Insight Selling & Consultative Selling – A Perfect Match: Part 1

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By Matt Drought, Founder and Chief Training Designer.

In our book, The Natural Sales Evolution, we show how selling has evolved over the years.  Today, the most effective salespeople offer unique insight to customers that help to drive their business and offer them value.

Think about one of your friends who might be a ‘go-to’ person – a really great problem solver.  A natural problem solver is able to clearly think something through, ask the right questions, get a clear handle on the nature of the problem, identify opportunities, go beyond a rigid mindset to open up new ways of thinking and is not afraid to have opinions and share them.  These days, the sellers who stand head and shoulders above the crowd and are winning opportunity after opportunity have a lot in common with these types of people.  That’s because great salespeople are using insights to sell.

Right now, insight selling is one of the hottest topics in sales and marketing.  In fact, we believe it is a game changer, an approach that reframes a customer’s thinking and drives them towards a seller’s solutions.  And it is essential if you want to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

We define insight selling as a type of selling that naturally bakes understanding into a conversation, designed to provoke customers to sit up and take action.  It is about being perceptive and providing a point of view, data, information or experience that helps the prospect to see things differently. This change in perception could be something as small as a simple realisation or connecting a couple of dots to a 1000-watt flashing light bulb eureka moment.  Either way it moves them to do something that results in a closer alignment between the prospect’s needs and the seller’s solution, and ultimately a sale.  And it’s done in such a way as not to appear forced, or rigid.  As always, it’s authentic human conversations that sell.

You probably know that the rules of selling have changed:  customers are more than 50% of the way through their purchasing process before they even consider picking up a phone to a salesperson.  When they do come to the conversation, they are armed to the teeth with information and a deep understanding of their problem and possible solutions.

When you are selling with insights you are identifying gaps in a customer’s thinking and providing new ideas and awareness that educates and inspires them.  Best of all it doesn’t have to take a lot of time and effort to develop insight.  Insight can be gained from all the clues around you – their website, the customer’s social media presence, the new products they launch to the markets they serve.  Check out their company report, their press releases and any company presentations from employees on resource sites like Slideshare.  It’s not hard to spot an initiative, and link their agenda with something that you might bring to the table.


Insight Selling and Consultative Selling

Whenever we give sales training programmes sessions on insight selling, we sometimes get asked the question; “Does this mean we have to ditch our consultative selling approach that has worked so well for us in recent years?”  The answer to that is “No”.  Although the two forms of selling are different, they are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, they complement each other perfectly.

A Powerful Combination

In consultative selling the salesperson goes into sales meetings and asks clients/prospects thought provoking and probing questions designed to elicit information that helps them build solutions (“I ask you, you advise me”).  The term was first coined by Mack Hanan in his 1970 tome Consultative Selling: The Hanan Formula for High Margin Sales at High Levels.

“I advise you, you ask me”

With insight selling the salesperson takes more control of where the conversation is going – but not in a pushy way – by bringing new information, facts and data to the table (“I advise you, you ask me”) that will help the other person.

When used together, consultative selling and insight selling are a powerful and winning combination.  What you will see during conversations with your clients is a to-ing and fro-ing of questions and answers, where you are giving your views and educating them.  This is no ordinary sales chat, but a rich and meaningful conversation with debate and opinions.  You will also notice another thing taking place in these meetings, and that is, when you provide the other person with insights they’ll give you insights in return. This allows you to probe ever deeper into the client’s concerns to discover their pain points and what it is that keeps them up at night.  In this way you are truly able to furnish them with solutions that resonate.

So, just how do you sell with insights?  Well, you’ll have to wait for part two of this two-part blog series for the answers, but a big part of it is being natural, authentic, sincere and honest which helps to build trust and credibility.  We will also give you a simple ”3 Step Selling with Insights” process to follow that will help you generate more sales and higher profits.  Until next time, try and add some insight into your customer conversations and notice how much more engaged they become when you add value to their world.


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