How to Create Commercial Insight

For commercial insight to be a differentiator for sales, it must go beyond presenting a new idea and undermine an existing one.

This article has been updated from the original, published on March 4, 2014, by CEB, now Gartner.

Commercial insight, sometimes referred as commercial teaching, is one of the most impactful tactics for sales teams to use to differentiate their solution in the eyes of the customer. In an environment where customers are increasingly unable to differentiate quality, reputation, service delivery and product value between suppliers, commercial insight teaches customers something new about the business and prompts them to take action in the supplier’s favor.

Rarely will thought leadership alone cause customers to change their views or prompt immediate action

Many organizations think they are arming their sales reps with commercial insights, when in reality, they are simply providing thought leadership or an array of facts, data and observations that may be newsworthy but fail to encourage any real action.

Thought leadership vs. commercial insight

Sales leaders must distinguish between thought leadership and true commercial insight to drive customer action. Thought leadership is the presentation of interesting, newsworthy information that customers are unlikely to discover on their own. It attracts customer attention and encourages consideration of new perspective, but unfortunately, that’s all it does.

“Rarely will thought leadership alone cause customers to change their views or prompt immediate action,” says David Anderson, practice leader at Gartner. “Instead, sales leaders must arm reps with commercial insight to push beyond presenting a new idea to actually undermine an existing one.”

Commercial insight is typically developed by combining information, such as facts, data, industry trends, experiences and observations with customer needs, like business growth, increasing profits and reducing attrition, to create a unique conclusion. Organizations that effectively deploy insights to deliver effective messages increase the likelihood of closing high-margin deals and improving long-term customer loyalty.

Attributes of commercial insight

While it’s easy to explain what differentiates commercial insight from other information at a general level, it’s much harder to determine whether a piece of information is truly commercial insight. To ensure the insight resonates with customers and is feasible for supplier, it must:

  1. Highlight unique strengths to generate customer appreciation for your unique strengths
  2. Challenge customer assumptions in a way that persuades customers
  3. Catalyze action to advance the sales cycle
  4. Scale across customers in a way that does not cause burden reps or resources

Customer insight enables sellers to enhance the sales experience by teaching the customer something new about his or her business, and it makes commercial messages more powerful by cutting through the clutter and creating the urgency to act.

Insights for marketers: Challenger Sale