There’s Insight, Then There’s INSIGHT!


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Our customers are starved for ideas and insight. That’s why, the sales professional who calls offering insight is likely to be more welcomed than the sales person who just “shows up and throws up.” But we all know this.

But there are hierarchies of insight, it’s critical to understand these and the impact in engaging the customer.

There are very general levels of insight, “We see these trends in business which may impact you.”

There are industry focused insights, “These are things happening in the XYZ segment which may present opportunities for you.”

There may be functional levels of insight, “Manufacturing/Engineering/Finance/HR/Sales/Marketing (pick one) executives are seeing these issues as critical to the performance of their organizations in the next 18 months.

They may be about their customers, “Your target customers are facing these issues, which present an opportunity for you to address.”

They may be a combination of insights, for example industry/segment and functional, “Sales executives in the XYZ segment are seeing these trends which impact their abilities to achieve……”

These insights can range from general to increasingly specific. The very general may provoke the customer to respond, “ho-hum, tell me something new.” The more specific, the more likely you will provoke interest and, hopefully, engage in further conversations.

But customers are pleading, “Talk to ME about MY business,” “Tell ME about opportunities I (WE) are missing,” “Tell ME how I (WE) can improve.” “Help ME understand how WE can grow.”

Customers most value the INSIGHT that is personalized, specific, and unique to them–their company, their function, them as individuals.

“I’ve studied your manufacturing operations and your scrap rate is at $X millions, growing at Y%. We can show you how to reduce it by Z%, saving $A millions this fiscal year and $Z millions next year.”

Personalized, specific, unique–these insights immediately get virtually every executive to sit up and take notice, engaging you in specific discussions about their business. But how do we generate these insights?

The answers are actually simpler than you might think. If you really understand their business, their competitors, and their industries, there is a huge wealth of financial information and other data you can analyze–looking at trends in performance, their performance against competition, their performance against the markets. This will start giving you more specific insight.

If you really understand the problems you solve–and how they may impact these financial and market indicators, you can deduce a very specific impact that you might have. For example, if you sell financial systems that impact DSO (if you have to ask what DSO is, you need to do your homework), and you know with other customers you have been able to reduce DSO by 10-12%, you can look at your prospect’s DSO and do a couple of quick financial calculations showing the specific financial impact you can have. “We see DSO is becoming a bigger problem. We can show you how to reduce DSO from X to Y, generating and improved cash flow of Z…….” Now that’s INSIGHT! It’s not just a teaching pitch, it’s specific and actionable.

I’m constantly amazed by the amount of very specific INSIGHT we can generate based on publically or easily obtainable information, knowing what key metrics we impact, and connecting the dots with a proforma impact statement. It just takes a little sleuth work, as well as deep knowledge of key metrics and drivers you can impact.

I had the privilege of sitting with a team earlier this week who did just that. They were preparing a prospecting call on a key executive. They had done a deep analysis, just using some simple financial data from the customer’s 10K. They had done a deep dive into some comparative industry data, and before they even talked to the customer they could identify specific areas they could impact and a projected savings improvement.

They conducted the call, I got to listen in. They talked to the customer, “We’ve noticed some things in your business and we think you have an opportunity to save $27 million in the next 15 months.” The customer responded, “That’s very interesting, how did you come up with that number?” The customer was engaged–he wanted to talk, he wanted to learn!

The team walked him through the numbers, “This is how we arrived at $27 Million. We saw this data in your financial reports. We assumed your average labor rate was this …. Is that a fair assumption?” They engaged the customer in interacting and providing new information.

“Well, right now it’s actually trending about 3.5% higher than that–it’s a real problem….” he responded.

The conversation went on, in some cases they had made some poor assumptions, in others they were pretty close. At the end of the conversation, the team quickly re-ran their financial model saying “Based on the corrections you provided, we think the real savings opportunity is $23 million, not the original $27 million we estimated.”

All this in a 45 minute call. What do you think the customer said?

They had a long way to go, but they had an interested and engaged customer who wanted to discover more.

There are other ways to get specific about the insights you might provide. Wander around the customer, observe, listen, analyze things. Ask questions of the people you can get access to. Put this information into a compelling specific set of insights about the customer’s business.

Insight is important. Customer want ideas, they want to learn and grow. Any insight is better than done, but the real INSUGHT, that which is specific and unique to them is something that will absolutely engage them. The funny thing, if you know where and how to look, it’s not that difficult to determine.

As you prepare for your next calls, are you providing insight or INSIGHT?

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.


  1. Dave, just wondering if you could provide further expansion on what you mean by the term. I get your examples, but how does insight differ from providing information? I kind of like the concept, but it’s not clear in my mind what you mean.

  2. Robert: Great question! We toss the term around entirely too casually, but we need to really define it. I tend to think of insight as being ideas focused on the customer and their business. For example, ideas to grow, opportunities they may be missing, things they could do to improve the efficiency of their operations, things that happen that may impact their business, customers and markets.

    It could be information, but information focused on them or what’s happening to them. The distinction from a lot of information sales people provide is usually, that’s about us and our products.

    Pragmatically, the insight has to be able to be tied to something we can do. How we help them achieve goals, how we help them improve their operations, and so forth. Without this, it’s just nice conversation.

    Does this make sense?


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