What makes the ultimate insights partner

Kelsey Sullivan

What does it mean to be an ideal insights partner? The ultimate partner for serving as the voice of the consumer in an organization? 

During a recent Inside Insights podcast episode, co-hosts Patricia Montesdoeca and Ryan Barry discussed the skill sets of the ultimate insights partner of the future (from professional to leader to supplier) based on input from our guests, as well as a few of their own. 

Read on for the full breakdown of what it takes to be an ideal insights partner, straight from the global insights leaders of today.

🎙️ What it takes to be an (almost) perfect insights professional

If you prefer to listen, check out the podcast episode that sparked the idea for this article.

Profile of the ultimate insights professional

Let's start with an often unsung hero of the story, the insights professional. An ideal insights pro is someone who:

  1. Is a curiosity junkie Somebody who's growth minded, who always wants to learn and develop new skills in themselves. This is someone who has a desire to discover and experiment, who learns from their mistakes and shares these learning selflessly with others. A self-motivated problem solver that’s driven to “figure things out” in or outside the box. 

  2. Has a high risk tolerance  This is someone who is comfortable with ambiguity and is very adaptable. Comfortable with ambiguity, but not in a wishy-washy way. In other words, not a yes man or woman. This person is agile in their thinking and constantly evolving with whatever changes come their way. 

  3. Is business-oriented This one might sound obvious, but it’s still worth saying. It's not just about what concepts are better, but rather, what is this concept going to do for the business? This person needs to be able to see how test results can be applied to help the business grow while being savvy about the brand they're working with. 

  4. Has strong emotional intelligence …or EQ, to understand how decisions really get made. But they also know how to tailor communication to drive influence across their organization. In other words, they have to be an influential storyteller who’s unafraid to speak the truth when it’s backed by data, to any level.  

🚀 TL;DR: In summary, the ultimate insights professional possesses the spark of a four-year-old’s magical thinking, combined with the pragmatism and heroics of a seven-year-old (to know the barriers and still believe anything is possible).

🎙️ Why insights leaders should think like four-year-olds

Check out our podcast episode with Tony Costella, Global Consumer and Market Insights Director at Heineken, who shares why it's important to think like a four-year-old but act like a seven-year-old.

Profile of the ultimate insights leader

Being a leader of people who are as savvy and as flexible as insights professionals is a task in-and-of-itself. As a leader of insights, you have to be knowledgeable enough to know when to grab hold of the reins as well as when to let go of your LEGOs. The ideal insights leader is someone who: 

  1. Can transform insights The ideal insights leader of today needs to lead their team to transform data into insights and help the company use these insights to make better decisions. This person is also able to generate actions that drive sustainable and scalable growth across all areas of the business, not just marketing and sales peers.

  2. Is a good listener This one can apply to all careers, right? This is somebody who makes others feel heard, whether it's their team of insights people or their business partners. They need to be able to understand the needs, like a translator and interpreter of teams, to establish real connections and trust by delivering on promises made. 

  3. Doesn't go for consensus …but looks for common denominators in every exchange. Someone who understands the big unknowns and builds a learning plan to get answers. Who provides a future-focused, holistic vision for others to be inspired and then gets out of the way to let the team do their thing. 

🚀 TL;DR: To sum it up, to be a legendary leader, you need to recognize that your job is to enable change, to recruit the talent, to diversify the streams in your organization that get access to insights so that your team can get out of the weeds. And then trust them to deliver.

9 skills you need to become an insights legend

Check out or article on the nine skills that will help you shift from simply working in insights to becoming an insights legend.

Profile of the ultimate insights supplier

Okay, now it’s time to address what it takes to be the ultimate insights supplier…This is someone who: 

  1. Takes ownership  This person needs to feel enough ownership of the client’s business and be comfortable co-creating plans and solutions with them. They’re somebody who’s dedicated enough to feel the heat with the client, so it becomes just as important to them to grow their client’s business.

  2. Is willing to take on challenges Sometimes we know the answers and sometimes we don't. This person has to be comfortable working with a blank canvas and not knowing all the answers every time. And be able to bring a higher level of thinking to the table and go against the grain.   

  3. Is transparent This person has to be fully transparent at all times. They have to establish great trust with their clients so they know they can turn to them for the truth, even if they dislike the answer. Ultimately, this person has to be able to tell them what can and cannot be done based on data.

🚀 TL;DR: In short, be clear at what you're good at and what you're not good at. Your customer doesn't want you to be a yes man or a yes woman. They want you to challenge their status quo and bring perspective. But you can’t do any of that without the right context. So you also need to have a partner on the customer side to give you insight into their goals, people, processes and politics.

Final thoughts

There you have it. 

Whether you’re an insights professional trying to grow in your career, an insights supplier looking to set your customers up for success, or an insights leader trying to elevate your game — take a look at these traits and ask yourself: Do I already possess these skill sets? Are there areas that I can improve upon? What can I start working on on Monday morning? 

We hope these tips from leaders at McDonald’s, Colgate-Palmolive, PepsiCo and more help guide you as you continue on in your insights journey. If you’d like to hear more, head to our podcast page to listen to the full episode or hear more from our guests.

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