Part One of a Five Part Series.
You may have heard the similar terms perspective selling, insight selling, challenger selling etc. and wondered what the big deal is. Are these passing fad or enduring principle restated? Good news: while the promotional buzz is relatively recent, they all trace back to some solid behavioral and decision science.
The bad news: insight/perspective selling is not simple “selling by telling”. Unsurprisingly, the magic pitch (aka the value message that turns prospects into pliant buyers) is dead. It’s been dead in consumer sales for a long time. And having been consumers, business buyers have lost their tolerance for pitches, even magic ones.
Each of the terms represent a similar idea. I mostly use us the word perspective, but I’ll sprinkle synonyms in.
What is it?
The Miller Heiman Group has one of the better definitions I’ve seen:
Perspective is knowledge or insight that expands a customer’s understanding of one or more business issues. When a seller provides perspective, they apply insights and expertise which increase customer perceived value.
What’s so great about it?
The whole point of selling with perspective breaking into the circle of trust.
According to CSO Insights 2018 Buyer Preference Study, business buyers view vendor salespeople as one of their least preferred sources of information. Salespeople ranked ninth out of ten information sources mentioned by buyers, ahead of only professional trade associations. Ouch.
The news gets worse. Because buyers don’t think sellers add value, buyers don’t engage sellers until they’ve identified their own needs and narrowed down to a self-prescribed solution. Then, when presented with a predefined solution, vendors (predictably) find it hard to differentiate themselves or to exceed expectations. Thus, sellers reinforce their initial impression of buyers, and a cycle is formed.
In short, once the customer has pegged you as an unremarkable seller, you are stuck in a no-value feedback loop that’s difficult to escape. Your goal should be never to enter this cycle.
Happily, buyers are willing promote sellers to “trusted advisor” status, especially when decisions are risky, complex, or unfamiliar. Sellers must simply add value to the buyer’s decision process…from the first contact, and every contact. That means providing valuable insights: selling with perspective.
What Perspective Does For a Customer…
Essentially, a trusted advisor produces new value in a customer’s buying process. This can include introducing new decision criteria, new ways of looking at a situation, or introducing new outcomes. Generally, new criteria and points of view are impactful when they enable or assure outcomes.
There is strong neuroscience and psychology research behind perspective selling. Since customers buy outcomes (not products or services), perspective is the art of opening a prospect’s eyes to new possible outcomes. Perspective triggers the mental process of visualizing outcomes. Visualizations can be spurred in the customer’s mind when sellers:
- Ask well-crafted questions which guide the prospect to see their situation in a new way and ultimately to identify (then value) new outcomes.
- Tell them something they don’t know – the specific technique proposed by The Challenger Sale. Half of Challenger sellers are low performers because they miss a key factor. The challenge statement only spurs the visualization process when the seller has established credibility. Some use “sales-ready value statements”, “value messaging”, and the like to describe such “perspective telling”.
- Tell stories which engage the buyer’s imagination to visualize an outcome for themselves. The human brain responds powerfully to story-telling; stories engage a visualization process, and telling stories about applicable outcomes is a great way to provide perspective. Recently, storytelling is achieving big buzz in the sales world. It’s a great neuroscience-based addition to a seller’s perspective selling arsenal.
Sellers should always combine the last two with the first. Telling a story or making a value claim may “expand a customer’s understanding”, but only questions confirm whether/how firmly any new perspective took hold.
Perspective selling harnesses the most compelling buying behavior: getting prospects to see desirable outcomes for themselves. Getting the most out of perspective selling means selling to full value, which I’ll discuss in part five of this series.
What perspective takes.
In order to consistently provide perspective, sellers need to predict outcomes likely to be customer-valued. Then, they engage in conversation which gets customers to visualize an outcome. Producing valued perspectives requires three types of acumen:
- Business Acumen. In order to expose new outcomes to a prospect, you need general business knowledge to predict outcomes. With business acumen, a seller can create new value. In my next article, I’ll cover this in more depth.
- Customer understanding. Sellers not only need to have insight into the customer’s business, they need to master the decision dynamic at a customer. Part three of this series will expand on this.
- Solution Expertise. Finally, sellers need to understand not just their product or services features and benefits. Perspective requires that sellers translate features and benefits to outcomes. In part four of this series, I’ll cover solution expertise in more detail.
It’s simple to learn, a lifetime to master.
To really master insight and perspective, you need to understand the building blocks. When you look at perspective selling within the framework of providing customer-perceived value, your ability to provide deeply insightful perspectives will increase.
Comment below, or contact me directly to share your perspectives on this article.
To your success!