insight” mean it in a much broader sense, and it’s important for sellers to understand the full meaning of the buzz term “insight selling” so they do not over-rely on too narrow a view.

In addition to insight, sellers need additional sight lines and perspectives.

Outsight is a seldom-used word, being popularized more in the field of leadership than in sales, thanks to the work of Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. Outsight is defined as the act of perceiving external things. Research shows that innovation to bring new ideas, methods and solutions into use is absolutely dependent on an individual’s outsight.

With outsight, a seller is able to cross-apply what is learned in one situation to effectively impact another. Outsight brings new, different and inspiring possibilities into view. Outsight breaks through the here-and-now status quo.

Outsight gives a seller a far-sighted view, an ability to see things in the distance more clearly than near ones. From the buyer’s point of view, this is preferred over near-sightedness.

To develop outsight, sellers need to expand their own horizons. Being open-minded, continually seeking opportunities to learn and remaining curious will help sellers to gain outsight. Jill Konrath’s book, Agile Selling, makes a strong case for both insight and outsight. She writes “Buyers expect you to understand their business, direction, challenges, processes, and relationship history.” In other words, sellers need to look backwards and forwards to bring more to the table.

In addition to the broad outlook, your buyers need you to access resight when needed. That’s another seldom-used (but legitimate!) word meaning an ability to see something narrowly and directly. Resight is useful in those times when you need to laser in on what’s key. It is not unlike bombsight which refers to the instrument used when aiming at well-defined targets. Your buyers would like for you to do this, too, at times.

Of course, hindsight is also important. To look back at a situation, ascertain what happened and fully understand the impact gives you credibility with your buyers.

And then there’s foresight. Unfair as it may seem, buyers demand this, too. They want sellers to articulate the ROI in ways that would require a crystal ball. They request guarantees of performance. They expect the seller’s insight and outsight to work together to anticipate and stave off future problems.

This is where you can create the greatest value and differentiation. By looking broadly and continuously at your buyer’s present and future needs, you will develop an expansive 20/20 vision and a seeming clairvoyance that makes you an irreplaceable resource. You will also be able to focus in on a narrower view and pinpoint what matters most. You will be able to effectively challenge buyers and move them forward.

Insight, outsight, resight, bombsight, hindsight, foresight… And just one more. With all this sight, your buyers also expect you to take oversight or watchful care of the investments they make with you. With your eyes wide open, you will be capable of doing so.

Check back each Wednesday in July for more information about challenging yourself and your buyers. This is one way you can position yourself as a valued partner and leader for your clients.

Connect 2 Sell Graphic smallThe CONNECT2Sell Blog and training programs are products of People First Productivity Solutions. We build organizational strength by putting people first. Visit our website for more sales and leadership resources and tools. To learn more about our sales training and leadership development programs, take a look at our 2015 course catalog

The Importance of Asking Questions When Challenging Your Buyer

That’s a good question.

These four little words are magic to my ears in any conversation. When someone replies to a question I’ve asked by saying “That’s a good question…” I know I’ve just added something of value, something they didn’t have before that moment.

Usually, when someone pauses and says “That’s a good question,” what they’ve gained is permission to pause. The question that prompted this reply is an invitation to think about something. It’s an opening to reflect on something that hasn’t been processed fully or given the time and thought it deserves. When people say “That’s a good question,” what they really mean is “What you asked has caused me to pause and think. Thank you for that.”

Sellers who challenge their buyers to pause and think are similarly appreciated. Buyers are busy people. When they meet with sellers, they expect to be deluged with details, inundated with ideas and fire-hosed with features. It’s refreshing for them when, instead, sellers ask liberating questions.

What’s a liberating question? It’s one that frees up thinking time and space. It’s a question asked with the intent to probe. It’s a courtesy extended, an acknowledgement that there is something more than the usual assumptions other sellers make.

To give a buyer the time and space needed for pondering a good, liberating question, a seller should:

  • Pose open-ended instead of closed-ended questions.
  • Be purposeful in the construction of questions so you are helpful in surfacing important information and ideas.
  • Stop talking after asking a purposeful, well-constructed question. Give the buyer time to think and respond instead of filling in the silence.
  • Avoid rushing to close. Questions that compel a buyer to think and discover new possibilities reveal valuable information for the seller, too. But that information may not be all there is to the story. Don’t pounce too quickly. Instead, consider asking one or two follow-up questions to explore the potential opportunity. This will give you more to work with and will also ensure you don’t inadvertently shut down the buyer.
  • Be curious. Topics that are ripe for discussion are usually revealed through clues and cues offered by the buyer. A curious and observant seller will notice these signals and then ask a question to probe an area that’s significant to the buyer.

In selling, there are many reasons to ask questions. Most of them relate to the improved effectiveness of closing the sale. After all, that is the natural conclusion of everything else a quality question can do – opening a relationship, assessing the needs of the buyer, understanding priorities and values in negotiating, and more.

But this one reason can and should stand alone. Asking a make-you-think, well-constructed, liberating question creates value all by itself. “That’s a good question” is a validation of the question itself and of the seller who asks it. There is no easier and more affordable way to create genuine, personalized value for each and every buyer.

Check back each Wednesday in July for more information about challenging yourself and your buyers. This is one way you can position yourself as a valued partner and leader for your clients.

Connect 2 Sell Graphic smallThe CONNECT2Sell Blog and training programs are products of People First Productivity Solutions. We build organizational strength by putting people first. Visit our website for more sales and leadership resources and tools. To learn more about our sales training and leadership development programs, take a look at our 2015 course catalog

How to Challenge Buyers without Pushing Them Away

Not all sellers are comfortable with the idea of challenging their buyers.

For some, this discomfort stems from a preference for building relationships and currying buyer favor with a “nice guy” approach. [Read more…]

Sales Community: Here’s a Chance to Give Back to One of Our Own

Stereotypes about sales professionals are unflattering and unfair.

One stereotype I especially loathe portrays sellers as greedy and self-serving, lining their own pockets with complete disregard for others.

I’ve worked in hundreds of sales organizations and can unequivocally say this is not the norm. Most sellers want to make a positive difference. They are generous, thoughtful and supportive of others.

Another stereotype that rankles me is the one that says salespeople are hyper competitive and quick to undermine each other. Again, not true and not fair. I belong to an elite group of sales trainers, authors and consultants who — at the top of their game — disprove this stereotype by consistently building each other up and working together to create a sales community.

One example that demonstrates just how off base these stereotypes are comes from an unfortunate situation. It shows how the sales community has rallied to give hope to one of their own.

Kelley Robertson, one of the world’s leading authorities on sales, has asked for our help as his wife, Louise, is battling cancer and needs highly specialized experimental treatment in Germany to save her life. In just 19 days, 264 people (many of them from the sales community) have already raised nearly $37,000.

Louise and Kelley still need at least $8,000 more to cover the costs of treatment, travel and related expenses. They need our help, sales professionals, to save Louise’s life.

Like all sales professionals, Kelley earns money when he is working. When he is not working, that revenue isn’t coming in. As he’s been attending to Louise over the past 14 months and, of course, she has also been unable to work during this time frame. Can you imagine the financial and emotional pressures during this time period? As it would for any of us, this quite likely cut into their reserves even before the opportunity to seek treatment in Germany became available.

I’m proud to be part of a community that cares about one of our own. I’m grateful for the opportunity to help Kelley and Louise in some small measure. And I’m hopeful that other sales professionals who read this will also seize the chance to make a difference.

Any donation to help Louise is appreciated and will help. We are a huge community, so all it takes is a small amount from a lot of us. The GoFundMe campaign (with a special incentive for sellers!)can be found here — http://www.fillthefunnel.com/make-a-difference-for-louise/

About that additional incentive: Sales guru Miles Austin set this up so we would all take swift action to donate and to help spread the word. More than 25 sales authors and experts have collaborated to offer free eBooks and other content to everyone who donates through this link. You’d spend a small fortune buying all of these bestsellers and resource materials on the open market.

Please help to save Louise’s life and to disprove the unfair stereotypes about sellers. Let’s work together to make a difference that really matters for one of our own.

5 Not-So-Obvious Ways Quotas & Metrics Benefit Sales Professionals

When sellers think about quotas, they’re really thinking about commission pay. That’s the most obvious way a quota benefits a sales professional.

But there’s more to it than that. Sellers who appreciate the full value of quotas and other metrics can benefit in 5 additional ways: [Read more…]

In Selling, Who Should You Challenge?

This is part one in a 5-part series about challenging as a part of selling.

We’ll talk later in the series about challenging buyers. First, let’s talk about the most important person you need to challenge if you are to be successful in sales.

(No, it’s not your sales manager.) [Read more…]

5 Ways You Can Quickly Derail a Sale

Over the past month, the CONNECT2Sell blog has focused on how and why to inspire your buyers. As we wrap up this series, consider the opposites of inspiring… If you are not inspiring your buyers, chances are that you’re making one of these five mistakes that derail sales.

The antonyms of inspire include bore, deaden, depress, discourage, dissuade, and stop. These words are cues about how sellers derail sales when they fail to inspire their buyers. Are you making any of these mistakes? [Read more…]

Want to Inspire Your Buyer? You Can’t Do It Alone

The authors of “The Future of Competition: Co-Creating Unique Value with Customers” nailed it in their 2004 book when they said “We’re entering a ‘bottom-up’ economy in which consumers will migrate to businesses that allow them to be participants in the process of creating what they want.”

Buyers today will barely tolerate sellers. They duck and dodge sales meetings. They refuse to be pitched, opting instead to do their own legwork and research. According to the Corporate Executive Board, buyers complete 67% of their buying process before engaging a seller.

It gets worse. Forrester’s 2014 research reports that only 19% of buyers rate conversations with sellers as “valuable.” [Read more…]

Sellers: Do You Have Questions about Asking Questions?

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A lot can happen in just two years.

When DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected was published nearly two years ago, sellers were just beginning to realize that buyers wanted something different from them.

The empowerment of buyers had, by then, been well established and researched. It’s just that sellers were catching up, as is the natural course of change. This book, based on field research with sales professionals and their buyers, helped to explain the shift. More importantly, it offered a simple solution to the myriad of changes buyers were demanding.

The speaking tour and book sales are still going strong. Sellers want to get in on the secret that distinguishes them from other sellers in exactly the ways that buyers desire.

More research from more sources continues to demonstrate the need for sellers to be collaborative, for sellers to create value and co-create insights, and for sellers to generate demand instead of waiting for empowered buyers to call them first. There’s only one way sellers can do all this (and more!) effectively and efficiently.

DISCOVER Questions® work to advance the sale and to change the ways a buyer sees a seller. Take a look at the book reviews, speaker reviews and testimonials that have been flooding in about this approach. This is an easy shift to make, and it’s one that will radically improve your sales results. Before you dive in, take a look at these video FAQs — the author is answering questions asked by sellers like you, sellers who wonder if it could really be that easy.

What Does It Really Mean to Inspire Your Buyer?

In last week’s blog post, we talked about the prerequisite. Before you can inspire your buyer, you have to establish and maintain credibility. Then — and only then — will you be positioned to inspire your buyer.
But just what does that mean? What does it entail? How is that different from selling or persuading? Why bother?

[Read more…]