Who can forget Alec Baldwin’s famous line in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “These leads are for closers!”? Strong closing skill aside, in today’s world, the seller who waits for leads will be reacting to situations already defined by the buyer and subject to spreadsheet competition facilitated by Procurement and won by the lowest bidder. The most successful sellers today do not wait for situations to be presented to them; they get out in front by executing an insight-led sales motion.
The insight-led sales motion consists of five steps:
Ideation; working with top executives at the customer, well above the procurement level, who own responsibility for the income statement and the issues that come with it. These executives are open to ideas that will save or make them money by considering business processes from a new perspective, like cloud computing that can offer critical systems and the latest information without the need for big up-front investment in hardware and software. Or the patient monitoring system that enables patients to move out of expensive intensive care units earlier, saving everyone money, without risk. Sellers get a chance to explain how doing things differently can have a meaningful impact on the business.
Design; working with department executives and their support team to ensure that new processes are configured and provisioned in ways that make both economic and operational sense. This is the opportunity for sellers to teach the users how the new process will work and mitigate the risk of failure.
Close; this is where the vast majority of sales time and resource is deployed today…reacting to leads and RFPs. While this remains a step in the insight-led sales process, the act of closing is influenced if not outright controlled by an executive that cares more about outcomes than cost. This step does not go away. The difference is in who makes the decision and on what basis. Closing depends on making an ROI case, not delivering a price discount.
Implement; new ideas do not get implemented without care and planning. Sellers and their team of engineers/technicians pay careful attention to ensuring that all affected customer personnel are properly provisioned and trained on what to do and how to do it. They care about and are invested in the success of their customer.
Use; the sales team does not fade into the twilight to begin the hunt for the next sale. The seller, aided by service specialists, remains engaged in helping the customer ramp up the new processes, learn about and fix glitches and look for opportunities to deepen the relationship and expand the impact of the new processes. Which is why the insight-led sales process is shown as a loop. The time spent learning from the customer about what works best and what needs to be fixed not only helps the seller scale the new processes and sell more, it also keeps the seller engaged in discussing the next big idea with the customer. Which brings you back to Step 1 and a whole new sales process.
Insight-led selling has its own challenges. You must have an “engine” that systematically produces insights and product/service packages that are differentiated and meaningful. You need skilled sellers and technical support to deliver the value to top executives at the customer. You need a post-sales organization that is tied into the sales and service ethos. And you need to command a premium price to pay for the time and effort needed to deliver the insight-led selling motion.
But with AGI surveys indicating that between 30 and 50 percent of the market now demands greater insight from its vendors/partners, it may be time to explore how you can build or enhance your ability to grow and profit from an insight-led sales motion at your company.
Gary Tubridy is a principal of the Alexander Group and the general manager in charge of the firm’s management consulting business. Gary’s consulting work is focused on increasing marketing and sales effectiveness with particular emphasis in technology and medical products industries. Gary has deep expertise in diagnosing sales management issues and helping clients execute action plans to improve results. His research is focused on best practices of leading sales organizations in North America with particular emphasis on sales force transformation and the role of sales leadership. He leads the Alexander Group executive events series and hosts the Operations and Executive Forums. He is one of three founding stockholders of the Alexander Group.
Gary has been with the Alexander Group for over 35 years. Prior to that, Gary was in sales with the IBM Corporation. Gary holds a B.A. from Brown University and an MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University.