At the recent Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, I talked about identifying and replicating the distinguishing characteristics of top sales performers. Effective communication is a key factor in determining sales success. In addition to specific exploratory and presentation skills and processes, sales professionals need to ensure the value of our input; specifically, whether we are providing customers with mere "information" or valuable "insight."
What's the difference between information and insight? Information includes facts and figures. In and of itself, information does nothing to help the customer. Insight, on the other hand, provides a path for improvement to your customer's business.
Consider the communication between doctor and patient. The doctor shares information‚ test results, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and blood counts. That information is only useful to the degree that the patient understands the implication of those numbers to his or her health and longevity, if action needs to be taken, and what specific actions will improve the outcome. Information versus insight. Medical and non-medical personnel alike can read numbers on a report. What determines outstanding medical care is the physician's ability to interpret the information and advise the patient for the best possible outcome. The difference between a "seller" and a "business advisor" is the sales professional's ability to do the exact same thing for his or her customers.
Before we can deliver insight, however, we need to develop a relationship with the customer. A sales professional can neither develop nor deliver insight without the trust, credibility and rapport that accompany an established relationship. Cultivating the relationship requires communication and exploratory skills to uncover the customer's situation, perspective, needs and goals. This, then, is the starting point for developing insight and significantly improving our value proposition to customers.
View my recent interview with Gerhard Gschwandtner of Selling Power magazine, or my keynote presentation from Sales 2.0, Cracking the Code: Understanding and Replicating the Genome of Your Best Sales Performers.