From a young age I remember being told “knowledge is power“.
My parents, teachers, friends, coworkers, bosses, clients, vendors, etc had all told me this at some point.
Heck, even Jeopardy told me one time.
And while this is certainly true in most situations, there are times where it’s definitely not. Having knowledge of a stock going up after it’s already happened is not very valuable. However, if for some reason you had that information before it happens (I’m not promoting insider trading here) then that knowledge is extremely valuable.
What I’m going to uncover with you today is six key attributes that information or knowledge needs to have in order to be considered powerful.
These attributes are:
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Throughout this post I am going to highlight when knowledge is power, why that is important, and how you can use it to win more sales and build stronger connections with your clients and prospects.
Overall I want you to focus on the theme of getting information to your prospects or clients when asked, and how having none or all of the above attributes affect that relationship.
Although any piece of information can have all or none of the below, its important to understand that not all are required for power.
Knowledge, at varying levels, can be had with only a few of these key attributes. However obviously the more it has the more powerful it is.
Timeliness, in my opinion, is the characteristic that carries the most weight when it comes to power. It allows you to know or predict the future and in some cases even control it.
Here’s an example.
Through your professional network you learn that a large company you’ve been prospecting on is planning to put an RFP (Request For Proposal) out for the service or product you offer. Among your competitors you are the first to know this and are therefore able to get your foot in the door immediately and help them create the RFP.
Since you were the first to start the conversation you helped them create the vision (which is highly focused on the strengths of your offerings) while your competitors are forced to compete from a weakened state.
Being first to know literally helped you control the future by allowing you to give input into the development of the RFP. You were able to push their focus towards the unique value you bring to the market while downplaying your competitors value propositions.
As time goes on you can see how that power would begin to diminish though. It’s peak was when you were the only one to know of the upcoming RFP. Then, when your competitors found out, the power was reduced a bit. And finally when they have all the bids, your power is at its lowest, but likely still higher than your competitors.
The relevancy of the information is also very important.
Using the above example, there would be very little power in knowledge of the RFP to someone who is not on the sales team, or for a company that doesn’t do RFPs (believe it or not there are companies out there that don’t do them).
It simply isn’t relevant to them. They could care less about it.
However, if you have a client that has asked you for specific information, then that knowledge is extremely relevant. And if you are quick in getting that information over to them (timeliness) then you increase that power by multiples.
You know what’s worse than getting information to a client late? Getting them inaccurate information.
Inaccurate information completely eliminates timeliness because you are delayed by having to go back to them with the correct info. It takes you twice as long to get what they wanted it over to them.
This is why its important to fact check or confirm your information from appropriate sources before submitting to the client.
In the RFP example, providing inaccurate information is often grounds for elimination from the candidate pool. Most RFPs have a very strict timeline that must be adhered too. If you find out the inaccuracy of your information after the fact then you probably wouldn’t have time to resubmit, assuming that is even allowed.
And worse still, many times RFPs submissions are a commitment to be honored. So if you missed a zero in your price, you may have to honor it or otherwise withdrawal your candidacy.
Is the information you have helpful? Can it affect change? Will it make someone’s life easier or better?
In the RFP example, the early knowledge makes your life much easier and better. You can take part in the RFP build and shift it in your favor.
In addition it makes the requesting organization’s lives better because they get help drafting what is usually a complicated document as well as insider industry knowledge of the product or service landscape they need help with.
Just like with relevancy, if your knowledge is not helpful to anyone then they have no reason to give it any clout. And therefore it has no power.
Does your information provide deeper understanding into a situation then you would have had otherwise? Does it change your prospective on those circumstances? Does it allow you to affect the status quo?
If the information is insightful then it opens up your mind to different possibilities that may have not otherwise come to light. This gives you a lot of power.
In the RFP example, your early knowledge of the situation allowed you to change the status quo (from a general RFP to one that focuses on your strengths), gain deeper insight into what they are looking for in a provider, and gives you time to be creative in your position compared to the competition.
Although a little more blurred than the other attributes, don’t underestimate the power of insightfulness. It can add very real power to your situation.
After timeliness, actionability is the most powerful characteristic when it comes to knowledge.
If the information you possess or are disseminating is actionable, then you are able to make changes that boost the power of the situation.
Knowing that the RFP was coming up, and being first to the conversation, you are able to immediately take action by connecting with the prospect, influencing their build and decision, planning and preparing for your own candidacy in the RFP, and do so quickly.
We live in a world of instant gratification. Everyone wants everything right now. Your clients included.
Whether they have an issue that needs your attention, a question about a product, or a contract that needs signing; they want it as quickly as possible.
The faster you can find the answer to their question, the better you’ll look in their eyes.
Yes it may be acceptable to get them what they want later that week, but if you can get it to them that day (timeliness), your customer service will really shine through.
The speed at which you can get them whatever nugget of information they are looking for; the more powerful you are.
Why is that? Well…
Faster Decisions: It enables them to make a decision faster which in turn makes THEM look good. More often than not if they are asking you for something its probably because their boss asked them for that info or the informaiton is otherwise needed for a decision that reflects on them. Getting back to them so they can get back to their boss helps them look good.
You Value Them: It shows you are dedicated to them and value their time and them as a customer. If they weren’t important to you, you would probably get back to them when it was convenient to you. Doing so quickly however shows that you put a high value on your relationship with them.
You Believe In Helping Them: It shows the importance you place on what you are trying to do for them (sell a product, fix an issue, etc). You know that a quick resolution will make their life better. And that is important to you.
Helps You Stand Out From The Competition: If they are in the process of evaluating multiple vendors, or have an RFP (Request for proposal) out, the first one to get their info in is always in a better position then the ones who get back to them the day the info is due. It also allows more time for them to review and absorb your info which in turn makes them more attached to your offer.
Knowing the above, it’s important to showcase your ability to disperse knowledge quickly to your clients and prospects.
It will help you win their respect and more sales in the end.
First, it will help you to give a realistic timeline. As much as you would like to get them the information later that day, if you need to reach out to others on your team, who are in a different timezone than you, its probably unlikely you’ll be able to keep that promise.
This helps to manage their expectations, and depending on how conservative you are with your timeline, you may even be able to get it to them earlier (timeliness) which in turn gives you more power.
Since they are reaching out to you for this its very likely that this information is relevant to them or their boss depending on the situation. So you simply need to make sure that the information you provide is exactly what they are looking for.
Next, you’ll want to confirm that the information you provide to them is accurate. There is nothing worse than sending them information only to have to go back later to tell them you were wrong. Not only does that make you and them look bad, but it completely negates any speed at which you first got the information over to them.
Again, because they are asking for this info its very likely that it is already relevant and helpful to them. But just in case you might want to ask and understand why they need this info? Most likely it is needed to help them solve a problem. And the information you provide will give them insight into their options for fixing that issue.
Lastly, be clear on next steps. It’s one thing to get the information over to them. It’s another to know what they are going to do with that info. Will they be able to make a decision earlier based on that information? Will they be ready for the product demonstration now that they have your pricing? What action are they planning to make with this informaiton and what should your next steps be.
Now that you have a better understanding of when knowledge has power I want to hear from you. Comment below and let me know your thoughts on this matter.
Do you think the six attributes I define encompassing enough to explain when and why knowledge has power? Or do you think I missed any characteristics?
I’d love to see your thoughts.
Remember, selling is not a way of life, it’s a part of it.
Knowledge is Power photo courtesy of christopher_brown / Flickr.com