Selling with insights is no longer optional — it’s mandatory for salespeople hoping to tell a distinct and remarkable story. But new research shows that if you’re only challenging your prospect’s status quo with surprising information and data points, you could be falling short of creating the urgency you need to convince prospects to change. To make a scenario more compelling in their eyes, your insights message must do more than create risk — it must show how you are uniquely prepared to resolve the risks you’ve identified.
This is the difference between insights that merely excite versus insights that incite. The former message gets digested and forgotten about. The latter drives buying decisions by opening prospects up to the possibility of change.
Risk and resolution
This important distinction was the focus of a recent experiment my company commissioned with Dr. Zakary Tormala, a social psychologist with expertise in messaging and persuasion. We designed the study to test the messaging effectiveness of two different types of insights-based messages:
Risk-only insights designed to make prospects feel their status quo is “unsafe” by introducing them to surprising new industry data, statistics or studies.
Risk + resolution insights similarly designed to make the status quo feel unsafe, but also introducing solutions that resolve the prospect to a “new safe” in the same message.
Specifically, the study aimed to determine whether insights that present risk with resolution have more persuasive impact than insights that only introduce risk into the conversation — a so-called insights-based approach I’ve seen many companies follow.
The experiment, conducted online, included more than 320 participants, evenly split by gender. Before the study, the participants — unbeknownst to them — were randomly assigned to one of three different messaging conditions:
In the risk-only condition, participants received a message offering new, potentially surprising information about vitamin D deficiency (namely, how widespread it is and its associated risks).
In the risk + resolution condition, participants received the exact same information designed to create risk, but also received a follow-up message describing several straightforward, practical solutions for combating vitamin D deficiency.
The study also included a solution/resolution-only condition to act as a control. Participants in this presentation received only a message about possible remedies for vitamin D deficiency but without any of the surprising, upfront findings. All participants were then led to a separate screen where they were instructed to answer a series of questions designed to assess the effect of the message on their behavioral intentions and emotions.
In terms of both behavioral intentions, the results revealed a statistically significant effect favoring the risk + resolution message. This insight condition generated more positive behavioral intentions than the risk-only or resolution-only conditions, which did not differ from each other statistically. Specifically, the study revealed that presenting both risk and resolution in an insight enhanced the message’s behavioral impact by an average of nearly 9 percent compared to the other conditions.
The study also looked at emotional-type reactions to these messages, since the purposes of insight is to provoke an emotional response that compels prospects to feel enough urgency to take action. In this area, the experiment showed that the risk + resolution condition generated a greater emotional response than the risk-only or solution-only conditions, which, once again, did not differ from each statistically.
The most important finding on the emotional front: The insight message that paired risk and resolution generated a 12 percent boost in emotional responses, relative to the other conditions.
The big, important takeaway here is that, in these two critical dimensions, you can boost your persuasive impact by delivering insights that contain new risk information linked to possible resolutions to those risks. A message presented in this way doesn’t just challenge the status quo, it shows prospects what a new, safe alternative to that status quo looks like, and how it resolves their most important business problems.
Tim Riesterer is chief strategy and marketing officers at Corporate Visions, a leading marketing and sales messaging, tools and training company that helps global B2B companies create more sales opportunities, win more deals and increase sales profitability by improving the conversations salespeople have with customers.