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How to Create Commercial Insight

Commercial insight can often be mistaken for new or compelling information, but it must go beyond presenting a new idea to undermining an existing one

Businessmen Businesspeople Sharing Idea Insight Conversation Sales TalkThe concept of commercial insight (for CEB Sales members) has become an all-encompassing one for some sales organizations.

Put simply, commercial insight (or commercial teaching as we tend to call it) is one of the few tactics left to sales teams to differentiate their offer in the eyes of the customer, in an environment where customers are increasingly unable to appreciate differences in quality, reputation, service delivery, and product value between suppliers.

Yet, many organizations think they are arming their sales reps with commercial insights, when in reality they are simply providing them with an array of facts, data, and observations that may be newsworthy but fail to encourage any real action.

The Difference Between Thought Leadership…

The problem lies in distinguishing between thought leadership and true commercial insight. Thought leadership is the presentation of interesting, newsworthy information that customers are unlikely to discover on their own. It attracts customer attention and teaches them a new perspective, but unfortunately that’s all it does.

To make customers take action, a message must go beyond merely presenting a new idea to actually undermining an existing one.

…And Commercial Insight

While it’s easy to explain what differentiates commercial insight from other information at a general level, it’s much harder in practice to determine whether a piece of information in front of you is truly commercial insight. And, if not, how exactly to improve it.

For this reason, CEB Sales developed the Commercial Insight Audit, a tool to help members understand the strengths and weaknesses of their commercial insights, and pinpoint areas for improvement.

The commercial insight audit starts with a general review, guiding the user through the most basic components of good commercial insight. The audit also helps sales reps evaluate the strength of the insight in light of three important aspects:

  1. Understanding the conventional wisdom of customer’s business: In order to change a customer’s way of thinking, reps must first know how the customer thinks about their business.

    The audit evaluates the depth at which reps understand the conventional wisdoms held by a customer segment and the extent to which these viewpoints are held across the segment.

  2. Highlighting what the customer has overlooked or misunderstood: A message goes beyond thought leadership and turns into insight whenever it forces the customer to reassess what they thought they knew about their business. The audit evaluates the power your message has to compel customers to take action.

  3. Detailing a new customer approach: Most importantly, a commercial insight must lead the customer back to you as the supplier best able to help them take action on that insight.

    The audit evaluates the extent to which your message leads the customer to your unique supplier differentiators.


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