Book review – Insight selling by Mike Schultz and John E DoerrPosted on: March 10, 2017
During the course of a career spanning over 30 years I’ve read a lot of sales books. I even wrote my own back in 2000 (https://www.kimtasso.com/publications/selling-skills-for-the-professions/). But when I first read Insight selling back in 2014 I thought it was a bright star of a book amongst many disappointing and sometimes useless tomes. I’ve recommended it to so many people on my various sales and business development training sessions that I thought I should explain why I like this book so much.
What is insight selling?
The authors define insight selling as “the process of creating and converting sales opportunities, and driving change with ideas that matter””. As a psychologist, I like that they blend the rational and emotional sides of the buying journey. “Rain selling” is where the outcome is change.
The authors indicate that there are three types of insight:
- Interaction insight (speak ideas, inspire epiphanies, shape strategies)
- Opportunity insight (sell a particular idea)
- Cognitive reframing (an alternative view of the world – I’ve written about reframing in more detail here https://www.kimtasso.com/two-big-guns-of-communication-face-time-and-reframe/)
Advanced selling skills
It’s not a beginners’ book. You will need to get basic sales knowledge and selling skills from other books (there’s a list of recommended sources in my book https://www.kimtasso.com/publications/selling-skills-for-the-professions/ and various posts (see, for example, https://www.kimtasso.com/faq/what-are-the-most-appropriate-selling-frameworks-or-models-for-professional-firms/)). This is a book for those who have consultative (or solutions) selling under their belt and are looking to improve. It supports much of what we already know and do (diagnosis, demonstrate understanding of needs etc) but provides an additional layer.
Based on buyer research
Like Neil Rackham’s SPIN selling book, this one is based on research. Several hundred interviews with corporate buyers identify the 10 factors that make the difference between those that win the business against those that come second and third. And it’s therefore from the buyers’ perspective.
Simplicity and elegance
The authors provide simple and elegant models to structure their advice:
- Buyer process: Epiphany, Awareness, Interest, Confidence, Loyalty
- Sales process: Connect, Convince, Collaborate
- RAIN (Rapport, Aspirations/Afflictions, Impact/Inquiry/Influence, New reality)
- PATHS (Present/Problem/Possibility/Paralysis, Assumptions, Truth, Hypothesis, Solutions)
The authors define value proposition as “the collection of reasons why a buyer buys, in essence the factors that affect their desire to purchase and from whom”. They define the three legs of a value proposition as: resonate, differentiate and substantiate. It’s different as in insight selling the salesperson and the sales experience are seen as part of the value proposition. This feels absolutely spot-on for the professions where it is usually the lawyer, accountant or surveyor who is leading the sales process.
Selling skills, knowledge and attributes
There’s a helpful chapter devoted to teasing out the skills, knowledge and attributes needed by salespeople – and all can apply to those who are professionals in other spheres but who need to sell their services. There’s some helpful ideas around leading sales conversations. There’s a neat summary:
Process and method (What to do) and skills and knowledge (Can do it) and attributes (Will do and how well) = performance.
There were various other interesting and useful nuggets. Such as “57% of the purchase process is complete before buyers have their first serious interaction with a seller”.
There were helpful analyses of the causes of psychological ownership and a five stage approach to collaboration. There’s a whole chapter on trust.
The importance of storytelling is stressed by the statistic that “stories are 22 times more likely to be remembered rather than facts and figures”. I also liked the six buyer personas.
There’s a final chapter on selling mistakes which is illuminating. There’s also material on getting the most from sales training which will be helpful to learning and development teams.
As I said above, this is not a sales book for beginners. But there are some helpful insights for those managing strategic accounts.
For me, one of the most exciting aspects of insight selling is how it dovetails so beautifully with thought leadership campaigns – enabling marketing and selling to be properly joined up and integrated.