Insight, Triggers, And Connecting The Dots
Top performing executives, business development, and sales professionals have an incredible, almost innate ability to “connect the dots.” It’s really what sets them apart from everyone else.
- This ability to connect the dots is the ability to instantly assess:
- This is what’s happening in this person’s markets/industry.
- This is what’s happening in their company.
- This is what’s happening to them as individuals.
- These are events that are occurring right now–that impact them directly or indirectly.
- Here are the problems/challenges they face.
- This is what I can do to help them do something about it.
- This is why they should do it with me.
It’s interesting to see how great professionals do this–almost unconsciously. Recently, I was talking to the CEO of a company. We were discussing how to move forward in the execution of their strategy. It meant establishing some strategic partnerships. As we talked about it, I could almost see the gears moving in her mind. She was connecting dozen’s of dots together in lightning fast speed. Within minutes, she was saying — “We should talk to this person at this company (and this is how I get introduced to that person). This is what they are trying to achieve and the problems they are having in doing so, this is how we can connect and help them, this is why it’s so important for them to do it with us and why it’s important for them to do it now, and this is how it’s the most important thing in helping move our strategy forward.”
Within minutes, she had connected everything together and developed a tremendous plan. Yes, we had to do some digging afterwards. There was some research, analysis, and further discussion to flesh out the details of the plan and how her team would execute it, but within a few minutes, she had been able to connect a number of disparate things that enabled them to make giant leaps forward.
Great sales people do this all the time. They understand their customers so well, they understand what drives them–business wise and personally. They understand where they can help them. They are sensitive to timing–they see a trigger and know, “This is the time to talk to them, this is the moment these issues are most important to them. They understand all these things, even if the customer doesn’t yet realize it (this is what Insight is really about). They have an ability to talk to the customer in a way that puts all these things together creating meaning and value for the customer.
Some people come by these abilities more naturally than others. Perhaps it’s curiosity, problem solving, or something else. But for those of us who are less gifted, it’s really something each of us can easily do. It takes a little discipline and focus, but we can almost develop a formulaic approach. Here are some ideas:
- We have to understand the problems we are the best in the world at solving. We have to be really honest with ourselves, if we aren’t we spend too much of our time and prospects’ time on things that we can’t really help them with.
- We have to understand who has those problems — what industries, customers, and who (functionally) has those problems. This is our sweet spot, our ideal prospects and customers.
- We have to really understand our customers, their markets, and industries. This means understanding the structure, the drivers, the trends, the KPI’s, the positioning of the players, the dynamics, key triggers that drive activity/opportunity. Fortunately, there are lots of tools like Insideview and others that can help us with this.
- We have to understand our customers, both as enterprises and as individuals within the enterprise. What are their strategies, priorities, drivers, key metrics? How do they get things done? What are their dreams, aspirations. There are lots of resources to help us understand the enterprises, not the least of which is their own web site, EDGAR if they are public, and dozens of other tools. LinkedIn helps us understand the individuals.
- We have to understand how businesses work–business acumen. If we don’t have a basic understanding of how businesses work, key financial and operational metrics, how they interrelate and what they mean; it’s impossible to have a business conversation.
- We have to set up a “system” to alert us to triggers. Items 1-5 give us clues for the relevant conversations we should be having, the triggers tell us when to have those conversations. Again, there are lots of tools that help us do this. For example, there are certain industries and companies I track. I set up Google Alerts, alerts within Insideview and others that can help us identify the triggers. These help us prospect intelligently, having insight/value based conversations 100% of the time.
Together, these enable each of us to create opportunity for both us and the customer, where we might not otherwise see the opportunity. These are where we develop, communicate and deliver value and Insight.
Connecting with the right people, having the right conversations, communicating Insight, creating value, all at the most impactful time is actually pretty easy. Just follow the steps above, and you can do it!
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.
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