Blog post

Be Thoughtful in Telling Customers Something They Do Not Know

By Hank Barnes | May 12, 2015 | 2 Comments

go-to-marketFuture of Sales

With the changes in the buying process and ability for potential customers to do a substantial amount of research on their own (as our research–and that of others–shows), a common mantra for those opportunities where you get to engage is to “tell them something they don’t know.”

I understand the sentiment, but I always cringe a little when I hear that.  In the wrong hands or with the wrong tone, that could effectively end many conversations before they begin.  If construed as arrogant (“How does that guy think he knows more about my business than me?” “What makes this woman think she knows the real challenges facing my business?”), then in most cases the client will shut down.  Both how you approach providing insights and what you bring up will often determine if the door closes or stays open to explore new ideas.


With that in mind, beyond the tone (that is really up to you!), here are a few ideas of insights that I believe many clients may value:

  • How to Buy: While this may seem odd, it is not unusual to find customers get stuck in their buying processes.   Sharing practices, materials, or even small tips about how other customers have executed a purchase can be very helpful.  This is particularly true for newer solutions where the clients may not have experience purchasing something exactly like this.  My friend, Dave Brock, has an excellent blog on this topic.
  • Alternative Approaches: When meeting with a prospect, they usually will have some perspectives on the challenges they are facing and how they might solve them.    Acknowledging that, but then introducing other approaches to solving the problem can be viewed very positively.
  • The Need behind the Need:  Similarly to alternative approaches, another useful technique can be to explore, the need behind the need.  For example, if someone says they need to improve campaign performance, digging deeper you might find that the real issue is that opportunities are getting stuck early in the buying cycle and the real need is how to prioritize existing leads and guide them forward more effectively.    A common technique, the 5 Why’s, is a great approach to move in this direction.

In all of these situations, the best scenario is typically to use customer examples to make comparisons and show tangible situations.     What other ideas do you have on insights that potential customers will appreciate?   What about approaches that will slam the door (literally or figuratively)?


Leave a Comment


  • @Hank, I agree when it comes to resistant problems, verbal persuasion rarely works. It can come across as an attack, and make the buyer feel badgered or manipulated. When the seller illuminates a challenge with insight, the buyer does not merely believe the seller is wrong; the buyer needs for the seller to be wrong to protect the status quo. The last thing an overwhelmed buyer needs is to invest time into a problem they do not fully understand, and then buy a complex solution that is not only expensive but could also end up getting them fired.

    But the instant the seller stops trying to impose their agenda on the buyer, the seller eliminates the fight for control, and the seller’s insights are more likely to reach past the customer’s defensive wall. For example, instead of trying to win a debate with a customer, insights are more likely to make it past the buyer’s defensive wall if they are hidden inside an insight based customer story (insight scenario) that functions like a Trojan horse. Because insight scenarios transport the buyer out of the role of a critic, and into the role of a participant, they trump verbal persuasion. Insight scenarios do not merely trump verbal persuasion by disproving counterarguments; they keep the buyer from offering counter arguments in the first place.