The best of all outcomes are achieved when you, as a serving professional, actually co-create insight that applies to a specific person within the client. It applies to that person and what they are working to achieve. It applies to that specific person and where they are in the client decision-making process and the progression of that process. This personalization is the most powerful connection that you will make at a client.
Think about the person you work with in a client-company. This person has specific needs and objectives that are unique to them. You have the opportunity to help them in ways that go beyond the overall business aims of their company. How can you help them do their job better? What constraints are pushing on them personally? What obstacles can you help remove? Can you help them meet deadlines? What information can you provide that impacts this person, not just this company?
This connection came to a clear understanding when calling on “Jim”, an engineer at a medical device client that we had been serving for years. Jim was a young father of 3 with his oldest son just turning 10. In this case, Jim was involved in the software creation of a new medical device that was due to market in the next few months. He had used our products and software tools to develop their end-products on many occasions. This time out the pressure to get the product to market was particularly high.
Added to the work pressure was the fact that Jim had just volunteered to coach his son’s soccer team. And that was a BIG community involvement in this case. We listened carefully to the conflicting needs for him to push to work overtime AND at the same time to coach his son’s soccer team. Our team had multiple solutions. We arranged for an outside consultant to assist in the project. We also coordinated our own technical experts locally and from the factory across the continent to help create the framework for the software and provided key sections of pre-written software code to address some of the special functions needed. We assisted further by helping with the quality assurance and compliance testing needed to get this medical device to market perfectly. On the personal side we were able to reach out internationally and connect Jim with a youth coaching expert that one of our European team members knew well.
In this case we delivered highly personalized insight and solutions that helped our client meet his corporate mandate and see through his personal commitment to his son. That’s how you work with your client to truly make a difference.
Insight is good. Personalized insight is invaluable.
“Insight” is an important word in sales today. In today’s world of commoditized products with little differentiation, being able to deliver unique and valuable insight to your clients is what is going to set you apart from the competition. Insight is a central part of the Total Benefit of Ownership conversation I wrote about in the last blog.
In The Challenger Sale, Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson note that often clients don’t actually know what they need. In fact, their greatest need is to find out exactly what they need. Instead of trying to interrogate to discover how to fit our solutions might fit, we can tell our clients what they need and give them insights into how they can think differently about their business. This is the teaching part of the Teach, Tailor, Take Control method taught by The Challenger Sale and it is what the clients truly want from valuable outside resources.
Insight is information – information that is probably not internalized by the client at this point. Information about the world that we see that applies to them and their role in their own company’s decision-making process. This is information that may reframe what a client is already thinking or open up a new train of thought.
Creating and delivering insight takes great focus on the client and specific wisdom about how your solutions can uniquely serve your client in ways that help them achieve one of their big three goals:
Every interaction that we have with a client must be aimed at serving them in one of those 3 areas. We become valuable by helping the client see the same old things in a brand new light.
The “new” sales process pundits suggest that Insight should be created in the central hub of marketing and then delivered to targeted clients by the sales team. In effect they are advocating for creating Insight Factories. This can work. And these factory-generated insights can be reasonably effective at that point. They are just not the MOST effective. Consider the example of Grainger in the Challenger book. The Grainger story was about a specific insight and service that they could offer their client base by understanding the clients’ purchasing patterns. This insight was carefully researched and created and as it was delivered to the first clients, it represented a whole new way of thinking. It positioned Grainger as a strategic partner instead of just a transactional supplier and it offered a great difference to the client – until their nearest competitor also offered the same insight and service. So that great new way of thinking just got commoditized, and again price became the only discussion point.
Because pretty much anything made in a factory can be commoditized.
The real difference maker that we need to focus on is the Tailor part of the Challenger learning (Teach, Tailor, Take Control). You can take that insight that has been corporately created by the brain trust at the Insight Factory and use it as is…or not. It will work for a while. Then it will wither as others figure it out. But if you can take that insight and highly tailor it to the specific client that you are serving and their specific needs, you will be delivering unique, valuable difference-making insight.
By understanding the impact that your insight will have on your client and their business, you create a client-specific version of the factory insight and your advantage will last a bit longer. How long you keep your advantage depends on how well you tie in multiple aspects of your solution to multiple needs of the client. But there is another level of insight that will achieve even better outcomes: insight personalized to a specific person within your client. More on this next time.
In the beginning there were people who made stuff and people who needed stuff. Then there were the peddlers of stuff who helped the makers and the buyers find each other. The peddlers of stuff were very successful for hundreds of years, because both the makers and the buyers needed them. Stuff was bought and sold and everyone was okay. Then things changed.
Today’s business landscape is rapidly and radically changing and people and organizations are struggling to keep up. Product information was once the golden nugget that every salesperson owned and shared only with those people who they chose to enlighten. The salespeople were once the Kings and Queens of data and information and they reigned supreme. The true product that the salesperson offered up was the information that the client could not easily find. That was then.
Consider this: between the beginning of time and 2003, 5 exabytes of data were created. In 2013, 5 exabytes of data were created each day. In 2014, 90% of the total data and information in the world had been created in the last 2 years. And the prognosis is that the amount of data and information in the world will double every year shortly, and then every 6 months, and on and on. This commoditization of data and information has totally changed the value that a salesperson must deliver today. This rapid change in the creation of information is closely tied to the shifting trends in the nature of work and business. Some futurists estimate that close to 50% of jobs will be extinct in 20 years.
The jobs on the endangered list are not just the obvious ones like travel agents and the milkman. Accountants, air traffic controllers, utility engineers and teachers are all at risk – and so is the sales professional.
The sales professional is on the verge of extinction. Up until now the salesperson was the keeper and deliverer of information, but now they are not really needed for that anymore.
So what do they do?
The good news is that there are clear and valuable answers to that question. In recent months and years there have been a number of sales methodologies presented to bring relevance to the field of selling. The Challenger Sale is the best of those in my opinion. The basic tenets of Teach, Tailor, and Take Control only come from an in-depth understanding of the true value of insight and how best to create and deliver it. Done poorly it is just another substitute for commoditized information. And even in the domain of insight there are key differences that you can make. We will explore those as well as many elements in this journey.
The key difference in the work that Hendre Coetzee and I have done over the last several years shows us that methodology shifts are not sufficient. To stay relevant and avoid obsolescence you will need to make a mindset shift FIRST. Only from there can you properly attack making a shift in what you DO. The specific actions needed to make the shift will be detailed in the book and in the works from Hendre and myself.
Shifting mindset AND methodology is required for completely reversing the erosion of the sales professional’s relevance in a highly commoditized world.