[tweetmeme source= “insideview” only_single=false]

Information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, and wisdom is not foresight. Each grows out of the other, and we need them all. — Arthur C. Clarke

About 32,000 years ago, French cavemen started drawing on their walls to help each other solve the crucial problem of the day: Where can I find big meaty animals, and how do I kill them?

Since then, our communication tools have advanced beyond bone chisels and ochre paint, but the central objective hasn’t changed so much. We’re all still looking for that woolly mammoth.

For most salespeople, the search involves gathering data, from which to glean insights, enabling a conversation to begin, in the pursuit of a sale.

It’s a multi-step journey. Unfortunately, too many data providers act as if the first part – amassing raw information about a prospect – is all you need to close a deal.

At a basic level, any piece of data is just a fact. This company had $50 million in revenue last year, for example, or that CEO’s name is Pat Paterson. No matter its size, any database is simply a compilation of facts, and nothing more.

A dictionary is not a great novel just because it contains all the words of a great novel.

Smart. Fresh. Complete.

Awhile back, we condensed InsideView’s product goals to a catchphrase: Smart. Fresh. Complete.

Roughly translated, it means we’re aiming to provide the information you need (Complete), in real-time (Fresh), cleverly parsed into unique, relevant analysis (Smart).

Smart comes first in that mantra, and it’s not a coincidence. To us, it’s the key differentiator between InsideView sales intelligence and Old-School Data. Facts are common; intelligence is rare.

A fact is the news that Company X plans to acquire Company Y. Intelligence is the proper interpretation of how that event will affect operations at the two firms, as well as how the merger will shift the landscape of its industry.

Deeper intelligence is to demonstrate the ways you can benefit from it all, by detailing how the acquirer’s goals dovetail with your own product’s features, and pointing out that the CEO sits on a charity board with your own boss.

Old-School Data companies want you to believe that “data” and “intelligence” are synonyms. That’s why their marketing pitches always emphasize quantity over quality, as well as the horsepower of their data-gathering engines.

More data does not mean better data. Even if it did, it would not make those vast accumulations of facts more useful in-and-of themselves. Analysis is what turns information into knowledge, and intelligence is what turns that knowledge into wisdom.

Smart companies know that.