There is a lot of debate and discussion in the blogosphere about the concept of Insight Based Selling being fueled by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) and some of their researchers and thought leaders that wrote the book The Challenger Sale. Is this new? Is this unique? Is this just another fad? All fair questions. Let me wade into the debate from a slightly different vantage point. Having spent the first 15 years of my career working at one of the preeminent sales organizations in the world, we were the pioneers of SPIN and had exposure over time to Solution Selling, Target Account Selling and every other flavor. In the years that followed and working in more complex sales environments, the need for more sophisticated training and tools pushed us into  areas that included Covey’s Helping Clients Succeed and others. All good stuff. So what is really different about Insight based Selling?

First, lets start with CEB itself. They are not a Sales Training company, they are a research and analytics organization that works with the majority of the Fortune 1000 across many disciplines not just Sales. The concepts for “Challenger” and Insight Based Selling were unintended outputs from a comprehensive research project on customer loyalty. As with most of their work, it comes from well tested research. As an FYI, Neil Rackham (SPIN Selling) is also a researcher and the same holds true.

Second, the world of selling has materially changed. To illustrate, the world of Complex Sales has had meaningful shifts that are having real impacts on Cost of Sale, Win Rate and Predictability. Increased governance (more RFP’s), risk aversion, and concensus decision-making are just a few factors that increase complexity for both the buyer and seller. The Buyers ability to gather vast information from varied sources and define their needs before they ever talk to a vendor has changed the buying process and the selling process. The average rep enters a deal 57% of the way through the buying process. How do you think that impacts your chances of winning and your sales strategy? This approach helps you be prepared to compete in this changing world and as importantly to compete in the right deals.

Third, the concept of a “Challenger” is a profile (1 of 5) that defines characteristics of people and their behaviors or activities. Challengers succeed despite their organizations not because of them. Challengers do meaningfully different things than their peers and they have been proven to be 4.5x more likely to be a high performer than their peers. 4.5x!! That data point has gotten many Executives attention and helped create some of the fuss.

Lastly, Insight Based Selling is not some magic elixir, but it is some well considered thinking and structure to help have a very different conversation with customers and prospects than what most reps are having today. Solution Selling is a question based methodology that encourages what I call “discovery ping pong”. We are going to ask open ended questions until we can get the prospect to define the problem and we can introduce our solution. This also implies the customer actually knows! Again, research would validate that what customers are looking for in this changing world of sales and what they really value are sales people who can educate them on trends in their market, provide a unique perspective plus help me navigate alternatives and avoid risk. Customers want to be educated, not play ping pong and asked about “what is keeping them up at night”.

CEB works with large firms that are going through a sales transformation and there are many critical elements to that journey that I will not get into here. Having had exposure to most of the flavors, Insight Selling is very different. To be clear, if you are looking to Manage Demand better based on the RFP’s coming through your door, this is not for you. Insight Based Selling is about Demand Creation and having very different conversations with customers. You are educating and leading with insights. How you sell has been proven through massive studies by both CEB and the Chally Group to be the dominate factor in why you are selected and customer loyalty. If you are serious about improving sales effectiveness, then transforming how you sell is a very good foundational component. My exposure and context to this discussion comes from the inside. As one of 15 people globally that CEB has partnered with to facilitate the Challenger transformation with their clients, I have seen the results first hand across varied companies and industries. I don’t have a proverbial dog in the fight, but can verify the difference in the approach and the need in the new world of selling. There should be fuss. Although at the end of the day this is just human conversation, it is  a very different conversation that adds value for customers in every interaction with your sales teams and not because of your really super cool new product.



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Creating a Win Strategy