Insight is a key differentiators in the value we create for our customers, throughout their buying process. The insights we provide, the ability to help the customer think about their businesses differently is critical both to their and our success. Driving different conversations moving into co-creation changes everything about buying, selling, our value and our relationships with our customers.

So I’m troubled by the notion of the Insight or Teaching Pitch. It somehow seems like a “Dear occupant or current resident, I’ve got ideas about your business.”

Maybe I’m confused about Insight. Ideas are ideas–probably actually commodities, though our egos may prevent us from seeing this. I may be interested in talking about ideas, but most of all I’m concerned about what they mean to me.

Ideas open the conversation. But if a sales person came to me offering Insight, I would expect it to be specific to me, my business, what I want to achieve.

For someone to provide me insight, they have to understand me. They have to understand my dreams, my goals, and vision. They also have to understand what keeps me from achieving these–they may be real constraints in my business, they maybe mistakes or errors I’ve made, they may be choices or decisions I’ve made.

So insight is not just about ideas. A good starting point may be the idea producing a reaction, “I’ve never thought of that before.” But without the connection of what it means to me specifically, it’s just interesting information—thank you for sharing.

So to provide insight, we have to invest not only in teaching, but also in learning. Learning in very specific and targeted ways. We have to understand our “customers.” Understanding their markets, industries, competitors is just the start.

But we have to understand our customers–the organizations. Not just the strategies, their financials, their recent announcements—though that’s all mandatory. We have to understand how they work, not how they say they work. We have to wander around. We have to observe, we have to ask lots of questions, we have to analyze, we have to discover opportunities for them.

But we have to understand our customers–the people. We have to engage our customers as individuals and people. We have to understand their dreams, goals, aspirations. We have to understand their blind spots, strengths and weaknesses. We have to understand their capabilities. We have to build a relationship.

Then we have to understand how we can help–not just conceptually, but specifically. How do we translate our ideas, our insights into specific outcomes for our customers–the organizations and individuals. How do we help the organizations? How do we help each person engaged? How do we help them change? How do we help them achieve results? How do we help them be successful?

So it seems Insight is not an event. It can’t be a pitch. It has to be a process, the way we engage our customers in conversations about their future and helping them achieve it.

To deliver Insight, we have to invest. We have to do our homework. We have to simultaneously teach and learn. We have to both engage and be engaged, being a key part of the conversation, co-creating a path to the outcomes the customer wants to achieve. Otherwise it’s just talk.