Misunderstanding Insights


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My inbox and InMail is filled with sales people trying to provide me insight:

  • Microsoft and Google have gotten huge results using our products!
  • X% of sales people using our solutions exceed their goals, as opposed to Y% who don’t use our solutions (X is always 2-3 times more than Y.)
  • Our solutions will enable you to differentiate company from their competition (I wonder if they are saying the same thing to my competition.)
  • Gartner has consistently put our offerings in the top right quadrant.
  • We have doubled our customer base in the past year. People really love our offerings.
  • ….and on and on….

These sales people believe that if they provide data about their products, companies, and how great/popular they are, these are meaningful insights. After all, they are providing insights and information about their products and companies.

But is that insight meaningful to customers?

The reality is the customer doesn’t care about those things. The customer cares about a lot of other things:

  • How do they continue to innovate and grow? How do we change and adapt?
  • Are there opportunities they are missing? Opportunities to change and dramatically improve what they are doing? Opportunities to address new markets, or to expand relationships with others, or to compete more effectively, or to be more productive.
  • Are there things they should be learning about their markets, customers, competitors? Are there changes that may impact them that they are not aware of?
  • How do they make more sense of what they do every day in their jobs? How do they get in “control,” how do they get greater joy out of their efforts? How do they stop feeling “alone.”
  • ….and more….

Both sets of observations represent insights,some pretty bad, but notice the difference in the insights.

The insights sales people tend to present are about them, their products, their companies. They can be about benefits they create or value the customer might get, but its the products and solutions that are the center point of the insights provided.

The second set of insights are about the customer, their company, their competition, their customers and their markets. They have nothing to do with what the sales person is selling, but rather things the customer faces, should be concerned about, or might be considering.

The customer needs insights, but insights about us and what we’ve done are irrelevant and just pure conceit.

Some of you might be thinking, “Well insights about how we can improve productivity, performance, results are useful to the customer, why can’t we use these?” The issue is, they aren’t important or meaningful until the customer recognize they need to do something about those areas. Until they say, “We need to do something about this,” “We’re concerned about these things,” “How might we achieve this?”

Insights that are most helpful are those that center on the customer. Those that help them learn, grow, achieve. Those that help them recognize opportunities or threats. Those that help them think differently. They have nothing to do with us, our products or what we do. They focus on the customer inciting them to change.

“But Dave, we have to produce results, we have to get the customer interested in our products and leveraging our products to improve!”

First, we should never be wasting our time in areas where we can’t help our customers grow, improve, and innovate We have to focus on customers that have the problems we are the best in the world at solving. Our insights need to help customers recognize what they could be, how they could improve, what they should be thinking about.

Our insights need to incite the customer to change!

Once they have made this commitment to themselves, once it is so compelling, they can’t not change, then they will be interested in , “How do we achieve this? What do we do? How can you help us?

Insights are important, but the most powerful insights put the customer at the center, not us or what we do.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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