In Part 1 of my Q&A with sales force transformation expert Mike Kunkle (@Mike_Kunkle), he outlined what, exactly, insight selling is and why it has become “mainstream” in the current B2B sales landscape.
But I was curious, given all of the latest SiriusDecisions research debunking the myth that sales reps are becoming almost obsolete in the buyer’s journey, what his thoughts were on the implications for insight selling. So I asked…
For a while now, there’s been the assumption that buyers do more of their own research before interacting with reps. But new research from SiriusDecisions shows that reps are still heavily involved at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Does this change your perception of insight selling?
MK: The short answer is no. The previous research didn’t change my perception and this newest research doesn’t change my perception. Insight selling makes sense, when possible, in most B2B complex sales situations. It has for years, but given the things I mentioned [in Part 1] (which cover more ground than just “when buyers engage reps”), insight selling methodologies will continue to grow.
By the way, you said “there’s been an assumption that buyers do more research on their own.” It‘s not an assumption. The CEB published The Challenger Sale and corresponding researching stating that buyers are 57% through their buying cycle before engaging with suppliers.
SiriusDecisions also published research stating that 67% of buying research is done digitally. There’s no relation between that data point and “the percentage of purchasing process completed before engaging suppliers,” but it certainly is an indication that buyers are buying differently, right?
People have a tendency to pick up these data points without understanding the context of the study, or having any understanding of statistics, and start tossing stats around as if they’re facts. No single study defines the entire U.S. or global buying and selling marketplace.
Here’s an example. Let’s say a buyer is already working with a vendor organization and their strategic account manager, with whom they have a great relationship. Let’s say the buyer has an issue the vendor organization might be able to solve. Do you think it’s likely the buyer may reach out earlier to see if they might help? Pretty likely. Now, let’s say the buyer has no vendor in place and no relationship with a rep. Do you think they’re likely to talk internally or do their own research before contacting a bunch of companies they don’t know? Pretty likely.
From a personal perspective, I’m one of those pesky buyers, in a Fortune 10 corporation today, and have been a sales rep, a sales manager, and involved in the sales performance improvement profession for 25+ years.
I don’t know what percentages I’d assign, exactly, but years ago, I certainly engaged suppliers far earlier in my problem-solving/research and buying cycle than I do today. I had to contact them to get any information about them and their offerings, often based on ads I’d see in trade mags or experience at trade shows.
There have been a few cases (but very few), where a vendor rep caught my attention early and created an opportunity. I’m a self-admitted buyer from Hell, though, based on how many sales approaches I get a week, so I rarely meet with reps now unless I’m trying to solve a specific problem and I schedule the meeting with them.
There have been others cases where I practically made a decision without consulting suppliers until the very end, to validate a few things or have a quick bake-off. Most cases have been in the middle, so I’d have to say that I’m probably somewhere between 33-66% of the way through my process, by the time I reach out to engage suppliers. While most of the organizations I’ve worked for have had a “buying process” of sorts defined, and some level of procurement and sourcing management, a lot of the buying process is contextual and variable.
For this reason, I think we need to take ALL the research, especially any conducted by surveys, as a snapshot in time, based on the protocols of the study. It’s the difference between a map and the territory. On a map, the difference between point A and B looks like a 10-minute walk. But if the terrain is a mountain range vs. a city sidewalk, the experience on the ground is going to be a lot different.
And in all of the above cases, any buyer with a brain would welcome someone who could help them see around a corner, or solve a vexing problem, especially if the supplier could bring some relevant data or experience to the table, where they created value for someone else in a similar situation.
Stay tuned next week for Mike’s thoughts the biggest inhibitor to insight selling. For more insight from Mike, visit is blog on transforming sales results at MikeKunkle.com or follow his posts on LinkedIn.
For details on how Brainshark helps reps have more productive, successful sales conversation, take a tour of the Brainshark Sales Accelerator.
Mike Kunkle Q&A Series