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Information Is a Deposed Emperor without Clothes

In the movie Wall Street, the lead character, Gordon Gekko, said, "The most valuable commodity I know of is information."

A substantiating example was how Nathan Rothschild reportedly used messenger pigeons during the Napoleonic Wars. Because he received information about Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo before others who relied on communication delivered on horseback, Rothschild made millions overnight in London's stock market.

But sheer information no longer has intrinsic value. Every day, we feed more information into a giant, global brain. Everyone with a browser can access the same information at the same time.

Such information access has dramatically changed how people buy. Customers no longer listen to companies; they listen to their peers. In fact, buyers complete at least 57 percent of the buying process before contacting a company representative. (SOURCE: Corporate Executive Board)

While buyers are armed with more information than ever before, many salespeople are in the dark about

  1. customer budgets, authority, needs, and timetables;
  2. sales triggers, or events that may trigger a purchase;
  3. customer business models and strategic objectives.  

Only 13 percent of customers believe that a typical salesperson understands their business issues and can articulate how to solve them. (SOURCE: Forrester)

It's no wonder; the inability to communicate a value message is today's biggest roadblock to achieving quota. (SOURCE: SiriusDecisions)

This is the big elephant in the boardroom. Information is a deposed emperor without clothes. The new business trump card is insight.

It’s been said that you can't get to the right answers unless you ask the right questions. The same goes for insight. Here are some questions your executive team can ask to gain insight and get sales results that are out of sight:

  • How does your company collaborate and share insight? Explore a sales-enablement solution (Qvidian or SAVO).
  • How do your salespeople find what's relevant to a prospect who has visited your Website? Examine behavioral marketing applications (Eloqua or Silverpop)
  • How do you help your salespeople engage customers in a conversation that is centered around value as seen through the customer's eyes? Get serious about sales coaching.
  • Are your salespeople still talking at customers through a well-rehearsed pitch? Improve your message management.  
  • How do you reward the right sales behaviors that contribute to a better bottom line? Get better results with incentive compensation management (Callidus or Xactly).
  • How do you deliver relevant social and corporate information to salespeople so they can win more new customers? Test-drive new lead-management solutions (InsideView or Reachable).   

Successful sales organizations boost revenues through better processes and technology. Salespeople make money by turning information into insight.

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My fear with all of these tools is that the act of capturing information becomes more pressing that solving urgent needs.

The 13% of salespeople that actually understand their audience's problems, to me, shows that the process and checklist obsession is of no use if empathy is lost. This info has been nicely cataloged, but the customer feels like an object.

Insight is amazing, but listening and understanding the pain is the key to addressing it.

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