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Marketing Messenger/ Branding & Communications

Create Insight Without Merely Delivering Factoids


by Tim Riesterer
Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer
Corporate Visions Inc.

See More by this author >

Article Highlights:

  • Stop sharing facts that simply corroborate something someone already knows. That is not insight.
  • The fact or stat alone will not create the insight, but giving it context in a way that defies your prospect’s repertoire of typical decision-making patterns will.
  • It comes down to helping people see the inconsistencies in their current thinking.

There has been a lot of talk lately about selling with “insights” as a superior way to engage. I agree.

When selling with insights, though, the challenge becomes: How do you determine whether something is actually an insight? Unfortunately, most who espouse the insight model don’t help you understand the science behind decision-making that makes something an insight versus just an interesting factoid--and how to transfer that insight in a way that gets the desired response.

Definitions Of Insight
Gary Klein, scientist and author of “The Power of Intuition” and “Seeing What Others Don’t,” identifies two primary ways insights work:

1. Personal Insights: The first deals with how individuals develop insights for themselves. When you get stuck trying to solve a problem, and your current assumptions about a situation are not working, you realize you’ve been making inappropriate assumptions and try to find a way to get beyond it--and you fixate on the faulty assumption until you find another way.

2. Interpersonal Insights: The second deals with how you can help someone else gain a new insight. Simply put, it comes down to helping people see the inconsistencies in their current thinking. You can share information about what they should be doing better or different, but the key to unlocking the insight is creating an environment that allows people to self-identify the inconsistencies in their beliefs.

Everyone has “go-to” frames for making a decision. When presented with a new problem to solve, you and I default to familiar mental models. But if you want prospects to do something different, it is your job to first help them break down these patterns by changing the stories they are using to make choices.

“Arriving at insights isn’t a question of pushing new information on people and trying to explain it in words," Klein said. "It’s more about helping people see the inconsistency in themselves, and then all of a sudden the mental model will shift naturally and easily."

A Factoid Is Not An Insight
I hope you already see the fallacy of most insight-development efforts. Companies are collecting various facts and stats and throwing them out, acting like the data point is an insight. Clearly it is not.

First, you must add value by infusing meaning into the factoid in terms of the impact it has on the currently held assumptions of the person you are sharing it with.

You need to disrupt the old pattern-matching that is happening subconsciously in your prospects' heads. Specifically, you must help them mentally simulate how a new fact impacts their status quo.

Help them “try on” the fact in such a way that they can literally feel how their current assumptions may be inappropriate for the decision at hand.

Many of the facts that companies share today in the name of insights merely serve to confirm people’s intuition about their key objectives or critical business issues. Trust me, your prospects already know they need to generate more revenue, cut costs, streamline processes, hire the best people, increase their competitiveness, shorten their time to market, and expand their global footprint.

Stop sharing facts that simply corroborate something someone already knows. It is not insight. There is no sense of urgency. And you have done nothing to discourage the mental models that perpetuate the status quo.

Give Your Facts Context
The real power of insight is going a layer deeper to introduce an unconsidered or unknown statistic that actually puts these intuitively obvious objectives at risk. Expose a gap or deficiency that your prospects didn’t know or amplify a challenge that they have undervalued. The fact or stat alone will not create the insight, but giving it context in a way that defies your prospect’s repertoire of typical decision-making patterns will.

For example, everyone agrees that keeping high school kids away from drugs, tobacco, and alcohol is a good thing for the child personally as well as society as a whole. If you were speaking with a high school principal about a new prevention program–simply sharing the frightening stats behind injuries, deaths, and other bad things that happen when kids dabble in mind-altering substances–that is not an insight.

But what if you could show the principal that the D.A.R.E program often used in schools has no scientific evidence to prove it works, yet 70 percent of schools still use it? And what if you could demonstrate that there’s a hint it may actually increase the use of alcohol and tobacco? (This is true, by the way.)

How might that change the receptivity to your program, when you start to help them see why current programs fail and how your program fixes those failure points?

You need to ask yourself, what are your prospects doing today that they don’t even realize is potentially harmful to their critical business issues? What evidence can you provide to show them that their current assumptions are actually holding them back? Do you have stats and facts that confirm these counterintuitive concepts?

Creating and delivering insight demands that you first help your prospects “see” and “feel” the inconsistencies in their current thinking before they can even begin to imagine making a change to do something different, let alone care about the thing you are trying to sell them.

How are you turning your research, facts, and stats into actual insights?

About Tim Riesterer

A marketing and sales industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience, Tim Riesterer is the chief strategy and marketing officer for Corporate Visions Inc., a leading sales and marketing messaging company that works with B2B companies. Tim is also a recognized thought leader, practitioner, and author. His books, “Customer Message Management” and “Conversations that Win the Complex Sale,” focus on improving market-ready messages and tools that marketers and salespeople can use to win more deals. For easily integrated marketing and sales tips, visit