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What the World of Selling Can Learn from Watching Netflix

In the new world of selling the ability to see into the future to recognize the needs that customers have not identified or have undervalued is the new currency.  But, is that really possible?

Netflix seems to know how.  Netflix has 33 million subscribers worldwide and it is mining its Big Data to give its customers what they want.  It is using its massive amount of data to look into the future to inform big bets that pay off.  For example, based on its data of how its customers view TV series, Netflix says it knows what customers want before the customer knows.  As a result, it has produced its own series which, when streamed, a viewer can watch in one sitting or several.   The series House of Cards is, according to Netflix, already the most streamed piece of content in the US and 40 other countries.  Netflix is basing its decisions about what shows will be a hit on logic and algorithms—not on instinct.  Netflix uses something it calls its Circles of Proven Success which are three overlapping circles.  The circles for House of Cards are:

  • Circle 1: data that showed a healthy share of viewers had streamed other programs by the director
  • Circle 2:  actor for the series is a star who has always done well
  • Circle 3:  version of the program had already done well

So what can we in sales take from all of this?  I see an overlap in how we can give our customers what they want and anticipate the needs and challenges that customers may not be focused on that more than warrant their attention.  It emphasizes the need to provide salespeople with data and customer analytics to enable them to bring insights and ideas to their customers and to allow them to add real value to customers who are already informed about products and services.  It underscores the need for salespeople to develop a niche of expertise beyond their products.  I also like the idea of coming up with Circles of Proven Success to help test how relevant an idea or insight might be for a customer.  What do you think the circles in sales could be?

I respect the value of data.  It is a great tool.  I also know that data can only tell us so much and that it must be tempered with experience, observation, and yes, intuition.  This combination gives the best chance for success.  In his book, Raw Data Is an Oxymoron, Geoff Bowker makes the point that “data is never raw because it is always structured according to somebody’s proposition and value.  The end result looks disinterested, but in the end there are value choices all the way through, from construction to interpretation.”

We are scrambling for ways to get smarter.  Access to data is essential and so is the human brain in interpreting it and figuring out how best to produce business results for our customers and ourselves.

About the Author

Linda Richardson is the Founder and Executive Chairwoman of Richardson, a global sales training business. As a recognized leader in the industry, she has won the coveted Stevie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Sales Excellence for 2006 and in 2007 she was identified by Training Industry, Inc. as one of the “Top 20 Most Influential Training Professionals.” Linda was also recognized with the Top Sales and Marketing Award for Thought Leader in 2012 by the Top Sales World.

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