Insight And Co-Creation

Yesterday, I was talking to one of the smartest sales executives I’ve ever met. We were talking about, what else, selling with Insight. His team had quietly been doing this for years–a very long time. When you look at the track record of success and growth, clearly both the overall organization is doing great things and his sales people are executing differently than their competitors.

We were talking about how his team engaged customers, what they did differently, and why it was so effective. After a few minutes of talking, it both struck us the power of Insight really comes in Co-Creation. Their success was less the Insight, but more the Co-Creation of Unique Insight with the customer.

For insight to have it’s maximum impact it has little to do with what we are “telling” the customer. That may be the starting point, but the real power of Insight is in Co-Creation. It’s the process of taking an idea, engaging the customer in talking about the idea, working together, personalizing it, making it unique to the customer, then having them own it as their own.

The insights we provide are important, I don’t want to discount those, but they are just the starting point. The real magic is in the transformation of those ideas, building something much stronger with the customer.

Co-Creation is has a couple of important elements. One is the concept of synergy (that’ one of those $100 consulting words that was in vogue about 10 years ago, but seems to have fallen out of fashion) Synergy is about 1+1=5. It speaks to the power of smart people working together can create something much more powerful than working separately. So the power of our insight grows and is transformed by the way we engage our customers in Co-Creation.

The second think about Co-Creation is it is the personalization of insight. It creates the ultimate in uniqueness and differentiation for the customer. They can’t get the same “Insight” anywhere else, likewise it become difficult for competitors to copy and emulate. For us, it is difficult to copy and offer at a lower price–because the value is all in the Co-Creation process. Certainly, the end results or outputs might be “competed,” but why would a customer ever do that–they lose the value of working with you, they lose the ability to Co-Create.

I worry about a lot that I see going on with selling with Insight. It seems too much of the focus is on the wrong thing. Too much is on “messaging,” too much on the “teaching our customers,” not enough on learning and creating together. Too much of the focus is about the Insight itself, getting the customer hot and lathered, but not the “what’s next.” Ideas and Insight are without value unless executed.

Messaging and teaching are important. But they are the first mile of a hundred mile journey. To complete that journey with our customers, we have to have the ability to Co-Create.

Messaging and teaching is fundamentally about us–it’s our ideas, our insights, our observations about opportunities for the customer. We have to transform it and transfer ownership from us to the customer. Until we do, it’s just a provocative idea.

We have to have the ability to engage the customer differently. We have to go far beyond teaching to discovery and learning. We have to engage them, working with them, building and personalizing the Insight to them, making it greater than the ideas we originally presented.

Co-Creation demands different skills. It means collaboration, problem solving, project management (we have to keep thing moving forward), and change management. To earn the right to Co-Create with the customer, we have to really understand their business, but we also have to have fresh and different perspectives. Because we work with different customers in different industries, we can introduce things that they may be blind to.

Sounds complicated—actually it’s not, it’s much simpler than much of what I see people trying to do with their own messaging and Insight programs.

It doesn’t take the “big idea,” the “huge Insight.” It can start with a small idea, a simple observation, a discussion that captures the customer’s imagination. It’s really in the Co-Creation process where Insight grows and develops its greatest value. The real trick is being part of that Co-Creation process.

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