Jonny Rose: Hi Tim, in your capacity as chief strategy officer at Corporate Visions, you travel the world talking to B2B salespeople about using insights to help them win deals. Can you explain what you mean by “insights”?
Tim Riesterer: Succinctly, we see ‘insights’ as being that thing that you can tell a prospect or customer, that they didn’t already know – such as a problem or a missed opportunity they didn’t even know they had – that’s keeping them from reaching their outcome.
We feel like too many companies go out and ask customers, “What do you need?”, and then the customer tells you and then you come back and tell them how you can fix that thing they need, and we believe that that just makes you a tape recorder. What you want to be is a trusted advisor; insights make you a trusted advisor, [while] asking customers what they need and telling them what you have makes you a tape recorder. We think there’s a difference.
Rose: Of course, not all insights are made equal and I know that you have a sort of four-point way of spitting out insights you speak about that anecdotal insight, the authoritative of insight, the current insight, and then the visionary insight. It would be good if you could just build those out a bit more, those four points and what they entail.
Riesterer: Sure. The four insights we’ve identified are:
The ‘anecdotal’ insight that you gain from your experience with your customers, and then you share that back with other prospects and customers.
The ‘authoritative’ insight is when you quote an third-party industry source such as a research or analyst firm and you use their statistic or report followed by your own perspective on that data point.
The ‘current’ insight is when your company does a bit of industry research – such as a a survey and that data is now exclusively yours. In this case, you’re not borrowing from a third-party to understand the state of the market.
The ‘visionary’ insight is very unique and hard to find in many companies: this is where you’re done some original research and subsequently identified that the existing approach is standard or deficient for some reason – even though everyone sort of believes this is ‘the way’. Your visionary insight is the insight that shows a new way of doing things. This visionary insight is like gold – you can then go into the market, and start leading the market in a new fresh direction as opposed to simply piling on the current received wisdom.
Rose: How important is monitoring the competition when it comes to generating insights that add value, whether that’s ‘visionary’ or otherwise?
Riesterer: To offer a visionary insight to the market you have to know what the market is saying and doing, so that you can then have the courage to stand on the other side and say, “The emperor has no clothes”. So, yes, monitoring the competition is very important for generating original insights.
Rose: We’ve sort of spoken about generating visionary insights at an academic level. But what does a visionary insight look like in that context of when you’re a software salesperson, for example?
Riesterer: What’s interesting about a visionary insight is that the foundation of one is that you [the software product] do something unique in the industry but currently nobody really cares – so you’re trying to introduce that [unique capability, advantage or service you provide] into your story in a manner that makes them care.
The visionary insight you generate must be the beginning of the story that gets people to recognize their “unconsidered need”: the need they didn’t know they had, the need they didn’t know they had to prioritize, the need they had been hiding with some sort of work-around – and you expose that need to them. You have to “amp up: the size and speed of the unconsidered need consuming their business, and show how your value-add resolves that need. So that people actually care about it.
“To offer a visionary insight to the market you have to know what the market is saying and doing.”
However, you also can’t just introduce some new or surprising data that gets you supposedly all emotionally wound up without resolving that risk. It’s not a ‘visionary insight’ if you just introduce risk – it’s an insight if you introduce risk that can then be resolved. If you start that fire, you must have a bucket of water nearby and our research has shown that people are more motivated to change if they actually know there’s something to change to.
So all I would suggest is, regardless of your industry, look for those things you’re calling value-added services that you think differentiate you. Don’t try to cram them into the same story as everybody else. Create a new story that leads people to that and now you have an opportunity to share an insight because you can generate the risk with the status quo, and the resolution that lands on your offering and that’s where the hidden story is. That’s the key of a really good insight – regardless of industry.
Rose: What are some of the tactics or methods that Corporate Visions favours when undertaking a new project to enable clients to generate visionary insights. I’m not asking you to reveal the secrets- but are there some very basic steps you take to help these companies be able to to find and generate proper insights?
Riesterer: Well, that’s funny, after you’ve written two books, you’ve pretty much given away all your secret sauce!
There is no tremendous secret sauce now except the fact that we’ve done it a lot and we can we can execute it and repeat it, right, it’s scalable.
I alluded earlier to the premise of what we call the “unconsidered need”. What we do is initially tell customers when we’re working with them show us all the research you’ve done on the voice of the customer and show me the needs that they’ve expressed and tell me what capabilities you’ve mapped those needs. Then we tell them: “That’s great – but that’s not an insight. That is a ‘commodity story’.”
By ‘commodity story’ I mean that because you’re not the only company in your industry that did that ‘voice of the customer’ research, you’re not the only company in your industry that has those capabilities. That act of VOC research, while having good intentions, it’s the wrong instinct. It is the instinct that will get you to a commoditized conversation; asking known customer needs and mapping them to specified set of capabilities in your portfolio, is a recipe for commoditization, because all industries have so many good competitors now that all sound like they do the same thing.
As a result, we encourage clients to talk about the capabilities that they think are a unique advantage that their prospects and customers don’t appreciate.
It’s a process and it takes a while for people to get there, we’re always challenging them because some of the things they say keep falling back onto are known and are going to be commoditized and companies get a little uncomfortable when you start pushing them into that outer edge, but eventually they recognize and gain a lot of confidence with that story because they know, now we’re going to say something different from our competitors.
“Monitoring the competition is very important for generating original insights.”
Rose: Is their merit in monitoring what other people are doing, what your competitors are doing, that the very research that they’re atomizing and spreading across their channels can actually help inform your own insights?
Riesterer: For sure! If you’re going to put all that money, time, and effort into insight development, you want to make sure that you’ve carved out a unique space. If you roughly identify what you believe the insight is you need to go out and validate that this is actually going to say something new and fresh in the marketplace.
Also, you can use your competitors’ research against them in sales mode. I was in a pitch against a competitor just yesterday where we went in and we knew what [the competitor] were going to say. We were then able to say during our pitch, “I’m sure this is what you just heard from [our competitor] – we do share some similar aspects, but now let’s show you where this thing [the competitor spoke about] doesn’t scale”. We were only able to do that because we had been monitoring our competitor’s content.
Rose: What’s one tip or recommendation that will help anyone reading this be “In The Know”?
Riesterer: I tell people to generate original insights by doing current research or some sort of original research.
Here’s my tip for doing research and industry surveys so that you don’t do an industry survey that sounds like everybody else and proves that you simply have an uncanny grasp of the obvious, you need to be different.
Here’s my tip: there’s a piece of science in the behavioral economics world called “declared preference” and “revealed preference”, meaning most people will say one thing and do another.
When you do your research, ask questions that get people to say what they believe and feel might be the best or most effective and a little bit later, ask them what they’re currently doing and how they’re investing their time, their effort and their resources and you will more often than not find out that people are not doing what they think is the right thing to do – there’s a huge disconnect between their declared preference and what their revealed preference, what they’re actually doing is, and in that contradiction is always an insight.
And ideally in that contradiction, where that insight lives, you have a way to fix that, to help the people who want to do with a better way and know there’s a better way and aren’t doing it today – you can help close that gap so if you frame your questions right, you will end up with a survey that produces insights if you make sure you frame declared preference (what I prefer), and revealed preference (what I’m actually doing), and you’ll be surprised at how interesting all of a sudden your survey results become.