Everyone in technology knows of Geoffrey Moore as the author of “Crossing the Chasm.” His book has sold over 1 million copies, and crossing the chasm has become a metaphor that is universally used by companies with complex products to explain why they struggle to sell to the mainstream market. But not everyone knows that he is also the godfather of Insight Selling. In March 2009, for example, the HBR published his article “In a downturn, provoke your customer.” In this article, Moore explained why salespeople must provoke their customers with insight if they expect to have their products funded in a slow economy. I sat down with Moore to talk about the inside secrets for Insight Selling:
The first question for our guest is what do you see are the risks for Insight Selling today?
Geoffrey Moore: When Solution Selling was occupying the space that Insight Selling now occupies, what tends to happen in these things is when they first show up it’s like, yes that’s the key idea, and then what happens is almost immediately they get encased in kind of a slick brochure and the whole notion of really being in service to the customer’s problem starts being turned into a set of manipulative behaviors. And then you’ve got to start a new one, right? So I think this notion of continually trying to find ways to refresh people’s perspective on what they’re doing is important.
So how do salespeople refresh their customer’s perspective without getting a black eye?
GM: The most obvious path forward is to demonstrate you care, and then to challenge. If you’re in a service profession, and I would argue that all sales and service customer support people are, then it’s important that you genuinely be of service. If you provoke or challenge without caring, it’s probable you’re going to generate a defensive reaction. If you’re not genuinely in service to the customer, sooner or later the customer senses that, and then they will figure out a way to deflect you.
What mindset should salespeople have to provoke customers with insight?
GM: When people are confused, they need thought leadership, and they need to be challenged. They need to have their mental models, and their fundamental assumptions challenged. And I think they appreciate it- provided that it’s not done with arrogance. That it’s done with humility, but it’s also done with firmness of purpose. So you don’t waffle, but it’s done with an open mind. And you’re bringing a beginners mind to their business. You don’t know their business: They know their business. But you’re brining some sort of new perspective on it, and they’re usually struggling or you wouldn’t be having the conversation. And they are interested in what happens when they apply your perspective. And particularly if it’s applied as I said with respect and humility, but also with firmness and purpose.
Can you give me an example?
GM: The provocation is we think the world has shifted. We think you should have another set of priorities. Obviously you don’t yet because your budget doesn’t reflect that. Let’s have that conversation. Maybe we’re just full of baloney, but maybe we’re not. And that’s a conversations which executives enjoy, because it allows them to step back from their business for a moment and (think) let’s look at my business through this lens and see what happens. And as long as you’ve created enough space to have the conversation without immediately reaching for somebodies check book or asking for an order... In the first conversation, all you want to do is seed the idea, and see if there is permission to explore it further.”
Do you feel stories are an effective way to deliver insight?
GM: Trying to build a new understanding, I think it starts fundamentally with story. I think the analytics and theory are the post professing of narrative.”
For visual learners, you can also watch the video of my sit-down with Moore:
About the Author
Michael Harris is CEO of Insight Selling & the author of Insight Selling- Sell value & differentiate your product with Insight Scenarios.
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