It’s not about the quality of your product; it’s about the quality of your insight.

I read this recently in the book, The Challenger Sale, and feel that it’s such an important idea that it deserves some special focus.

While we all recognize the need to know our “product” inside and out as a critical part of our job, very few recognize that maybe the most important part of our job is to ensure we can regularly bring new insights to our prospects/clients.

So, in the spirit of the book, my challenge to you is to expose yourself to as many new insights as possible. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how quickly and frequently you are able to put those ideas into play.

And to get you started, I have some suggestions as to where to find those ideas.

Read a book – May as well as start with the most obvious. If you’re not always in the middle of a business book of some sort, you are completely missing out on unbelievable ways to gain insights. A couple of my recent favorites include:

  • “The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation” by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson – To understand the new level of sophistication and complexity of today’s businesses and buyers.
  • “Getting Naked” by Patrick Lencioni – To immediately separate yourself from your competition from the very first meeting.
  • “A Seat At The Table” by Marc Miller – To be able to align yourself with your client’s business strategy; moving from being an expense to an investment.

Publications & blogs – Being a reader of information through social media is good, but the greatest insights come from being engaged. In other words, participate in the online conversations, discussions and even debates. Don’t be afraid to take a stand and share your opinion. Start with something easy – maybe compliment an article you found insightful – but don’t be afraid to offer a differing opinion either. The more you participate, the more insights you will take with you. Here are a couple of places you should be engaging:

  • LinkedIn – There are innumerable discussion groups on countless subjects. If you aren’t involved in these discussions, you’re, once again, missing out.
  • Blogs – Research and find a balance of blog sites that speak to various business-related topics. Read and comment as appropriate. Obviously, you will find benefits/risk/insurance-related blogs, but also look for strategy, HR, sales, operations, entrepreneurial issues, economic and other business topics.

Thought leaders – Ask the experts in various business specialties about the one idea they feel is most important for business owners to know. Your centers of influence and clients are great places to start.

Google – Create a list of challenges you know most business owners struggle with and block time out each week to research a topic. Searching “(topic) + best practices or challenges” will be a great start.

TED Talks – With the tagline, “Ideas Worth Spreading”, you know this is a good place to visit regularly. Go to www.ted.com and you will find a free library of short, idea-inspiring videos on just about any subject you can imagine.

Track and develop – Always carry something with you to capture good ideas as they come to you. Then, regularly block out reflective time to go back to your list of ideas and give them a chance to develop into powerful insights that are worth sharing.

Writing – A great way to further absorb, develop and integrate information you’ve learned is to write. Write your own blog post or whitepaper about what you’ve learned, or simply write an email to someone with whom you want to share the idea/article–you might surprise yourself at how much better you understand the topic or see the potential applications after just a little bit of writing.

Observe – There are powerful ideas/insights all around you. You just have to watch and listen, and you might be amazed at how almost everything you learn can somehow apply to business. For example:

  • There are many parallels between parenting and leadership/management.
  • Events can be great sources of inspiration for watching processes or teamwork in action.

Be genuinely interested – Don’t let an interesting comment from someone pass without exploring it further. Ask for clarification. If you hear someone share a success, be curious and ask questions to learn what led to the success. Not only will this be a huge compliment to the person with the story, think what insights you may pick up that could lead to someone else’s success.

Change your routine – The same routines tend to expose you to the same ideas and thoughts. Change up your routine and I promise you will find new ideas, thoughts and insights. This could be the publications you read, where you regularly exercise or even where you stop for coffee.

Public speaking – Expose yourself to great public speakers (from multiple fields and disciplines). And, if you truly want to put yourself “all in” to develop your ideas and insights to their fullest, find your own speaking opportunities.

Smart people - Have conversations with really smart people. Better yet, have debates with really smart people. Agree to meet on a regular basis with the agreed upon price of admission to the discussion being a new idea or topic to discuss.

There are countless other ways to gain new insights. Whether you follow my suggestions or pursue others, nothing will happen until you write “gaining insights” into your job description and block out the time on a weekly, if not daily, basis to make it happen. It will take work, but the improved value you can deliver will make it all worthwhile. You just have to ask yourself, “How badly do I want it?”

 

Photo by Brandon Fick.