14/04/2015

By Tim Riesterer, chief strategy and marketing officer, Corporate Visions

Insights-based selling is one of those trends that’s become impossible to ignore. Unlike so many buzzwords or fads, the hype around insights might actually be justified. In a world where many transactional salespeople or product sellers will be replaced by the web, the remaining, successful salespeople will add value by delivering insights.

But this is only true if you’re delivering insights that create a buying vision to do something different, and insights that set you apart from your competitors.

Recent research conducted by my company, Corporate Visions, shows the extent to which companies have embraced this selling approach. According to a survey of more than 400 global business-to-business marketers and sales professionals, 81 per cent of respondents believe they’re using an insights-based approach as part of their marketing and sales strategy.

But for all the fanfare insights has received, there isn’t a whole lot of clarity about what types of insights actually have the biggest impact. The term also means different things to different people, which leads us to a host of questions: What actually constitutes a powerful insight? What types of insights will differentiate you the most in your marketplace? Which ones will have the greatest influence on helping you defeat the status quo and create a buying vision?

At a time when so many companies are gravitating to an insights-based approach, these are the questions worth asking. After all, you want to deliver insights that spur action. And you won’t be able to do that by recycling the same information and data points that your competitors are using.

Insights: Defining the Term

The best insights happen when you can deliver information that exposes an inconsistency or uncertainty in the way someone’s thinking about something today. Not all insights are equally good at achieving this effect. To determine more precisely which types of insights are most effective at this, I’ve identified four types that companies can develop and deliver:

Anecdotal insights: these are insights typically created in-house. They tend to focus on more tactical, day-to-day issues and challenges, like best practices or lessons learned from customers
Authoritative insights: these incorporate the research of trusted third-party sources such as analyst firms which form the basis for an industry opinion
Current insights: these are founded on original, company-generated research and surveys to report reactions and sentiments surrounding issues of the day
Visionary insights: These insights leverage original research, along with in-house expertise with a look toward the future to identify and define where the industry is going.

After bucketing insights into these four categories, we then asked participants in our survey to tell us which types of insights they employ the most, and which types of insights they believe to have the biggest impact. Our survey revealed that anecdotal insights—typically the easiest category to develop—are delivered the most, but are also considered to have the least effect on positive selling outcomes.

On the other hand, visionary insights, which are used the least, are viewed as the most effective insights category when it comes to making an impact on prospects and customers.

As you can see, companies tend to rely most heavily on the insights that help them the least. That’s a trend that companies should look to reverse. To create the kind of messaging that compels your prospects to question their current situation, you should aim to deliver insights in the more effective but less used categories. That means delivering insights on the visionary end of the spectrum.

As I see it, visionary insights include three key components:

Originality: they are based on primary research that you conduct, and that’s both statistically relevant and sound
Exclusivity: the data points you mine from your research are unique and can’t be duplicated by competitors. They will also present a counter-intuitive response to common perceptions in the marketplace
A forward-looking perspective: which means developing a content-driven narrative that offers a visionary interpretation of your data – one that thoroughly examines emerging issues, challenges and trends that your findings pertain to. And then offers the market a contrasting, contrary approach to conventionally held wisdom and best practices.

With the rise of insights-based selling, you don’t want to be left behind delivering information in the ‘true but useless’ category, or simply regurgitating established industry data that won’t set you apart from competitors. To truly maximise your insights approach, develop a distinct and forward-looking point of view with your insights, and then deploy that message in your content. That will help you shape the conversation, elevate your stature in the marketplace and realise the impact on pipeline you’re looking for.