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Constructing Insight

by David Brock on November 28th, 2013

Thanks to my friend Brian MacIver for his brilliant phrasing on this critical concept on Insight.  There’s a terrible misunderstanding on the concept of Insight.  Too often, I see organizations caught up in the Insight movement, but focusing only on the front end of the process.

Marketing people are busy building messaging programs around our Insights.  Sales is impatient for marketing to deliver their polished presentations, then they rehearse diligently to create commercial teaching.   Armed with compelling presentations, having rehearsed their spontaneous Whiteboard pitch, they go to customers declaring, “We have some Insights……,” dreaming of the ideal outcome.

We know what that is.  It’s that moment, after we’ve held the customer spellbound, absorbing the simple brilliance of what marketing has concocted as our commercial teaching or Insight, they reach into their desk, and pull out a purchase order, asking, “How quickly can I get delivery of this?”

I wish it were that easy–but we know it doesn’t work that way, regardless of how much we wish it might.  We don’t deliver Insight, we Construct Insight.  We co-create Insight, just as we co-create Value with our customers.  We cannot do it in isolation, but have to construct Insight collaboratively with our customers.

Brent Adamson presents the process very nicely.  Constructing Insight is really the convergence of two parallel sets of activities with our customers.  The first is creating a compelling vision of a future for our customer.  This is where much of the work on Insight and commercial teaching focuses.  It’s about showing the customer something they may have never realized or thought about before.  It’s talking about opportunities they are missing, ways to improve their business, ways to grow, ways to more effectively achieve their goals.

We invest a lot in developing those presentations, working for the reaction, “Wow, I’ve never thought about things that way before!”  Or, “I never knew that, how can I achieve this?”  As sales people we treasure those moments where we’ve captivated the customers hearts and imaginations and made them hungry for the next step.

It’s those next steps we fail to pay much attention to.

The second stream of events Brent outlines, gets far less attention, because it’s some of the really tough work in constructing Insight.  It’s about dealing with the customer’s current situation–their current state, their current strategies,  their current operations.  Our compelling visions about the future are meaningless if they remain visions, dreams, or aspirations.  We’ve got to get the customer committed to change NOW!

While getting the customer hot and lathered about the future, we need, simultaneously, to get them unhappy with the current state, demanding change, eager to change.

So while our commercial teaching might create the sparks that start the process,  they are incomplete.  We have to work with the customer in constructing the Insight.  Just like Value, Insight is really in the eye of the beholder–the customer.  It’s meaning and outcomes are unique to each customer.

In constructing Insight, we must personalize it–moving it from the general–“Companies like yours…….” to the specific, “This is what it means to you…..  this is what you can achieve…..   this is what your current strategies are keeping you from achieving….”

We can’t do this by ourselves, we only can do this by engaging our customers in conversations about their business.  Both where they are now, and where they might be.  We have to quantify in terms specific and meaningful to the customer the impacts of both what they are currently doing (or not doing) and the outcomes of what they could be doing.  We have to justify those with financial metrics.

But our job isn’t done.  After we’ve personalized the Insights, both current and future, we have to develop the plan to move forward, taking action in making a decision, implementing and executing.

The leadership we provide–not just in that first step in commercial teaching, but in collaboratively building or constructing Insight with our customers is how we create Value and differentiate ourselves to the customer.

Insight does not start and end with our commercial teaching.  Commercial teaching, by itself, does not create a purchase order, but it starts the process.  The hard, but rewarding part of Insight is constructing it with our customers.  It’s the leadership we provide and the value we create by transforming our commercial teaching into something specific and meaningful to the customer, and building a plan to achieve the desired outcomes.

Are you Constructing Insight with your customers, or are you just getting them hot and lathered?  If you want a win for them and for you, you must be doing the former.

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