There is little doubt that Insight Selling is hot these days. Many firms I work with are excited about the potential it has to transform how they position their products and services, and change the relationship between buyers and sellers.

But many also struggle with executing it “out in the real world”, in front of real clients. As it turns out, the dynamics of Insight Selling can very easily be misunderstood, and its impact wiped out by incorrect implementation.

Just in case you’re not familiar with Insight Selling – loosely defined, I think of Insight Selling as the process of selling through educating with new ideas and perspectives in a collaborative way. There are three things in there which are absolutely key when it comes to unleashing the power of Insight Selling:

1. You have to somehow educate or enlighten your client
2. You have to introduce truly NEW ideas and perspectives
3. You have to do it in a way that is collaborative in nature

Take one of the three out of the equation, and Insight Selling loses most or even all of its power. So let’s take a look at three of the most common mistakes I see sellers (and firms) make when it comes to implementing Insight Selling.

Confusing “Information” With “Insights”

The number one mistake I see many make is confusing information with insights. Information and insights are not the same thing. We are bombarded on a daily basis by information. The Internet, books and the media are full of information – and most of it is free, abundantly available and almost universally helpful, but confusing.

By comparison, true insights are something very different. And I’ll define the difference as this: Information is just information. It’s data, it’s unprocessed, not interpreted in any way.

Insights, on the other hand, share two common criteria that set them apart from information.

1. Insights are always, in some way surprising, innovative, new, or fresh. In other word, they tell you something you didn’t already know
2. Insights are almost always actionable. In other word, they encourage you to take action to address the situation, right a wrong, overcome a challenge or a problem, or achieve an objective

Don’t make the mistake of confusing information with insights. Very different things.

(Don’t) Sell Or Tell. Collaborate.

The number two challenge or mistake I see people make when it comes to selling with insights is to tell or sell the client on what to do rather than collaborate with them.

As a former manager and a financial services executive, I can tell you, it is terribly frustrating when someone walks into your office and starts telling you what to do. Or tries to hijack the conversation to suit their agenda.

Most buyers I sit down with are highly educated, intelligent people who have a clear grasp on the problem, understand its implications, and have already made an educated guess about how to potentially fix it.

They don’t like being sold to, and they certainly don’t like having someone else’s agenda pushed on them. What they want is a sparring partner, someone who can walk through the process with them, validate their thinking and help develop (or eliminate) options for addressing their problem or challenge.

Nobody likes to be told what to do. What most sophisticated B2B buyers want is a sparring partner, a trusted advisor, someone that walks them through a logical step-by-step process, asks intelligent questions, validates assumptions together and then helps them decide which course of action to take and how to best move forward.

Don’t just “present the problem”. Incite action.

The third major problem I see with insight selling is that a lot of sellers don’t act as change agents. As an Insight Seller, your primary focus should never be to make a short-term sale. It’s to elicit new insights, and be an agent for change.

The difference is easy to tell: a “salesperson” will almost always listen for clues, and try to steer the conversation into a direction that gives them an opportunity to talk about their products or services as quickly as possible. They’ll jump at the first chance of “spotting a need” or a pain they can solve, so they can launch into a self-serving product pitch.

A true Insight Seller, by comparison, will explore the problem (often at great length), and not rest until they’ve fully understood all the implications and its impact. Most importantly, they will bring up new insights, ideas or perspectives that often allow for the problem to be solved in new, innovative ways – and with very different results.

If you’re out there selling, and you want to put the power of Insight Selling to work, here are three pieces of advice:

1. Don’t just deliver information – deliver true insights, which are always fresh, unexpected and often take a completely different perspective
2. Don’t go into sales mode – think of yourself as a trusted advisor to your buyer, and walk them through the process of identifying, addressing and developing options to meet their needs
3. Be an agent for change – don’t simply “present the problem” in a dry, intellectual fashion. Instead, help your buyer understand the full impact it has on their business (and themselves), build the business case for change and advocate moving forward vigorously (not because you want to sell, but because you want your client to gain the benefits they seek)

Make sense ?