This more sophisticated sales tactic goes well beyond the transactional approach (or lack of approach) of “We sell widgets; how many can I put you down for?” to one that is more meaningful and substantive to both the buyer and seller.
Demonstrating thoughtful knowledge of your client’s business and industry by highlighting a concern or opportunity that they may be unaware of (or lack an appreciation for its magnitude) takes time and effort that will hopefully be rewarded. As is true with most things, there are risks to avoid when selling with insights. If you fail to heed these traps, you might not only risk the sale but also your reputation and relationship with the client.
What shouldn’t you do when selling with insights? We’ve identified 9 common traps of selling with insights and will present the first 5 here with the remainder to come in my next post.
1. Preparation Trap
What it is: Neglecting to put in the time to fully personalize your insight to your client. Insights that are personalized will be more relevant, more compelling, and more effective. You don’t want to be seen as an imposter, or someone who simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about. It’s okay that you’re not an expert in your client’s business – after all, it’s their business, not yours – but you need to demonstrate a mastery of the insight as it pertains to their business, industry, and competition and be able to show how it impacts their bottom line.
Ways to avoid it: Not taking the time to prepare for complex selling situations is a known reason for failure. Take the time when identifying an insight to research your client, their industry, and their top competitors. Include industry and trade magazines as sources for trends and data. If you don’t find much about your chosen insight, perhaps you should switch topics because third-party sources are necessary to validate your claims.
2. Paralysis-by-Analysis Trap
What it is: This is the opposite of the Preparation Trap. If selling with insights is new to you, you may have an urge to be perfect or over-prepared. Do not use this as an excuse to stall. Perfection is not required.
As mentioned above, you don’t need to become an expert in your client’s business. But, you need to be knowledgeable about the issues and the magnitude of the insight and be able to connect those dots to your client’s needs or opportunity and how you can help. You need to know enough to tee up a sales meeting, not lead a PhD-level course on the matter.
Ways to avoid it: Review and understand your insight. Research the client to personalize your insight message to the situation and to the needs of the individual you are speaking with. Succinctly articulate the challenges or opportunities with impacts and needs in plain English. Share how you can help, and show the value they can gain. If you do that with a personalized message and deliver it with sincerity, you will already be much more effective than most salespeople. But, don’t get so bogged down in detail, research, or striving for perfection to the point that you stall or avoid the opportunity to deliver your insight message.
3. Credibility Trap
What it is: Being unable to answer specific questions from the client related to the insight. This is related to the Preparation Trap, but it specifically refers to knowledge about the insights that you are using. It especially applies to research and data, but it could also apply to an internal case study. If you cannot answer basic questions about the research, article, case study, or insight source, you can lose credibility quickly.
For the insight, don’t presume to apply a catchy headline you saw to raise an issue that you’ve done no research on. Likewise, you might identify a really good insight that’s perfectly relevant to your client – but which you’re underqualified to resolve. Make sure you set yourself up to be included in the solution!
Ways to avoid it: Know your insight. Whether it is an article, research study, case study, or something else, read all the source information. Unless you are in the science or research sector, you will not often be asked for research study protocols, for example, but be able to discuss the source information beyond just quoting an abstract piece of data.
4. Arrogance Trap
What it is: You can come off as arrogant when leading with ideas too strongly without proper positioning and dialogue skills. Respectfully providing information to shed new light on a topic amid the course of a conversation is one thing, but “challenging” someone’s thinking is quite another. Relationship and people skills, as well as people’s feelings, still matter greatly.
Ways to avoid it: Check that chip on your shoulder at the door. If you find that you’re not being understood or getting your point across, pause to come up with an alternate way to make your point without being argumentative. There are critical selling and dialogue skills to be applied along with simple courtesy, respect, and manners. You do not need to agree with everyone or everything, and you can provide new information or differing points of view. But, it is often best done through dialogue with finesse. Preparation and practice will help you do that.
5. Dialogue Trap
What it is: This trap focuses on how you share the insight, specifically on delivering insights outside of a dialogue model. You should use an insight to capture attention, lead a dialogue, and create or shape opportunities. Helping someone see things in a new light is a guided discovery process, not a hammer in search of a nail. Richardson’s Insight Message Model fits into other dialogues and provides context, as well as a platform through which to tell a story, make a connection, engage your client, and create a meaningful conversation. Don’t throw away a valuable opportunity by just tossing out data or information. At that point, your attempt to shock or impress is no longer worthy of being called an “insight.”
Ways to avoid it: The same tactics described above that will reduce the chance of being perceived as arrogant or bullying will help here. Don’t deliver a diatribe or presentation – rather, foster dialogue. There will be times when your client needs or wants you to “spit it out,” but even then, you will want to prepare and follow the prescribed path forward. You must realize that sometimes the best way from start to finish isn’t the most direct route, which has you speeding past points of interest that are critical to helping you build your case. Be patient, and tell the story that fully lays out the issue, what’s at stake for your client, and how you can help through a dialogue.