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Rethinking Insights

by David Brock on May 4th, 2022

Everything in selling today is about “Insight.” But we make insights more complicated than they need be.

We tend to think that insights are game changing things we can tell customers. Whether it’s industry/market data, things that are happening in the industry, observations about what is happening with their customers or competitors; we believe we need to make a statement or take a position.

While these are useful if we have that information, insights can be much simpler. And insights can be much more personal and relevant than an industry disruption.

The purpose of insight is to provoke the customer to think differently. Perhaps to consider issues they haven’t recently considered. Perhaps it’s helping them discover something they hadn’t known. It’s the start of the process in considering change.

An insight may not be new to the customer, but might cause them to think, “Maybe we should reassess this….Maybe we’ve missed something…Maybe it’s time…..”

Sometimes an insight is just clearing their blindness. It may be something that’s obvious to an outsider, but they have been blind to. “I’ve noticed this…. It’s interesting that you are doing things this way…. Have you noticed some problems with this….”

The most powerful insights are sometimes questions, “What if…. Why do you do things that way…. Have you ever considered….. Could you be missing something…. What is this keeping you from achieving….”

We seem to think we have to create and “deliver” the insight, but helping the customer to develop insights for themselves is, perhaps, more powerful. Our role is to facilitate this introspective discovery process.

The most powerful insights are usually about them, what they are doing, what they might be doing, something they are missing. While we can use industry and other data, the closer we are to being specific to them, the more likely we’ll generate attention.

An insight doesn’t have to be “right,” it just has to catch their interest and want them to learn more. Several of the best opportunities we have closed, our initial insights were wrong. Some years ago, I wrote a CEO a letter offering an insight based on analyzing their performance. She forwarded it to her CRO, “We need to talk to this guy. He couldn’t possibly know what we are doing to address this issue, but I like the way he thinks. We can learn something from him….”

An insight may not be an issue the customer cares about, but we can always leverage it to start a conversation, “What are you doing that causes this not to be an issue with you….. I’d love to learn what you are doing differently, we see so many others having this issue…. What is an issue that bothers you…..”

Great insights always come from being curious. Without this, we miss so much. When we embark on discussing insights with customers, we have to be prepared to learn. The process of creating insights is not so much that we know more or something the customer doesn’t know. It’s the process of collaborative exploration and discovery.

Insight must always result in a conversation, “Tell me more…What does this mean to me….I don’t know that this is an issue for us….. Why should we be thinking about this….”

Too often, we deliver an “insight,” and we can’t continue the conversation. Or we think the customer upon receiving a pearl of wisdom will say, “OMG, I didn’t know this, can you tell me about your products….”

Stated differently, an insight is not an insight unless we are prepared and able to dive deeper into the conversation. We have to have the ability to go deeper than just an insight. We have to support what we are saying, listen intelligently to the customer, perhaps push back, perhaps reassess our own positions.

We will fail to achieve what we can as we leverage insights if we don’t care about what it means to the customer (individually and personally). Too often I see coin operated sales people behaving in this way, “Insight delivered, check…. Now the BANT questions… Now the discovery questions….”

Stated differently, if you don’t care, you probably won’t be able to support your end of the conversation. You can’t really understand the insights most important to the customer.

Insights are critical in engaging customers in talking about their businesses and what they want to achieve. But too often, we get insights wrong and fail to engage customers in the most meaningful ways.

We tend to think of insights in starting the change process, much of what I’ve covered so far, has focused on that. But we help the customer generate insights throughout their problem solving and buying process. Questions like, “We didn’t realize things could be done this way, Are we on the right track–what if, What would happen if, …….” help the customer learn and rethink as they go through their process.

Insight is never about our products and solutions. They are about the customer, their current condition, their aspirations, and what they could achieve. Once the customer chooses to act on the insight, then they will seek to understand how to do those things.

Insight is about collaborative discovery.

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