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Can Insight Become Commoditized?

by David Brock on July 26th, 2013

Forgive me for thinking out loud.  Insight–selling with Insight is what everyone is talking about these days.  It’s an interesting bandwagon, there’s money to be made, so everyone’s trying their own approach.

In my mind, I fast forward a number of years.  What happens when every sales person brings Insight to the customer?  What happens when every sales person is coming to the customer with ideas for growing and improving their businesses?  Is it possible that Insight might become commoditized?

As I thought about it, I realized the real winner in this imaginary world is the customer.  Imagine sales people engaging customers with great ideas and ways to improve their business.  Customers will be having value based conversations with sales people.  Sales people will be helping customers innovate around business growth.  Decisions will be made based on which ideas are the best fit for the customer growth strategies.  We move away from conversations about our products and solutions to how we help customers grow.

Imagine a world where customers have a choice on ideas to grow and improve their business.  Where they evaluate ideas and the possibility to improve their ability to serve their customers,  or where they improve their operations. 

Imagine customers being able to harness the best ideas from their customers, suppliers, business partners–all focused on improving what they provide to their customers.  It ripples through the entire supply chain–ultimately reaching consumers.  At each level, we harness Insight to innovate and improve.  Imagine the economic growth this can drive.

But then I wake up, it’s just a dream—but there are some bright sides.  Customers are hungry for Insight, it makes them better.  Those that continually provide Insight will be winners–with their customers.  Those organizations that commit to providing Insight to their customers, will recognize the importance of this in their supply chains, partnering with suppliers committed to provide them Insight.  We do have the potential to improve.

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8 Comments
  1. Brian MacIver permalink

    An entertaining and ‘insightful’ blog.

    The question “What would happen if everybody did it?” was the basis of inculcating values to my children, about litter, pollution, good table manners and interpersonal skills.

    “What would happen if everybody did it” is a question all salespeople should be asking [An more politicians as well!]
    Thanks, Dave.

  2. Good post and question, Dave.

    If reps provide “insight,” the customer’s win.

    If reps provide “commercial insight,” both win.

    The difference between the two:
    – Insight is frame-breaking, thought-provoking, disruptive views of the customer’s business, devoid of any connection back to you as the supplier. In short…Free consulting. Customers think your smart, and helpful to their decision making process, but they don’t necessarily buy from you.

    – Commercial Insight, on the other hand, is everything that comprises “insight,” but is delivered in a way that leads specifically, and uniquely, back to the supplier.

    • Jeff: Thanks for the comment. I understand the distinctions you make (and CEB), I tend to try to simplify it. We should only be providing Insight (commercial Or otherwise) on areas that we can be helping the customer to do something about. Otherwise, it’s just interesting conversation. Trying to distinguish types of Insight seems to be adding too much complexity.

  3. I completely understand Dave. I tend to emphasize the differences simply from the fact that I came from a background of providing insight, but not until CEB called out the differences, did I realize the importance of what I was missing in my dialogue with customers and/or reps through training, coaching, etc. Again, thanks for the great posts!

    • Jeff, I tend to think CEB over complicates things by making the distinction between insight and commercial insights. I understand it, but prefer to think of focusing the insights we provide should address things that we can help the customer achieve. While we might have insights in other areas, if we can’t help the customers in achieving them, then are we really being helpful?

      • I think there is wisdom in your comments David of not overcomplicating something. My aim was never about the who (CEB) nor the renaming of Insight to Commercial Insight.

        Stated differently, I would say [regardless of what you call it…Insight, Consultative, etc.], for insight to be effective, not just helpful, in a sales role, it must lead back to the sales person’s solution.

        For clarity on your last sentence above, I am not advocating providing “insights in other areas” that are unrelated to the customer. Not sure where that came from as I am advocating the exact opposite. Reps should have a laser-like focus on the unrecognized or misunderstood issues affecting the customer’s business/industry/etc.

        But I would also say, that the rep’s test for effectiveness of insight delivery should be more than “are we really being helpful?” While being helpful can contribute to the sale…or not…it is not the aim of the rep. It’s a byproduct.

        I know that this is nothing new to you, David as you have seen it all, over the years. My point of clarification is so that other readers of the comments don’t misconstrue what I was (or wasn’t) advocating. I get the sense we may both be saying the same thing, though. Just from different perspectives.

  4. David, another good article on how sales people can bring more value to the interaction. Interesting, perhaps insight-based sales will eventually replace consultative sales – or the two will merge, incorporating the diagnostic sales process into the mix. Thanks.

    • It’s a great point Warren. I know there are lots of different opinions and I know that “insight” is new, sexy, exciting. But I see no difference between insight selling and consultative selling. In both, we help our customers understand new opportunities to grow, serve their customers, improve their operations and more effectively achieve their goals. We can put a lot of different labels on it, we can apply different methodologies, but in the end there is little difference. Thanks for the great comment.

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