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Insight Is Not The End, It’s The Beginning

by David Brock on August 9th, 2013

There has been so much good discussion on Insight over the past few years. Everyone tends to have a different point of view–or twists what Insight is to support their own point of view (and I am probably guilty of that).  But in reading a lot of the discussions, I get a feeling that Insight is becoming the destination.

If we, sales people, just had the right Insights, pitched/messaged the right way to the right customer, we’d have the answer to ever B2B sales person’s dream—the one call close.  If we give the right teaching pitch, the customer will immediately pull out a PO and say, “I gotta buy some of that.”

Too often, I see well intended product, marketing, and sales people trying to come up with Killer Insights.  I see them constructing and rehearsing artful “white board pitches,”  (boy I wish I could draw those neat pictures), building compelling stories–but not preparing people for the conversation.

In truth  Insight is the starting point.  Our Insights should create a dialogue  or conversation.  It should begin a collaborative process, where we and the customer evaluate what it means for them.  As Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson point out, Insight should evoke, “I’ve never heard that before,” or “We’d never looked at it that way,”  or “I’ve never considered that.”  If our Insight doesn’t start a conversation, we have failed.  If we can’t sustain the conversation, we have failed.

Our purpose with Insight is not to demonstrate how bright or provocative we might be.  It’s not to embarrass or shame the customer (or ourselves).  It’s not to make the customer feel stupid.

Our purpose with Insight is to Disrupt the customer.

We become prisoners of our own experiences, we settle into patterns, we become unconsciously blind to things going on around us.  Or we settle for the status quo because it’s easier than anything else.  Or we become complacent–we’re doing well, we don’t recognize we can do better or that we may be blindsided by someone doing even better.

We go back to fundamentals.  Selling is about change.  We are trying to get our customer to do something new, to do something different, to change suppliers.  We have to create the reason, the excitement, the incentive and the justification to change.  No one changes for change sake, we change because we want to achieve something and that change enables us to do it.

Insight is the beginning.  It’s the means not the end.  It kicks things off.

We need to provide that Insight, we need to Disrupt.  But we must be prepared to lead the customer on the next steps of the journey.

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9 Comments
  1. Dave;

    Spot on.

    There are leaders, and there are followers. The world needs both. Both exist in the world of sales.

    There are sales people who follow the action around to get a piece of that action.

    Then there are sales people who are leaders. They gain insight, develop meaningful communications and recommendations, and become trusted partners/advisors/go to resources of buyers. It is harder work, but the reward is not a piece of the action. Insightful, leader sales reps create the action.

    Insight is about the latter, not the former. It’s about the beginning. We sometimes kid ourselves. “I’ve been through the process with them, and now have insight.” That is knowledge and maybe experience; it is not leadership, it’s not insight.

    Thanks for the keen observation!

    • Thanks Jim, you raise an important issue—it’s all about the leadership we as sales people offer our customers. That’s the real value we create.

  2. I couldn’t agree more, not only to your excellent blog post, also to Jim’s comment!

    It’s such a wrong assumption, that sharing insight will lead imemdiately to a closed deal! It’s a very reduced transactional view, which never works in complex sales.
    As you pointed out perfectly, sharing insights is just the beginning. After that, the hard work begins, to create an unsafe place for the stakeholders, to convince tham why they have to change, and why they have to change now.
    Addressing all the impacted stakeholders with tailored and adjusted value messages to get them on the same “why change” page, to be able to create a shared vision of success a future state which helps them to achieve their desired outcomes.

    Jim: your point with leaders and followers in sales is really spot on! Thinking about that, I’d assume that we need way more leaders in complex sales than in the transactional space. And as we all know, the most important follower is the first one, who is – in my opinion – also a leader.
    Leading and following are just two sides of the same coin, and it’s situational, when to lead, when to lead by following, and when to follow.
    If that’s your relevant decision maker – what a perfect scenario…

    Topics for many more blog post, I guess…

  3. Dave,

    I am very careful about bringing an insight to a CEO since I think CEOs know what’s going on. CEOs want outcomes, and fast. What may be an insight to me may not be much of an insight to a CEO. Also, CEOs have no time to listen to my insight but would want to listen to me on how I can help deliver an outcome he is looking for.

    • Jay, thanks for the comment. I have a different experience. CEO’s are hungry for insight, for different perspectives. Too often, they are sheltered from what might really be happening in their organizations–they look for thoughtful perspectives about how they might improve. CEO’s are no different, in my experience, than anyone else. We need to be thoughtful, prepared, and not waste their time.

  4. In all the furor surrounding insight, I wholeheartedly agree that it’s what happens next that matters. I also believe that what happens before matters. Consultative selling, dialogue and diagnosis aren’t dead, or even resting. Based on context and the situation, reps need to use judgment to determine whether to lead with insight or lead with questions. And based on their choice and the buyer’s reaction, they need the judgment about where to go next.

    The other “I” skill of Influence has been underrated as of late. And there are many ways to influence that don’t require an insight, per se.

    I believe that prospecting and selling with insights are critical skill sets, but we need to get away from the one-trick pony mindset that plagues us and continue to work on developing mastery with a wide array skill sets, and the judgment to use the right ones in the right situations.

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