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5 Sales Statistics Every Executive Should Know

Posted on  24 July 14  by 


Neha wrote this post for our sister program, the CEB Sales Leadership Council.  Some of these insights will resonate with Market Insights groups that support the Sales function, but it’s surprising how many of these “sales challenges” are also daily challenges for those of us working to sell our insights throughout our own organization.  If your organization maintains a relationship with CEB Sales you will be able to access their materials using the same username and password that you use to access the CEB Market Insights site.

Market Insights and salesThere has been much disruption in the sales world in recent years. And, as we studied these disruptions and associated challenges, our research has thrown some pretty cool (and scary) statistics that debunk conventional wisdom and will forever change the way sales organizations operate.

Below are five statistics that top my list that every sales executive must know:

  1. 53% of customer loyalty is driven by a seller’s ability to deliver unique insight: In other words, a company’s brand, products and services, and price are no longer the main drivers that drive customer loyalty. Instead, what customers want today lies within the sales experience itself. And what better way to provide a lasting sales experience than a message that disrupts customer thinking and changes the way they do business, what you all have come to know as Commercial Insight.  CEB Market Insights members, learn more about the components of a world-class insight.
  2. An average B2B purchase is 57% complete by the time a customer engages a single supplier: With more information available to customers earlier in the sale, suppliers are being contacted later in the purchase decision than ever before. What’s more, customers have already defined their needs, researched solutions, settled requirements, and are starting to benchmark price. So, by the time the customer reaches out, the only thing left for the supplier to compete on is price.  CEB Sales members, use our Opportunity Qualification Scorecard to target the right opportunities.
  3. An average of 5.4 customer stakeholders are involved in a typical B2B purchase decision: As deals become increasingly complex, new stakeholders from different parts of the customer organization are weighing in on purchase decisions. These stakeholders bring diverse perspectives and business needs, making it hard for sales to      create consensus among customer stakeholder groups.  CEB Market Insights members, we too get burned by the increasing number of folks (in our case, business      partners) involved in decision making.  Check out our work on Operationalizing Political Savvy to understand how consensus decision making should change how you communicate insights, and learn how to proceed with Activating Disruptive Insights.
  4. The ideal customer advocate/coach exists in less than 1% of individuals: Conventional wisdom teaches reps to find      advocates/coaches in the customer organization – that can provide inside information, be highly credible, and support the supplier’s solution, among other criteria. Our analysis found that finding advocates is almost impossible as customer stakeholders with all the desired advocate/coach attributes don’t exist in the real world. That said, since sales requires selling to people, sellers must ultimately make a decision on who to sell to. Again, another topic that hits close to home for Market Insights professionals, who regularly need to navigate around organizational obstacles to get our insights acted upon.  CEB Market Insights members, use our Stakeholder Prioritization Tool to triage stakeholders early on and decide where to focus your relationship building efforts.
  5. Reps forget 70% of the information they are taught in training within a week, and 87% within a month: We have all seen sales training initiatives falling flat and often the reason cited is the training      itself. But what our research found is that more often than not it’s not      the training but what happens before and after training that is the reason for training to not “stick” and for sellers to not internalize new skills and behaviors.  CEB Market Insights members, we too found success in training when you focus on pre- and post-initiatives.  See how other departments Pre-Wire Participants to Improve the Value of Upcoming Training and Reinforce Continued Skill Development after Training

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The Future of the Corporate Insights Function

Posted on  22 July 14  by 


The questionnaireMarket Research functions were originally created to employ the rather limited and expensive set of tools for understanding customers (surveys/polls, interviews, focus groups, etc.), and only companies with the largest marketing budgets could justify the cost.  In the 1990s, the market research tool set became better, faster, and cheaper, leading a majority of large enterprises, even B2B companies, to employ them.  But the tools themselves also commoditized, so most Market Research functions redefined what they do as “Insights,” referring to the most valuable output of our studies. 

In the last decade, a wide variety of alternative “Analytics” tools for understanding customers have emerged—presenting both threat and opportunity for Market Insights.  Where the department has led the utilization of these tools to generate insights and improve decision making, the function’s budget and impact have risen.  But in many cases, these alternative tools grew up independently within another silo of Marketing, or even in Sales, Finance, or Strategy. 

Traditional Market Insights functions are best positioned to answer important, difficult, and complex decisions, but shorter-term decisions are made every day by executives using “found” sources.  Indeed, in our survey we found that the majority of decision makers considered 8 or more sources for a given decision.  In addition, the perceived number of individuals involved in decision making is going up, adding to the complexity of Insight activation for our function.

As we look across the next few years, what should the Market Insights function focus on to stay relevant and boost impact?

  • Multisource synthesis capability—responding to business partners’ (often unstated) need  for synthesis, MI teams must develop expertise in new sources and develop processes for integrating them into their work, all while continuing to use traditional market research tools to a high quality standard.
  • Insights with the customer at the center—most folks agree on the definition of an insight: finding the relationship or meaning with diverse sets of data that promises significant business impact.  But you can’t stop at developing a great insight; you have to tell a story by putting the customer at the center.  Push yourself beyond the observed behavior to really understand the underlying attitudes and beliefs of the customer.
  • “Activist” role within the function—the complexity of decision-making in large organizations makes it exceptionally difficult to drive action on MI’s most valuable insights.  Improve your influence on the organization by understanding the “politics” of decision makers and taking an activist role to sell and defend your insights even when they run counter to business partners’ current understanding.

CEB Market Insights members, access our presentation on The Future of the Corporate Insights Function to learn more about building and reinforcing these new skills in your own department.

How Should You Allocate Your 2015 Budget?

Posted on  22 July 14  by 


Analyzing the DataOne of the biggest struggles Market Insights leaders face annually is determining how to allocate budgets for the upcoming year, and with good reason—with so much uncertainty about emerging technologies and changing customer behaviors, it can be difficult to predict how to best spend resources in December 2014, let alone December 2015.

We’re here to help.

CEB Market Insights 2014 Resource and Organizational Benchmarking Survey is open for participation! Taking this survey will let you know how your planned budget stacks up against your peers’, helping you find areas of potential under- or over-investment.  In addition, we’ll analyze the survey data to find higher-level trends that can give a glimpse into the future.

The survey will collect key metrics such as:

  • Budget level
  • Resource allocation by project type
  • Organizational structure
  • Staffing levels
  • Services provided
  • Vendor spend

As a participant, you will receive a detailed custom report in time for the 2015 budget planning cycle, including an overview of the unit’s services, staffing, and budget. Depending on the size of the specific data set, we can cut data for company size, geography, budget, industry, function, or business unit. We’ll also create an online, interactive tool that lets you query the database directly to obtain the most frequently requested benchmarks.

To receive your custom report this, complete the survey by August 2ndonline here.

Questions, comments, or concerns?  Email Anne Wingate at

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Escaping the Megatrend Trap

Posted on  17 July 14  by 


As an Insights professional, have you ever been asked to “anticipate strategically valuable trends,” “predict the future,” or “tell me what our customers will want in 3 years?” Probably. But are these future-planning and strategy questions the right ones to answer?

No crystal ball needed!

No crystal ball needed!

As a caveat, keeping up with trends (and Megatrends specifically) within our customer bases is important. As Insights professionals, we’re responsible for sourcing and housing vital customer knowledge on an ongoing basis, and this data is essential to maintain a competitive footing in our respective industries.

However, based on quantitative research and hundreds of conversations with Insights professionals, ultimately the optimal role for Insights teams in a strategic planning context is not one of identifying megatrends, even those likely to occur in the future.

As it turns out, as an end product for strategic planning, our businesses need us to identify opportunities and not megatrends.

Here’s the difference: a “Megatrend” identifies what is changing and if that change is relevant – essentially a Market Focus….and this is a great start. “Opportunities” starts with Megatrends, and goes two steps further:

1. What should our Market Focus be? (Megatrends)

  • What is changing, and which changes are relevant?

2. What are possible Market Outcomes?

  • When will resulting outcomes happen (roughly), and what will they mean for our organization?

3. Where are the relatively high-potential Market Opportunities for our organization?

  • What can we do, and how will we respond?

This still may seem like predicting the future.

However, we were surprised to learn that once you plot out possible market outcomes informed by market focus, it just takes a few smart questions based on empirical data and experience to identify market opportunities that have a relative likelihood of achieving business value and fostering action among your business partners.

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Quantifying Insight Productivity—Research Project Mix Modeling

Posted on  16 July 14  by 


Research Mix ModelingA few weeks ago I blogged about 3 Ways to Measure the Effectiveness of the Insights Function—measuring overall effectiveness of the department, individuals’ skills, and project effectiveness.  When it comes to assessing project impact, we uncovered a number of interesting tactics:

Subjective Models: assessing value by defining a proxy for ROI

  • Assessing Strategic Value
  • Assessing Company Information Needs
  • Assessing Likelihood for Activation
  • Assessing Business partner Feedback

Quantitative Models: assessing more formal monetary value of projects

  • Assessing Expected Value of Research
  • Assessing Decision Risk
  • Assessing Insight Productivity

Yes, you read that last bullet right.  We found a Market Insights group that has defined insight productivity—the quantity of insights generated from each project.  And this pharmaceutical company uses a mix modeling-style analysis to determine optimal project mix and to predict the future value of pending projects.

This team follows a 4-step process that allows them to analyze past productivity to optimize future yield:

  1. Segment project and insight types: projects are categorized into 4 segments based on project intent, and insights are more specifically defined as “pearls” you can act upon and “insights,” which are truths with a “why” attached.
  2. Document insight generation and activation: project managers and business partners weigh-in on the number pearls and insights generated by past projects, and how they were acted upon.
  3. Analyze productivity across project types: analyze insights and activation by project type.
  4. Re-prioritize agenda: using the analysis, determine which mix of project would likely yield the most revenue, adjusting the research agenda accordingly where possible.

CEB Market Insight members, read more about this research agenda mix modeling tactic on our site, and access examples of each of the subjective and quantitative project assessment tactics at our Measuring Project Impact resource center

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“He’s Just Not That Into You” and Other Weak Signals to Watch Out for

Multisource SynthesisYears ago a friend of mine, let’s call him Robert, gave my friend some dating advice.  She was interested in a guy who we believed was sending her weak signals.  He hadn’t asked her out, but had sent her certain signals (e.g. flirting, offering his very progressive view of relationships).

We suggested that she follow up and have coffee with the guy. However, Rob was clear: “Look, if he hasn’t asked you out, he must not be that Into You!”  Five years of marriage and two kids later, it turned out Rob was wrong.   We eventually learned that our would-be lothario was both shy and from a culture where overt gestures of interest were considered inappropriate.  

And so in life as in research, we learn the value of paying attention to weak signals. According to a recent McKinsey Article, those best equipped to a spot weak signal often have a deep understanding of the drivers of business value within an organization.  Their ability to link data signals back to business drivers can be more important than expertise in the data itself.  In fact, early results from this year’s research initiative reveal that individuals with deep business expertise are better than source experts at linking data and making sense out of weak signals. 

The McKinsey article confirms our own findings:  when faced with new data, getting a network of people with business expertise to weigh in can lead to interesting new business opportunities that couldn’t be unearthed otherwise.    In retrospect, my friend was smart.  While she listened to the source expert (that would be Rob, since he is a guy after all) she also leveraged the one married woman at the table (the business expert of you will).  Her decision to investigate, as recommended by our married friend, was rewarded handsomely.

If you’re interested in contributing to this year’s study on how to accelerate your learning through multi- source synthesis, please take this quick 20 minute survey.

8 Strategies to Improve Your Writing (analytics say, “Write This, Not That”)

Posted on  9 July 14  by 

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We have focused a lot on analytics recently, trying to understand how to build and/or work with the analytics function, quick wins using analytics, etc.  So when I see an article on revealing results of analytics work, my eyes perk up.  And I recently found a good one on listing 8 analytically proven ways to improve your writing.  By analyzing hundreds of the internet’s most popular posts, the author pulled together the following recommendations:

1. Stoke curiosity: make titles or meeting invites informative enough to get readers to click through or business partners to agree to attend a meeting, but don’t give away the whole story.  It’s all about creating a “curiosity gap.”  CEB Market Insight members, see how Heinz and others create “buzz” around their new information sessions.

2. Use numbers: the bigger the better: digits seem to be inherently more shareable than words, so don’t say “Eight reasons” or “Twenty Percent”.  8 and 20 are much more likely to get read and shared.  Also, higher numbered lists get passed along more.

3.-5.  Word choice matters: there are specific words that appeared in the most popular blog posts, including “smart,” “science,” and “surprising.”  Analysis also finds that using dramatic or aggressive language promotes readership and sharing because it elicits a fear that they’ll be missing out if they don’t read your content.  Finally, use more verbs than nouns.

6. Turn announcements into stories: don’t share information in a vacuum, use stories to make your readers feel emotions.  CEB Market Insights members, here’s some ideas for types of stories you can use for your particular business needs.    

7. Tailor your content: know your reader, and write accordingly.  Here are some training tools to help you diagnose and implement tailoring.

8. Use the element of surprise: present unexpected findings to capture attention.  P&G, Amway and others use the element of surprise in their research communications to break down business partners’ false customer understanding—we know it works!

How to Communicate to Millennials (and Other Audiences, Too!)

Posted on  8 July 14  by 


Scott originally wrote this post for the CEB Communications Leadership Council, but it contains terrific advice for anyone working with millennials as business partners or consumers.  We have added Market Insights-specific content and recommendations, but feel free to forward this post to your business partners in communications, marketing, and sales.

Communicating with MillennialsWe often get asked for advice on how to tailor communication to different audiences, such as people from different countries or to younger / older populations.  I saw a recent presentation on how to communicate with Millennials (a popular term for young adults aged 19-34) and found it interesting that what’s essential for appealing to this group is – not trying too hard to appeal to them.  Our own research suggests this is also good advice for other audiences.

The presentation came from our sister program, CEB Iconoculture, which studies and helps companies stay ahead of changes in consumer attitudes and behavior.  Their central observation about Millennials: they are more diverse than older generations (on almost any dimension you can measure) and not only accept but also identify with that diversity.  This makes it difficult to appeal to them using traditional persona-based techniques, like using images of “people like me.”  Such appeals are rejected as mere stereotypes, even when they hit the mark: for example, urban, white “hipsters” are actually turned off by overt appeals to urban, white “hipsters.”

So how do you respond to this diversity?  Surprisingly, with specificity.  Instead of embracing what “The Millennial” wants / expects, embrace a specific purpose.  Instead of trying to relate to “people like me,” relate to someone specific, even if different from me.

This advice is all derived from recent consumer research, but there is an interesting parallel to communications research we conducted several years ago.  CEB Communications studied the impact of corporate reputation / brand attributes on stakeholder preference, and found:

  • Differentiated brands have 61% more impact on preference for the company than non-differentiated brands;
  • Audiences perceive just 20% of brands as even somewhat differentiated; and
  • Many common reputation attributes – such as product innovation, leadership quality, ethics, and being a good employer – have no impact on company preference.

An essential consequence of differentiation is that you won’t appeal to everyone.  But attempting to appeal to everyone waters down brand attributes and positioning to the “lowest common denominator,” which ultimately appeals to no one.

This latest work on Millennials suggests we can stand for and appeal to something specific – which would pay off even if it meant narrowing the audience – and actually appeal to a broader and more diverse audience than we would have expected!

CEB Market Insights Resources:

The Power of Context on Customer Understanding

Posted on  3 July 14  by 


Insight-Engagement-Workshop-Blog-300x300The summer lull is upon us. People are taking days off, going on holiday, visiting family and friends – and in some cases enjoy great weather (certainly not here in the Washington, D.C. humidity).

In this context, it can be difficult to get business partners open and excited about a new Insight or customer approach.

Furthermore, regardless of the weather, a challenge Insights teams frequently face is business partners who think they know everything they need to know about their customers – or at least those who think they know enough to get by.

How can we get those particular business partners excited to learn from a new customer Insight or approach?

Telecom NZ found that creating a new and fun context for the Insight or customer approach can greatly increase customer understanding and openness to new and unexpected findings from Market Insights.

To do this, the Telecom NZ team held an “Insight Engagement Workshop” where executives throughout the business were introduced to customer segments through a new product development competition – with a twist (figuratively and literally, as you’ll see). The goal of their particular workshop was to convince executives of a new segment-oriented approach to customer understanding.

In the workshop, the Insights team asked executives to come up with a new product idea and business plan for the young and active customer segment – but not in the telecom industry….in the beverage industry! Each team competed against one another to create a cocktail for the young and active segment.

Now – it stands to reason that asking executives to plan strategically in an unfamiliar context might not work – but actually, doing just that and focusing on a specific segment in a different context increased the executives’ appreciation of the new segmented approach…the focus was no longer on the existing customer knowledge, the telecommunications industry, or “how we’ve always done things.”

Instead, because the telecom executives in the room did not know anything about that customer segment in the context of alcoholic beverages, they naturally asked themselves smart questions to increase their knowledge and understanding of the customer. Pretty neat trick, right?

The results of the workshop were three-fold:

  1. Increased the appreciation among business partners of customer segmentation
  2. Successfully developing a product idea tailored to the specific segment
  3. A greater appreciation for the Market Insights function and desire to use Insights in daily work

CEB Market Insights members – explore additional tools and practices below on communication techniques for embedding Insights into your organization:

CEB Related Resources


Improve Communication Using Taste Metaphors

Posted on  1 July 14  by 


Interactive-Workshops-the-Research-Way1-150x150Researchers from Princeton University and the Free University of Berlin may have proven that a rose by any other name does not smell as sweet.  It turns out that phrases containing words related to taste resonate better than the same message using more literal phrasing.  This means that you could see a “rhetorical advantage” in you communications by using metaphorical language.

Comparing participants’ brain’s reactions to statements like “She looked at him sweetly,” versus “She looked at him kindly,” researchers found that the phrases containing the taste metaphors activated the parts of the brain associated with emotional processing. 

This finding supports some of our own research on communication, where we found that MI departments had the most luck changing business partners’ customer understanding when they engineered emotional learning moments.  They were able to correct executives’ overconfidence and misunderstanding by creating multi-sensory, engaging, and authentic learning experiences.

In fact, Telecom NZ puts business partners through interactive insight workshops where they have to use new customer understanding to develop a new product, but not a telecom product.  By breaking the executives out of their industry expertise, they have to be more involved in the insights to apply them to their product development challenge.

And the product that they have their executives create?  A new cocktail.  Something tells me that they are able to sprinkle in many tasty metaphors throughout that training day.  No wonder it works so well!

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