The military transformed from film-based photography to digital because of speed. Are you still using film for your competitive intelligence?

You wake up.  Pour a cup of coffee.  Receive an urgent text message.  Your start your email …it’s blowing up.  You pull up your internet news or fire up your Competitive Intelligence system or your environmental-scanning system and see the announcement…. So much for the coffee.

How many competitive intelligence professionals have faced that very situation?  I think we all have.

Your circumstances may be different, but the risk is the same.  The risk is to you, the Competitive Intelligence professional and your personal brand as the “Competitive expert.”  Isn’t that really what your brand is: “The Competitive Expert” in the company? I’ve found it rare for leaders in today’s corporations to differentiate between competitive professionals that support sales teams vs. those that support corporate strategy teams vs. those that do anything or everything else.  In fact, I’ve found that if you have “Competitive” in your job title, your peers will pretty much turn to you in any situation that has anything to do with a competitor.  They expect you to be the Swiss-Army Knife Competitive Professional.  And if you don’t have an answer for their competitive emergency then ‘that’ look comes over their face: disappointment.  Face it.  Your brand is at risk.

The situation can be anything:  a press release by a competitor, a competitive product launch, a marketing or advertising program, or a competitor acquiring another company.  The list goes on.

So, what do you do after you clean up the coffee?

Most companies launch ‘tiger teams’, hold group meetings, conduct hasty analysis, formulate competitive assessments and impact analysis, and communicate them to stakeholders.  The process is often filled with anxiety.  Are we working fast enough?  Are we considering enough data?  Is our analysis consistent?  No matter how much value you have added in the past, your time to shine is now.

Let’s use a competitor’s product launch as an example, and ask two game-changing questions:  (1) What if you didn’t have to do any analysis and still had the correct answers?  and (2) What if you had a system that allowed you to simply enter key elements of information and it did the analysis for you?

Today’s competitive environment is getting faster and bigger.  In certain industries, there are hundreds of products with new entrants being introduced rapidly.  Competitive intelligence teams are utilizing Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, and in some instances IT systems or databases to conduct analysis in order to determine the competitive impact of a new product.  Some best practices include 1) Centralizing data in one place, such as a team site like Microsoft SharePoint 2) Collaborating on the analysis, with participation from experts across the company   3) Distributing the final analysis via email, or a collaboration system such as Jive or the corporate intranet.

Through excellence in execution of the above process, a competitive intelligence professional can attain a level of success that may keep your company competitive and protect your brand.

This process reminds me a bit of the days when militaries would send aircraft out to recon enemy territory with photography equipment.  The plane would make the long trip.  The film would be processed.  Then armies of analysts would look over photos inch-by-inch to search for important information.  In today’s environment, this process is slow an antiquated.  The military now uses digital systems that have embedded intelligence to assist analysts.  Do you have systems like these in your organization–systems that help automate and ease the analysis process?

Is that where we are today?

Compelligence aims to change that process.

In the coming weeks, Compelligence will transform that product response process via system automation, consistent analysis, and dynamic comparison that will enable sales teams and leadership to quickly analyze competitor events at a level of detail previously not available.

But this blog is getting long… I’ve got to set the timer on coffee for tomorrow morning.


Build sales battle systems, not battle cards.

“What should we put on our battle cards?”

That’s a question I commonly hear from CI professionals. My advice: forget the battle cards.

Sure, battle cards are a great thing to have if you want to help a few of your salespeople in some deals. If you work at a large company with multiple competitors, they are also a great thing to make if you get paid by the hour since you likely will spend a lot of time customizing them for each salesperson that undoubtedly will complain that the battle card isn’t “just right” for his or her situation.

In most circumstances, battle cards don’t provide a good return for the effort that goes into creating them. Here are the problems I see with creating battle cards:

  1. Battle cards cannot be created to suit each particular deal. They end up being either too specific in scope or too general. A specific battle card is great for one or two deals, but you will always be customizing it for each sales person’s needs. A generic one will be useless to your sales teams or will put them at a disadvantage in a competitive situation.
  2. Version control is challenging. Like any document, once you create a battle card and publish it on a website or on a Sharepoint site, your sales teams typically will download it and store it on their personal device. They may not frequently check for updates, or they will modify it for their own uses and the rest of your salespeople will miss out on shared intelligence.
  3. Battle cards do not scale well, particularly in highly competitive industries. If your company has as few as 10 competitors, each with as few as 3 products that can compete in multiple industries, you are creating a lot of battle cards. Now go and manage and maintain them.
  4. There is no built-in feedback mechanism on battle cards. A salesperson cannot easily attach feedback or new information to a battle card. Sure, they can e-mail the person who created the card, but that e-mail is difficult to track to ensure that the battle card is updated and shared with the rest of the sale field.

What you need instead is a battle system.

A battle system is something that allows sales teams to get customized information based on the particular competitors or products that they are facing in each different deal they are handling. It allows them to see what information has been useful to other salespeople and to have attached discussions, feedback, and expansion points on the data. It allows them to be sure that they are getting the latest information, from a single easy-to-find location. Perhaps it even delivers all their competitive information right inside Salesforce.com. It also allows the content creators to track usage of their content and to know which pieces of it are working and which are not. A battle system replaces a battle card which typically is limited to the information that fits on a single slide, and provides a set of complete competitive data that can be viewed on a single screen—competitive profiles, product and service overviews, sales strategy, pricing, and dynamic product comparisons–all linked to other resources and ways to get help.

This is one of the reasons why we developed the Compelligence System. In our experience working with sales teams and competitive teams, we saw lots of hours spent on customizing battle cards, competitive playbooks, product comparisons, and other content. It’s an inefficient way to work, so we built something better: a battle system that enables companies to compete more effectively and to win deals faster.

So next time you are making or reading a battle card, a how-to-sell document, a product comparison, or something like that—ask your self if there’s a better way to do your job, a more effective way to make it work, or a smoother way to scale your solution. Then feel free to contact us and let us show you a better way!