How to Sell and Win in the Era of Cognitive Computing

By Paul D’Souza

Being able to read the market is critical to success in sales. This is a skill that will help you stay in sync with the needs of your customers and create the space for you to be active – to engage with them and help them through their challenges.

What has shifted, you ask? It’s these moving pieces…

  1. Customer behavior
    They are involved but via multiple online channels. They want to engage and they care that you see them as unique individuals with unique needs.

  2. Technology
    It is changing rapidly. The trends are leaning towards increased connectivity and cognitive computing.

  3. New Assessment of Business Value
    What this means is that customers will buy ONLY if they see value. No more fancy talk with smoke and mirrors.

I am going to break these down further for you so you can begin to plan for and take appropriate steps to get in sync with these new trends in the marketplace.

Customer Behavior

Today’s customer is an engaged customer. They are either engaged with you and sharing their good experiences OR have moved on – trumpeting their bad experience with all their friends in social media. Their level of tolerance for incompetence has all but vanished. This is true simply because today’s customer has access to many other choices because the Internet makes things findable. Do not fear, though, as this is an amazingly double-edged sword. Since there are so many choices out there, customers realize that not all choices are good – so they are constantly trying to minimize their “cost of buying” like we used to calculate the cost of a sale. Knowing how to engage with a customer and keep their cost of buying low is a requirement in today’s business climate. Here are some guidelines:

  • No two customers are the same. Every customer wants you to notice the uniqueness of who they are. They want you to understand their unique needs. They want you to solve their specific problems. Cookie-cutter solutions are no longer relevant. Welcome to hyper personalization – all the way from R&D to marketing, sales, and service delivery. Are your business practices designed to address this new “Market of One”?

  • The need for responsiveness. Paying attention to your customer needs and their requests for help is critical. When they need help, they want you there. They want you to partner with them and have business practices that are designed to react to and respond to their calls for help. Not soon, not in a few hours, not tomorrow – but now! Be responsive and take care of your customers’ needs and you will be rewarded with a long-term relationship with them. Customers want you to be a business partner of theirs. It is just too costly for them to keep looking for the cheapest vendor.


The world of technology has entered a new era of hyper growth and connectivity. The Big Data era led to revolutionary change. With ever-increasing use of technology in the marketplace, we got into the space of hyper connectivity through the Internet. Virtually every device now sends out a beacon, a report, and a data log of activity that can be useful in business. The problem here is not the lack of data, but that we have not yet learned how to leverage the insight from data to help us grow our businesses. This is changing fast.

  • Connectivity: The Internet of Things, Big Data, and The Intelligence of Things have created the ability for us to monitor all customer behavior.  Yes, forgive me for making that sweeping statement. But you must hear me out on this. The technology is available.
    • Have you developed the ability to track customer behavior?
    • Can you chart your customer journey?
    • Do you know what your customer journey even looks like?

If you do this well, you can start dancing with your customers and give them the information they need when they need it so they can make informed decisions to address their needs and wants.

  • Cognitive Computing: With all this data that is now available, the leading technology companies in the world – like Microsoft, IBM, and SAP – have already developed platforms that allow even small businesses to use machine learning technologies to solve problems and take care of customer needs. It is time you did the research to determine how you could leverage these technical capabilities with your current technology stack. Ask the questions and learn what is possible with where you are today.

New Assessment of Business Value

I was once on a deal team selling software to the largest soft drink company in the world and we went back and forth, validating their need to spend $18,000. It was not the size of the deal and the money they were worried about – they obviously were a multibillion-dollar company – but it was their business ethic.

Every decision a business makes today is grounded in proving beyond doubt the business value that will be derived from the investment. Does your sales process address this new sense of value your customers are holding? With every opportunity you present to a prospect or existing customer, take the leadership to ask them how this decision will add value to their business or their life. Ground your presentations in a real business use-case that they specify for you. If it pencils and demonstrates value to them, you will have a deal that sticks. A good deal will produce another good deal. This is life. Use the new technologies to help you be responsive to their needs and predict customer behavior.

Peak Performance Mindset

The only way all this will come together for you is if you and everyone on your team realize that it is not business as usual anymore. All of you have to have a new sense of responsiveness and sensitivity to the way the market has moved. You have to be technology driven and build new practices and language to leverage the new communication channels and business applications needed to address your customer needs effectively.  Peak performance is not possible with one or the other, but with both – the latest in technology and a winning mindset.

Founder of the D’Souza Group’s Delivering Peak Performance and author of the award-winning book, The Market Has Changed: Have You?, Paul helps business leaders take themselves and their teams to peak performance levels of activity by improving their sales strategy, sales process, and mindset.

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