Insight selling vs solution selling + how modern sales teams use both
Your prospects are inundated with information.
So, you assume your prospects enter your sales pipeline armed with a clear understanding of their challenges and the available solutions.
Or do they?
According to studies by Gartner, 77% of B2B buyers state that their last purchase was very complex.
Why? First, because the number of people involved in a deal has increased over the last years—63% of purchases have more than 4 people involved, according to research by Forrester from early 2021.
Second, because each person involved in the purchase is armed with their own research and information.
According to Brent Adamson of Gartner:
The single biggest challenge of selling today is not selling, it is actually our customers’ struggle to buy.
Early on in my own sales career, I realized that selling is simple. It really is—the hard part is not overcomplicating it. It's all about managing emotions—your own and the emotions of your prospects—and creating clarity. You really want to simplify the path to making a decision.
Both solution selling and insight selling address this problem, but in different ways. So, which selling model should you be using to arm your prospects with the right information to make a less complicated purchase decision?
Let’s talk about:
- What is insight selling?
- What is solution selling?
- Insight selling vs solution selling: how are they different at a glance?
- How insight and solution selling are used practically during the sales process
What is insight selling?
In Demand Gen’s 2020 B2B Buyer Behavior study, they found that 62% of buyers chose a certain vendor in part because they provided content that made it easier for them to build a business case for the purchase.
In the Gartner study mentioned above, it was found that customers find it extremely valuable when sellers give them the right information to help them advance their purchase decision.
As the purchase process of your customers becomes more complex, and more people start to get involved in each purchase decision, insights that help move that decision forward become even more valuable.
But where do you get these insights as a sales rep?
Mainly, your insights come from the hundreds (or thousands) of conversations you’ve had with similar businesses or roles within a company in your experience as a salesperson. For example, if you’re selling marketing software to CMOs, you’re in a unique position to talk to CMOs around the country (or the world) who are all facing similar challenges and spearheading their own innovative solutions.
People gladly pay for those kinds of insights—and insight sellers are giving away the information they’ve gathered for free to their prospects.
This is the goal of insight sellers: using a deep knowledge of the product they sell and how it solves specific problems for their customers to prove that this is the right decision.
What is solution selling?
In 2012, the Harvard Business Review published an article with the bold title “The End of Solution Sales”. This widely-spread article claimed that solution selling is obsolete because most prospects come into conversations with salespeople after they’ve done the majority of their research and have a clear understanding of the solution they need.
Is solution selling dead? In our opinion, no.
While it may not be the go-to method it was back in the 80s, this sales methodology is still extremely useful depending on your market. Like we said before, many prospects are so overwhelmed with information that they can’t accurately diagnose their problems or find a solution. When the problem or the solution is more complex, helping prospects diagnose and solve their challenges still works.
Insight selling vs solution selling: how are they different at a glance?
How do these two sales models differ?
|Insight sales||Solution sales|
|Sellers act as educators, teaching prospects valuable insights||Sellers act as doctors, diagnosing problems and prescribing the right solution.|
|Works best with prospects who are overwhelmed with research and information about their challenges||Works best with prospects who are unaware of the solutions that exist, or are unsure of which would best fit their needs|
|Focuses on providing valuable knowledge throughout the sales process||Focuses on asking questions to understand needs and wants, and coming up with an adapted solution that pleases the prospect|
How insight and solution selling are used practically during the sales process
You may have heard that insight selling is the new solution selling—and in some cases, it is.
So, how do each of these sales methodologies look in the sales process?
Qualification is all about making sure the prospect is a good fit for your product, and that your product is a good fit for their needs. Here’s how the two sales models we’re discussing work through the qualifying stage:
With insight: This model shies away from the open-ended interrogation method, and instead asks a few clear questions that give them an idea of their prospect’s current situation. Then, they use their own expertise and insights to position themselves as an expert and help educate their prospects with concise, easy-to-digest knowledge drops that place their product as the correct solution.
With solution: Qualification is all about questions—the more, the better. These qualifying questions take time to dig into ideal customer profile signals, red flags and warning signs, current challenges, buying process, stakeholder authority, and more.
The goal of the sales pitch is to convince the prospect that your product is the right choice for them. Here’s how insight and solution sellers differ in this stage:
With insight: Valuable knowledge is a key element of the insight sales pitch. Instead of spouting random facts and figures that sound good but don’t mean much, insight sellers focus on real-life proof of their product. They’ll probably use product demos to show how their product can cut through real-world problems, as well as customer testimonials from peers that give value to the prospect.
With solution: The solution sales pitch is fully adapted to the prospect’s needs and wants. The seller focuses on positioning their product as the exact solution their prospect is looking for. Most of the pitch, demo, or presentation is personalized to each individual prospect based on information gathered during the qualifying stage.
Negotiate and close
When it comes to crunch time, how do insight sellers and solution sellers differ?
With insight: Rather than quiz prospects on their current purchasing process and trying to fit into that mold, insight sellers coach their prospects towards the sale, working with them through the process to make the right decisions. They’ll also provide content and information that helps convince other stakeholders or empowers internal champions to make a business case for the purchase.
With solution: This model is wholly based on fitting into the processes and workflows of the prospect. That means solution sellers mold and adapt to the purchase process, needs, (and at times the whims) of their prospects, especially when they’re close to nailing down the deal. In some cases, this makes them weak negotiators, but having a bit of backbone at this stage can help solution sellers succeed.
Selling insights or selling solutions?
So, what are you selling—insights or solutions?
Ultimately, whichever sales model you use, you’re selling your product. It’s only the path to get there that changes.
To know which of these sales models is better for you, pay closer attention to your prospects. Are they drowning in a sea of information? Do they get easily lost in the sales process, wandering back and forth between different solutions? Are multiple stakeholders constantly butting heads with varied opinions and contradicting research?
If this sounds familiar, it may be time to use some insight selling techniques in your sales process. Provide valuable, digestible information for your prospects that cuts through the noise and helps them see a clear path to purchase. Empower stakeholders to come to an agreement with an informative business case, and help them make a purchase decision they won’t regret down the road.
Of course, selling insights not solutions isn’t the be-all-end-all of sales methods. The best way to improve your own sales style is to keep learning more about the different models and methodologies.
Whichever sales philosophy you adapt: one thing that's always key to success is to follow up with prospects effectively. That's why I've dedicated an entire book to this subject: The Follow-Up Formula. Download your free copy today!