During our recent Webinar, Ellen Naylor reiterated the importance of the Competitive intelligence (CI) team to be in touch with their sales people and to understand their mindset. “These folks do not make decisions based only on the next sale,” she said. “They also take action to improve their image and that of the company.” Sales people are customer focused. They put themselves in the place of their customers with the purpose of providing long-term satisfaction. The sales team endeavors to provide solutions that enable their customers to reach their goals. The CI team should do the same, treating their colleagues in sales both as partners and customers, and strive to provide solutions that will help sales reps achieve their main goal of increasing sales revenue. To help themselves, the CI team should focus greatly on helping sales. If you research how much companies spend on sales budget as a percentage of revenue, you’ll find a broad range of estimates from 10 – 40%, depending on the industry that the company is in. There are no similar statistics for intelligence spend as a percentage of revenue. The point here is that if CI teams can associate closely with sales teams, they have access to larger budgets. Therefore, it is important for the CI team to get buy in from and to show value to the sales team.
Sales Teams Should be Prepared and Very Adaptable
Sales people ultimately need to be aware of the market that they are selling in. They need to be cognizant of their customers’ interests and need to know how to achieve the best image that is possible in their competitive environment. In its 2014 executive guidance report, CEB notes that:
Most organizations today embrace customer centricity across their operations that affect customers. When it comes to product development, communications, and sales and service, most organizations not only are mindful of customers’ needs but also have deliberately built systems to ensure the customer is the focal point.
Potential customers expect the salesperson to offer better products and terms than their competitors, and they expect top notch service once they have bought into a product. To help meet these expectations, sales people need up-to-date information on their competitors’ products, positioning, and selling points. Sales reps who are able to make the best use of this type of information are those that are best prepared for a meeting with their customer, are highly adaptive, able to interpret a situation more clearly, and better able to adjust their selling approach as is unfolds before them.
Sales Guidance Should Be Easy to Follow
Sales intelligence should provide clear concise guidance, not a lot of information for the rep to mull over. More data means more work for the sales force to review and digest. Therefore, sales intelligence guidance should be easy to use. Sales decks, battle cards, or other sales enablement tools that can be referred to when talking with customers have been known to work well. Sales guidance should not have too much detail, but instead, it should be well structured and easy to follow. Useful sales guidance will help the team work through difficult blind slides and help the team change their sales approach on the fly. In the end, successful sales guidance allows the rep to answer customer questions quickly and seamlessly.
CI Provides Sales Guidance
CI teams provide intelligence that guides the sales team satisfy and delight their customers. Competitive intelligence guidance describes competitors’ products, provides effective competitive positioning, outlines past customer behavior (buying trends, questions, and concerns), gives tips on how to win over customers, and explains what to do and not to do while talking with the customer.
There are several ways to display and provide sales intelligence. Innovative systems such as Compelligence are available to compartmentalize and display information to make it readily available when the sales rep is in front of the customer. The Compelligence system is like an electronic sales deck with information that helps the sales team adapt and prepare for discussions with the customer. With it, CI teams and marketing teams can also provide in-depth competitive product evaluations to help sales reps prepare for discussions and updates on competitor marketing strategies and market positioning.
Communication Between CI and Sales is Crucial for Success
CI professionals should provide their sales colleagues with intelligence that helps to satisfy and delight the customer. Cultivating a rich source of intelligence on competitors’ projects and products, as well as any new market insights, gives the sales team time to be strategic and natural in their response to customer concerns. It is essential that a company’s sales and CI people communicate regularly to come to a common understanding of what type of sales intelligence is needed and how it will be packaged. The CI team should help sales reps by providing concise sales guidance that will help reps prepare for meetings, refine their message, make the sale, and keep the customer satisfied even after the sale has been completed.