The intent of our article titled, “SALES INTELLIGENCE,” was to provide thought leadership as it relates to building situational awareness during a sales campaign. It looked at intel gathering not from an informational point of view, but rather in terms of acquiring knowledge in a timely manner. In this article, we would like to build on that – expanding the continuum of thought from information to knowledge to insight.
Certainly, insight is based upon knowledge, but it goes beyond that in that it reflects a deep, accurate, and intuitive understanding of knowledge, where intuition reflects the ability to immediately achieve that understanding without the need for conscious reasoning. Essentially, it’s the speed of understanding or fast knowledge.
In a sales campaign, timing can be everything, particularly when an opportunity is peaking and a decision is about to be made. It is then that speed of understanding, driven by your institution, can become a critical and nontraditional source of competitive advantage. But, how does this actually work? Is the ability to develop important and timely insight beyond that of conventional thought and often outside of current reality, a personal attribute or can it be learned?
Perhaps it’s both, but from a practical point of view the best way to build key insight into important and competitive sales situations is to conceptually jump out of your current reality and into a different type of competitive domain. One that is ultra-competitive with very high stakes. This alternate domain could center on sports, foreign affairs, or military operations, as examples.
“The aim is to be good at one, to be great in the other.”
The aim is to be good at one, to be great in the other. To be good at understanding the one, in order to excel in sales, delivering significant business value to clients, while outselling the competition. But, instead of going back in time, we’ll go forward in time to play with the acropolis of insight – prediction! And, in this case, let’s pick, as our alternate domain, that of foreign relations and a situation that could easily lead to war if not managed properly.
Today, tensions are building between the US and North Korea.
Military experts point to North Korea’s aggressiveness and the potential future ability to launch a nuclear weapon against Hawaii or the West Coast of America, not to mention South Korea or Japan. In addition, the North Korean government has been clear, stating that if it sees hostile intent on the part of the US it will launch a nuclear preemptive strike against America. To this, US Vice President, Mike Pence, recently stated that the United States would counter any North Korean attack with an “overwhelming and effective” response. This is not banter, nor is it necessarily reality, but it does reflect a growing level of palpable tension in the region. Certainly, China will play a role in what happens, as will the U.N. Security Council, but the vanguard to contain and manage North Korean aggression will no doubt lie with the US. On top of all this is the concern voiced by US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, that an “unchecked Iran could go down the same path as North Korea.”
Clearly, the days of “Strategic Patience” or do nothing are over, putting the leadership challenge squarely in the hands of American thought leadership.
So, let’s take a moment to construct a hypothetical, yet plausible scenario, and then relate it back to sales effectiveness in an insightful way. How might the US proceed? Its primary mission is to protect the U.S. and other nations from North Korean military aggression. Its desired approach centers on diplomacy and economic pressure, avoiding war if at all possible. Now, suppose the US had the capability and were to quietly prepare and then quickly install a missile defense system that could knock out any missiles fired from North Korea shortly after takeoff. Imagine, Pyongyang wakes up one morning and a network of sea and land based antimissile batteries are in place and ready.
Certainly, North Korean anger and rhetoric would abound, but as a defensive move, the provocation may not be significant enough for the North Koreans to launch a nuclear strike or use their artillery to assault Seoul, South Korea. Having said that, North Korea is not known for its rational thinking, but is it ready for an all-out war with the US? It would be at this moment that a US face-saving gesture for North Korea, coupled with support from China, might lead to the negotiating table.
At a strategic level, what has happened is a changing of the ground rules. North Korea’s strategy is and has been DIRECT – the direct threat to use force. But, instead of countering threat with a bigger threat, the US deploys an INDIRECT strategy, shifting away from an offensive posture to that of a defensive approach. One, that is designed to contain North Korean aggression, not destroy it. At least, not if it can be avoided.
From a sales point of view, have you ever been in the 11th hour of a sales campaign when a client decision is about to be made for the competition? Calls are not being answered and your inside contact is not sure of what’s going on? You sense that you’re in trouble, which tells you that you have a potential disaster on your hands. Your DIRECT strategy has failed.
In our North Korean scenario, the US shifts to an INDIRECT approach, which would translate to our changing the ground rules in the sales campaign by providing the client with new and unexpected value directly or indirectly tied to a time sensitive corporate executive priority. As we talked about in our article on SALES INTELLIGENCE, intel gathering is a discipline that can help in identifying corporate priorities and the departmental initiatives that advance them. It is advancing these initiatives that will position you as a thought leader, providing unexpected business value to the client. But, what triggers this intel gathering effort is insight learned from our North Korea scenario. That is, the question – what can I do that the North Korean’s will not expect and that will not put me head to head with them? The answer is the INDIRECT defensive antimissile system.
“…what can I do that the North Korean’s will not expect and that will not put me head to head with them?”
In our sales situation, the analog question is, what can I do that the client will not expect, but will value, while not putting me head to head with the competition? The answer is the INDIRECT realignment of value and political positioning.
Just as the US strengthened alignment with China in our alternate domain, you need to quickly approach powerful client individuals with the new and unexpected value that you believe you can provide. It also means dealing with the decision makers who have been supporting the competition. They too will need a face saver, just as the North Korean leadership will require to not be viewed as weak or indecisive.
Fortunately, in sales when you change the ground rules a face saver is often built in to the approach. That is, you’re providing new information about new and unexpected value that had the decision makers known earlier, would have likely caused them to support you. By definition, it suggests that they did not make a bad decision in supporting the competition and are now exercising good judgement in supporting you with the new information.
However you look at it, cross domain reckoning is a key discipline to achieving new sales insights – deep, accurate, and fast knowledge. To see what clients and competitors don’t see. To demonstrate thought leadership through professional cleverness, where clever resides with the insightful!