Our customers are starved for ideas and insight. That’s why, the sales professional who calls offering insight is likely to be more welcomed than the sales person who just “shows up and throws up.” But we all know this.
There are hierarchies of insight, however, and it is critical to understand these and their varying degrees of impact in engaging the customer.
6 Levels of Sales Insight
- Very general insights: “We see these trends in business which may impact you.”
- Industry-focused insights: “These are things happening in the XYZ segment which may present opportunities for you.”
- Functional levels of insight: “Manufacturing/Engineering/Finance/HR/Sales/Marketing (pick one) executives are seeing these issues as critical to the performance of their organizations in the next 18 months.
- Customer insights: “Your target customers are facing these issues, which present an opportunity for you to address.”
- A combination of insights (for example: industry/segment and functional): “Sales executives in the XYZ segment are seeing these trends which impact their abilities to achieve…”
- Insights that are focused and unique to the customer’s specific situation: “We’ve spent some time analyzing your company and see an opportunity to increase inventory turns by X%, reduce manufacturing cycle time by Y%, producing $Z million and savings and improving cashflow…”
These sales insights can range from general to increasingly specific. The very general may provoke the customer to respond, “ho-hum, tell me something new.” The more specific, the more likely you will provoke interest and, hopefully, engage in further conversations.
Customers are pleading, “Talk to me about my business;” “Tell me about opportunities we are missing;” “Tell me how we can improve and help me understand how I can grow.”
The insight customers value most is personalized, specific, and unique to them — their company, their function, them as individuals. It’s making observations like the following:
“I’ve studied your manufacturing operations and your scrap rate is at $X millions, growing at Y%. We can show you how to reduce it by Z%, saving $A millions this fiscal year and $Z millions next year.”
Personalized, specific, unique — these are the types of insights that immediately get virtually every executive to sit up and take notice, engaging you in specific discussions about their business. But how do we generate these insights?
The answers are actually simpler than you might think.
Developing Specific, Personalized Sales Insights
Never go in unprepared again
If you really understand your customer’s business, their competitors, and their industries, there is a huge wealth of financial information and other data you can analyze — trends in performance, their performance against competition, their performance against the markets, etc. Looking at this will start giving you more specific insight.
If you really understand the problems you solve — and how they may impact these financial and market indicators, you can deduce a very specific impact that you might have.
For example, if you sell financial systems that impact DSO (if you have to ask what DSO is, you need to do your homework), and you know with other customers you have been able to reduce DSO by 10-12%, you can look at your prospect’s DSO and do a couple of quick financial calculations showing the specific financial impact you can have.
“We see DSO is becoming a bigger problem. We can show you how to reduce DSO from X to Y, generating and improved cash flow of Z.” Now that’s insight! It’s not just a teaching pitch, it’s specific and actionable.
I’m constantly amazed by the amount of very specific insight we as salespeople can generate based on publically or easily obtainable information, knowing what key metrics we impact, and connecting the dots with a proforma impact statement. It just takes a little sleuth work, as well as deep knowledge of key metrics and drivers you can impact.
An Example of Generating Engagement with Insight Selling
Jill Konrath on getting your prospects to open up
I had the privilege of sitting with a team earlier this week who did just that. They were preparing for a prospecting call on a key executive. They had done a deep analysis, just using some simple financial data from the customer’s 10K. They had done a deep dive into some comparative industry data, and before they even talked to the customer they could identify specific areas they could impact and offer a projected savings improvement.
When they conducted the call, I got to listen in. They told the customer, “We’ve noticed some things in your business and we think you have an opportunity to save $27 million in the next 15 months.” The customer immediately responded, “That’s very interesting, how did you come up with that number?” The customer was engaged — he wanted to talk, and he wanted to learn!
The team walked him through the numbers, “This is how we arrived at $27 Million. We saw this data in your financial reports. We assumed your average labor rate was this…. Is that a fair assumption?” They engaged the customer in interacting and providing new information.
“Well, right now it’s actually trending about 3.5% higher than that — it’s a real problem,” he responded.
The conversation went on. In some cases they had made some poor assumptions, in others they were pretty close. At the end of the conversation, the team quickly re-ran their financial model saying “Based on the corrections you provided, we think the real savings opportunity is $23 million, not the original $27 million we estimated.”
All this in a 45 minute call. What do you think the customer said?
They still had a long way to go, but they had an interested and engaged customer who wanted to discover more.
There are other ways to get specific about the insights you might provide. Spend time in the customer’s world — observe, listen, analyze things. Ask questions of the people you can get access to. Put this information into a compelling specific set of insights about the customer’s business.
Insight is important. Customer want ideas, they want to learn and grow. Any insight is better than no insight at all, but truly impactful insight that leads to results is specific and unique to them. If you can meet those two criteria you’re guaranteed to have a discussion that absolutely engages them. And the funny thing is, if you know where and how to look for it, it’s not that difficult to determine.
As you prepare for your next calls, stop and consider whether you are providing “insight” or true, personalized sales insight.
Editor’s note: This guest post from sales and business strategist Dave Brock has been adapted from a post titled “There’s Insight, Then There’s INSIGHT” that originally appeared on his Partners in EXCELLENCE Blog.