We've recently discussed an article that was published in HBR, "The End of Solution Sales". It was written by the authors of The Challenger Sale where they take the ideas from the book and build even further on how it's critical to meet clients and prospects at an intellectual crossroads in the development of their purchasing decisions. The authors call this insight selling, which is leading conversations with "insights meant to upend a customer's approach to its business," and being willing to push customers out of their comfort zone.
There are many excellent points and concepts in the article, and I highly recommend reading it. There was a consistent theme I saw throughout the article that I feel is critical for agencies to be developing:
Selling is a team sport.
What I mean is that meeting people at these intellectual crossroads takes a completely different approach to selling and working with clients. And doing it alone will not get the same results as working as a team to prepare and deliver on the system. Selling based on insights takes an agency-level change in strategy.
- It requires leadership to develop the new system, train staff on the new system, coach sales reps throughout the sales cycle to stay on track with the new system, and to continually reinforce the system through ongoing training and education.
- Marketing must understand the sales system as well as the sales team and be able to use that knowledge to create teachable insights for marketing materials and activities, as well as similar teachable materials for the sales team to use. These two disciplines should be working in tandem to fill the pipeline with ideal prospects.
- Developing a deep understanding of a prospect's business requires real research and not just a cursory review of the website before the meeting. Compiling all of this information is best done in pairs for better idea development and preparation for potential discussions to take to the prospect.
- The only way to see the big picture of a business is to have a solid understanding of how businesses operate, which takes time researching, and studying. However, reading information alone will not get you the same results as when you discuss and challenge one another on the ideas. Have team discussions on all subjects related to client businesses. Be comfortable and confident with these topics and discussions internally so you can take them to the clients with confidence.
The long-held ways of one-on-one selling for business insurance and benefits are rapidly coming to a close. Clients have access to too much information and are coming as prepared, if not more prepared, to discuss their needs and possible solutions than the sales people themselves. If you want your sales team to be more than simply order-takers for clients who have self-diagnosed, then you need to turn selling into a team sport in your agency.
Photo by Luiza Leite.