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Insight And Co-Creation

by David Brock on July 10th, 2013

Yesterday, I was talking to one of the smartest sales executives I’ve ever met.  We were talking about, what else, selling with Insight.  His team had quietly been doing this for years–a very long time.  When you look at the track record of success and growth, clearly both the overall organization is doing great things and his sales people are executing differently than their competitors.

We were talking about how his team engaged customers, what they did differently, and why it was so effective.  After a few minutes of talking, it both struck us the power of Insight really comes in Co-Creation.   Their success was less the Insight, but more the Co-Creation of Unique Insight with the customer.

For insight to have it’s maximum impact it has little to do with what we are “telling” the customer.  That may be the starting point, but the real power of Insight is in Co-Creation.  It’s the process of taking an idea, engaging the customer in talking about the idea, working together, personalizing it, making it unique to the customer, then having them own it as their own.

The insights we provide are important, I don’t want to discount those, but they are just the starting point.  The real magic is in the transformation of those ideas, building something much stronger with the customer.

Co-Creation is has a couple of important elements.  One is the concept of synergy (that’ one of those $100 consulting words that was in vogue about 10 years ago, but seems to have fallen out of fashion)  Synergy is about 1+1=5.  It speaks to the power of smart people working together can create something much more powerful than working separately.  So the power of our insight grows and is transformed by the way we engage our customers in Co-Creation.

The second think about Co-Creation is it is the personalization of insight.  It creates the ultimate in uniqueness and differentiation for the customer.  They can’t get the same “Insight” anywhere else, likewise it become difficult for competitors to copy and emulate.  For us, it is difficult to copy and offer at a lower price–because the value is all in the Co-Creation process.  Certainly, the end results or outputs might be “competed,” but why  would a customer ever do that–they lose the value of working with you, they lose the ability to Co-Create.

I worry about a lot that I see going on with selling with Insight.  It seems too much of the focus is on the wrong thing.  Too much is on “messaging,”  too much on the “teaching our customers,”  not enough on learning and creating together.  Too much of the focus is about the Insight itself, getting the customer hot and lathered, but not the “what’s next.”  Ideas and Insight are without value unless executed.

Messaging and teaching are important.  But they are the first mile of a hundred mile journey.  To complete that journey with our customers, we have to have the ability to Co-Create.

Messaging and teaching is fundamentally about us–it’s our ideas, our insights, our observations about opportunities for the customer.  We have to transform it and transfer ownership from us to the customer.  Until we do, it’s just a provocative idea.

We have to have the ability to engage the customer differently.  We have to go far beyond teaching to discovery and learning.  We have to engage them, working with them, building and personalizing the Insight to them, making it greater than the ideas we originally presented.

Co-Creation demands different skills.  It means collaboration, problem solving, project management (we have to keep thing moving forward), and change management.  To earn the right to Co-Create with the customer, we have to really understand their business, but we also have to have fresh and different perspectives.  Because we work with different customers in different industries, we can introduce things that they may be blind to.

Sounds complicated—actually it’s not, it’s much simpler than much of what I see people trying to do with their own messaging and Insight programs.

It doesn’t take the “big idea,”  the “huge Insight.”  It can start with a small idea, a simple observation, a discussion that captures the customer’s imagination.  It’s really in the Co-Creation process where Insight grows and develops its greatest value.  The real trick is being part of that Co-Creation process.

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  1. Dave-

    Great post. In my mind Insight is very applicable to the top of the funnel. To disrupt a customers thinking and getting them to question the status-quo.

    Once you get them moving, that original insight needs to morph into co-creation because the buyer needs to adapt it to their unique issues, and their business.

    with just insight, you may rock the customers world.. then they’ll go off and solve their problem without you. It’s ultimately about how you and the customer act on that insight together, and that’s where your concept of co-creation takes hold.

    • Thanks for the great comment Brian. I really like your point. Insight is just the beginning. The really interesting part comes next!

  2. Love this concept, Dave. Fits with the whole dialogue and value creation theme we’ve been bantering. This reminds me of the difference between a leader giving orders versus engaging staff for expanded ideas and buy-in.

    Insight is the entrance ticket. If you can’t build on it, engage the buyer in meaningful dialogue and build out solutions together, you’ll always lose to those who can.

    • Thanks Mike, I think all these themes weave together—ultimately it is all about increasing our ability to create value for the customer.

  3. Great Blog, Dave.

    When you get tired of calling “it” the difficult to say,
    and even harder to explain, “Co-creation”,
    [I reckon that’s what Mums and Dads do]

    Then you can just call it “Value Construction” WITH the Customer. (I have never TM or (R) that expression)
    I have just used it for about 15 years!

    Got it from McKinsey in the 1980’s.

    Ahhh! “Insights”, yes, they really do work,
    we have been saying that since TCS published that:
    Top Sales Performers “teach” insights.

    They often are simple,
    they always are unique [to the Customer]
    and sometimes, just sometimes,
    they are really elegant!

    Insight leads to Customer Engagement,
    part of which is Value Construction.

    The ‘relationship’ which the Challenger Seller builds is based on ‘insight’, ‘Value Construction’, and “integration”.

    It is NOT about ‘differentiation’ from the Seller’s Competition.
    You don’t have to do it better, or cheaper or faster.

    You just have to do it:
    FOR the Customer,
    and WITH the Customer,
    not TO the Customer.

    It’s behavioural, it is what you DO.

    • Simply brilliant Brian–in far fewer words than I expressed.

      There’s something about Co-Creation–perhaps it’s the salacious imagery it might create in the minds of sales people (What Mums and Dads do).

      I really like the term Value Construction and will start co-opting it–giving you credit for the first 5 times I use it, then callously tossing your wisdom to the side 😉

      Value Construction communicates so much of what has been wrong about Value Propositions. Too often, Value Propositions have been treated as “Static” objects. The silver bullet that once stated, customers are expected to fall over and issue PO’s.

      The truth is they are dynamic, always changing, always being personalized to the customer, always under construction.

      Thanks for the great term!

      • Brian MacIver permalink

        A pleasure Dave,
        You have produced an excellent series of Blogs on what is a KEY area of sales success. I hope these are given the widest possible circulation, and that YOU are given the recognition you deserve for your effort!

        Again great Blogs, Dave, well done!

    • Bloody Haiku, Brian!

      Not from the Island that I expect you are from.

  4. Love the term Value Construction, with a hat tip to Brian.

    While it’s an odd phrase, there is something I still like about Co-Creation, though, because the words themselves suggest a partnering or sharing of the creation process.

    I’ll have to noodle on that. If we all noodled together, perhaps we’d co-construct some mutually-beneficial value. 😉

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