What is Insight Based Selling? (And How Does It Relate to Prospecting?)

What is Insight Based Selling? (And How Does It Relate to Prospecting?)
October 13, 2016

Call it what you will… insight selling, changing the sales conversation, selling with insights, challenging, influencing through thought leadership, provocative selling… it started to gain traction a few years ago and it’s all the rage, isn’t it?

Insight-based selling is a hot topic, but it’s been done successfully for a long time in some industries/verticals and by top sales producers. And when it comes to prospecting, insight selling is one approach that should be used more frequently. 

Defining Insight Based Selling

Insight based selling typically shifts perception about the importance or weight of a situation (PRO: A Problem, Risk, or Opportunity) or helps strengthen the connection between the buyer’s situation and the seller’s solution and the outcomes it would produce.

An “insight” is relevant and compelling market research, data, a point of view, or experience and expertise that when shared, helps someone see things differently. 

That shift in perception could be a full-fledged “Aha Moment,” a simple realization, a dot-connection, a new perspective, an increased awareness, or a deeper understanding. This approach is especially useful when prospecting.

3 Pointers for Insight Based Selling

  • Insights are best delivered in a respectful dialogue as part of a sales conversation. When prospecting, however, you can use insight messaging effectively to capture attention and generate enough interest for an appointment, where you can have that deeper dialogue.

  • Creating a real “Aha Moment” for people isn't always easy. First, you have to have the data, perspective or point of view (a real insight) that when shared, will shift someone’s perspective. Then, you have to deliver it in way that helps people make the connection or experience the shift.  When I worked at Richardson and led the development of their Selling with Insights® program, I wrote this post about how selling is like a “left-turn” joke punchline and offered advice about how to juxtapose data points to create that funny-bone, Aha moment.

  • Insights are great for kick-starting opportunities, helping buyers realize an issue is more serious than they thought, or influencing how they perceive you or your solution. But the real work in selling remains the power of connecting the catalyst (PRO: problem, risk, opportunity) with your solution, to produce outcomes that others can’t, or that others can’t as well as you can. Especially when using insights to prospect and gain an appointment, don’t forget that the real work lies ahead of you in how you run that appointment. Insights are not silver bullets. 

To make insight selling work, conduct sales research in advance (seeking sales signals or trigger events) to know your target buyer is likely to have the PRO (problems, risks, opportunities) that you address and to which your insight is related.  

If you don't have domain expertise, business acumen, financial acumen, and finely-honed dialogue skills, this may honestly not be the best approach for you. (If this is true, don't give up on insight selling, but go fix those things first.)  This post from Dave Brock shares a great example of the acumen needed. 

I won’t outline an entire appointment script here, but here are some ideas on how to bring insights into the picture.

Examples of Insight Based Positioning

Sample 1 (combined with Referral)

[Referral Name] recommended that I reach out to you. He mentioned that you and he discussed [brief issue summary] and he thought I might be able to offer some insights.  With our clients, we’re seeing [a little more issue detail], which creates [list impacts].   How well does that summarize your situation at [company]?  

Based on [insight source], we've learned that [share insight], which surprises some people. The good news is that with clients in similar situations, we've been able to approach this differently with great results [share solution/outcome]. With [company name], for example, we [took this action] and helped them [achieve outcome] in just [timeframe].

Sample 2

[Buyer Name], we’re seeing some troubling trends in the market with [brief issue summary], which we see creating [the impacts].  Is this an issue you’re experiencing yet or looking ahead to avoiding at [Company Name]? 

This is surprising to some, but we have some data that shows [share insight].  Based on that and what we've learned from our experience with our clients, we’re now suggesting [solution].  We've had great success with this, and in fact, with [company name], we even [cite major outcome], which we've built a case study around.

How well this works depends on the strength of your insight and various other factors.  

Want to learn more? Check out: What Is Objective Based Selling? Q&A with Sales Expert Tibor Shanto

This post was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse in May 2015. It has been updated for comprehensiveness.