By Aaron Field
Our parent organization the Corporate Executive Board recently released its findings on Achieving Intelligent Growth, and one of their main findings is that the best companies marry the focus on what they sell with an equally intense focus on how they sell. Insight has always been a vital if not always visible part of sales success. The best sales reps, however, kick off the sales interaction with insight about their customer. Condé Nast reps do this systematically, in partnership with Research.
Condé Nast publishes some of the world’s premier magazines but faces sharp competition. Just about any magazine, website, or TV station can make a slick presentation to potential advertisers. So instead of “selling,” Condé Nast turns to “teaching.” Their insights team partners with Sales to teach advertisers new and valuable insights about how to market to particular consumer segments. In return, Condé Nast enjoys unparalleled access even when competitors are shut out of conversations.
Regardless of industry, the lesson is the same. The right kind of insight is an advantage to any sales force. The Board’s sister program – the Sales Executive Council – calculated that 53% of customer loyalty comes from the “sales experience” and that the primary experience driver is teaching. That is why the Corporate Executive Board’s Executive Guidance for 2011 tells business leaders to:
“Treat sales channels as the education arm of the corporation”
Research must play a key role for “sales education” to work. Alone among the company’s functions, we are professional insight generators. But generating insight for sales education can be difficult. Beyond the already high bar for true insight, it must meet three criteria:
- Be actionable for our customers (not our own company)…
- …in a way that makes our own company’s product or services uniquely valuable…
- …while teaching the customer a non-obvious insight they don’t already know.
For more on how insight teams address these needs and drive top-line performance, see Supporting Sales: Embedding Insight into the Sales Process.