There's no shortage of companies that now view insights as a pivotal component of provocative selling. A recent survey by my company, Corporate Visions, found that 81% of companies believe they use an insights-based approach as part of their selling strategy.

That figure says a lot about the popularity of insights. What it doesn't tell us is what companies mean when they say they use an "insights-based" approach. After all, the way companies define and use insights-based selling is liable to vary dramatically from organization to organization.

So, the critical question is what constitutes a powerful insight? What distinguishes powerful insights from less effective ones? And how do you deliver the types of insights most likely to engage prospects and compel them to take action?

To answer any of those questions, you need a more concrete definition of insights—what they are, how they're created, and what effect they have on prospects.

You also need to recognize that, in terms of generating positive selling outcomes, different insight types will exert different degrees of influence.

The best way to think about this topic is to break insights down into different groupings based on specific attributes and scope.

Below, I've identified four categories of insights that tend to crop up in business-to-business marketing collateral.

Anecdotal Insights

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Tim Riesterer is chief strategy and marketing officer of Corporate Visions Inc. He is the co-author of Customer Message Management and Conversations that Win The Complex Sale,

LinkedIn: Tim Riesterer