Insight Selling’s most overlooked question: Why now?

Marketing Predictions Guru Lisa VitaleThe CEB’s research on buyer behavior in the digital age has led them to form a new maxim: 

“Given the choice, customers will generally engage a supplier as late as they possibly can.” [i]


While there are several reasons as to why this is, the simplest explanation is that buyers largely see vendors as providing interchangeable products and services, with nothing of significant value to add to the sales conversation beyond what buyers can source on their own.  Additionally, vendors are viewed as biased and self-interested – given the volumes of information available now at the click of a mouse, buyers often don’t feel the need to engage in any conversation other than pricing.  The pervasiveness of both information and solutions today creates a highly competitive environment, driving vendors to discount pricing as their differentiating value.


For this reason, CEB identifies a vendor’s largest challenge not as their competitors, but rather as the buyer’s ability to learn on their own.  And herein lies the value in disrupting what buyers think they know about their problem, their approach, or the range of solutions available to them.  Providing credible, relevant insights which challenge conventional thinking with new perspectives, entices buyers to engage in the sales process sooner than they otherwise would.


As CEB says:

In a world of information availability, the only way to get customers to think differently about you is to first get them to think differently about themselves. You can’t just teach customers, you have to unteach them.


Yet simply reframing buyer thinking isn’t enough.  Insight selling is also about creating urgency for your unique solution – not simply answering the ‘why,’ but more importantly, the ‘why now’?  The key is to reset prospects’ buying criteria in your favor and trigger a purchase decision with compelling reasons as to why action is necessary.


A CEB case study[ii] tells the story of how Xerox developed a commercial insight around which they successfully reoriented their sales and marketing approach for a key segment – K to 12 schools.  Xerox’s primary impediment to increasing penetration in this market was their target buyer’s significantly constrained budget.  Having identified a core customer concern of improving student test scores, the Xerox team was able to understand what their customer believed affected this concern.  Among those concerns were such things as student engagement, inspired teachers, and interactive learning aids.


The Xerox team theorized that children are more engaged in learning when materials are presented in vibrant color versus black and white.  Research supporting this insight on the positive impact of color on student performance was used to bolster Xerox’s new messaging.  A comprehensive content strategy was developed around this single insight to successfully reframe Xerox’s color services for this segment from costly and unnecessary, to vital and less costly in promoting long-term learning.  Xerox not only addressed the ‘why,’ but also provided the ‘why now’ through the perceived cost of delaying the improvement of student test scores – a key metric by which their target market measures success.


 Xerox Case Study


The goal of insight selling is to break down common, narrowly-focused buyer perspectives by providing credible, relevant, and compelling connections between your differentiators and your prospects’ top priorities and goals.  In so doing, your differentiated offering is reframed not as a “nice to have,” but rather as a necessary and unique solution to your prospects’ most urgent needs – now.


Here are other SimplyDIRECT blogs on Insight Sales and Marketing

3 Critical Stages to Develop Commercial Insight

Beyond Cold Calling – Warm Calls with Intelligence

Insight Selling: Make Me Care


About SimplyDIRECT:


SimplyDIRECT with its subsidiary Gatepoint Research designs, drafts and deploys opt-in, invitation-only surveys to management-level executives within leading technology companies. Using web, phone and email-based data collection, its cutting-edge IT trends research and data analysis helps in the generation of custom reports and thought-leadership content.




[ii] CEB Challenger Marketing Series, Case Study: Xerox