Compelligence Will Be Speaking at the SCIP Conference in May!

Compelligence is excited to announce that we are one of the hand-selected sponsors who has been chosen to speak at the SCIP Conference in Orlando! The company’s founder, Ed Allison, will be speaking on Thursday, May 17. His presentation will be “Battle Cards to Business Strategy: How Systems Produce Results for CI”, and he will be discussing how the use of virtual agent-enabled systems produces business deliverables for multiple segments both internal & external to your organization.

The 33rd Annual SCIP International Conference taking place May 14-17 2018 at the Disney Coronado Springs in Orlando, Florida, gathers together senior-level Competitive Intelligence and Strategy executives and provides a platform for companies from a range of industries to discuss best practices, lessons learned and the latest industry insights. This years theme is Next Generation Intelligence.

To learn more about the event, visit their website.

We look forward to seeing you in Orlando! #SCIPNEXTGEN18 #CI


Announcing the start of the Compelligence Weekly Webinar Series!

Compelligence Weekly Webinar #1
Effective Battle Card Design

Announcing the start of our Weekly Webinar Series!

Each week our founder and managing partner, Ed Allison, will lead a 15 minute best practices discussion around
Competitive Sales Enablement

Enabling our Sales Teams with effective, accurate and current Competitive Intelligence is a complex task.  Each week we will go over some proven best practices to give your sales teams the help they need closing competitive deals.

Our topic for the first several sessions of the series will be:   Battle Cards
1/31/18 – Week #1:  Effective Battle Card Design
2/07/18 – Week #2:  Audience-Centric Battle Card Design
2/14/18 – Week #3:  Is it Positioning or is it Competitive Positioning?
2/21/18 – Week #4:  Measuring your Battle Cards

Please join us each Wednesday starting next week:
Wednesday, Jan. 31
11:00AM PT/2:00PM ET
 

Click here to go to the Webinar overview page and download the calendar event, or use this attached .ics file.  

Speakers:  

  1.  Ed Allison, Founder

  2.  Dan Bruckner, Partner

Topics for Effective Battle Card Design This Session:

  1.   Internal Sales Team vs Channel Partner content

  2.   Battle Cards for different competitive industries

  3.   Battle Cards Access & Delivery

We look forward to seeing you next week!

Thank you for your time,
All of us here at Compelligence


Let Sales Teams be the Red Bull to your Competitive Intelligence Teams

You’ve likely heard the slogan “Red Bull gives you wings.” The suggestion is that when a person drinks Red Bull, they are instantly energized to do things they could not do in a non-Red-Bull induced state. Well, the same concept is true with competitive intelligence (CI) teams and sales teams in a company. It’s easy to see how salespeople can benefit from having useful competitive intelligence. What is not commonly recognized, though, is that CI teams are also more effective when they are closely allied with their sales teams. For instance, salespeople can collect intelligence about the competition’s positioning, selling strategies, product specifics, and selling strategies.  They also are well aware of how effective the competitor’s sales tactics are relative to their own strategies. This information is extremely valuable to a well-tuned CI organization and can help that CI organization provide analysis and insight on how to improve a company’s revenues.

Sales Teams are Key to Competitive Intelligence Collection

Successful organizations make information gathering as much a part of their sales process as they do the actual sales activities. During our webinar on April 22, Ellen Naylor noted that salespeople come into contact with a wealth of information such as new products to be introduced and new competitors coming into the market. Last year Joël Le Bon wrote that “The sales force has abundant information about the initiatives and products that your competitors are planning and, therefore, the kinds of choices that your customers will be facing in the near future.” This makes sense. Sales professionals are on the front lines, so to speak, when they meet with customers, visit suppliers and manufacturers, attend conferences, and work at trade shows booths. In each case, valuable information can be gleaned about a competitor’s sales tactics, product lines, model specifications, and market trends. Salespeople are sometimes the first to hear about new technologies that competing companies are developing or are about to offer, and sales representatives can learn about service contracts their competitors are providing

Collection Sources and Methods

So, what can salespeople do to collect competitor information? The easy answer is to keep their eyes and ears open. When meeting with customers, sales representatives should listen intently about what other companies are pitching; ask the customers about the products and service plans they’ve been offered by the competition, and learn as much as possible about the customer’s needs. At trade shows, sales representatives should visit competitors’ booths and pick-up literature. They can also participate in conversations about the industry and listen to what is being said about companies, products, and new trends. When manning their own booths, reps can elicit information from visitors about competitor’s products. And when they talk with suppliers, vendors and other intermediaries, sales reps can ask about a competitor’s future rollouts, product specifications, models prices, services options, and customer demand for competitor’s products.

Getting Intelligence Back to the CI team is Critical

When reps return to their companies, they need to have an easy way to convey what they learned to the people who can analyze, assimilate, and distribute it. One way to do this is to have a designated point of contact within the CI to communicate their findings. Some companies may develop a specific type of debrief or report format that helps sales reps distribute raw information, and helps the CI department and other organizations within the company use it. An even better way to do this is to use a collection system that can keep track of those designated analysts and which can automatically route intelligence to them.

CI educates the sales teams on intelligence requirements and value

Although sales professionals are indeed those people who make the first contact with sources of information that can be useful for strategic purposes, they may not be aware of the importance of that information. When this happens, they may neglect to collect it. Ellen Naylor noted that sales professionals are high-impact people that have strong customer orientation and who are always questioning the benefit of activities they participate in. A CI department that proactively educates sales personnel on the importance of collecting and reporting information will be much more successful. CI professionals can educate the sales field about the types of competitive intelligence that they are likely to encounter and instill a resolve to collect it. It is also important to provide the sales force with feedback on how specific information was used, what decisions were made from it, and what strategies resulted from the collection effort. This feedback helps the sales force better understand their role and contribution to the overall strategic health of the company, and it will motivate sales reps to collect and report more. As I noted earlier, a process that makes it easy for sales teams to report intelligence after customer visits will help elicit information from sales.

CI-Sales Give and Take

It is this give-and-take relationship between CI and sales that allows a company to increase their competitive effectiveness: CI teams provide competitive guidance to sales, sales teams can collect new information and report it back to CI teams, and the CI teams, in turn, analyze, process, and update the material they provide back to sales. It is critical that the CI team demonstrates that obligation to the sales teams, and that the sales teams reciprocate by providing feedback.   And it also helps if your CI teams are well-stocked with Red Bull.


Webinar Playback and Content

On April 22nd, 2014 we presented a  webinar with Ellen Naylor from The Business Intelligence Source and Dean Davison from Forrester Research.  The topics covered included techniques for collecting competitive intelligence from sales teams, methods for communicating competitive guidance to sales, and ideas on how sales teams can better sell to customers.


Webinar: From Competitive Intelligence to Intelligent Sales Enablement

Do you know the route from Collecting Competitive Data to Winning Deals?

Getting from “collecting competitive intelligence” to “an effective competitive sales process” can be a bumpy road with many potholes and hazards along the way if you don’t have a good roadmap.  Fortunately, there is help for you!

Please join us on Wednesday, April 22nd at 9:00 am PDT for a free informative 45-minute webinar on how to turn your competitive intelligence into intelligent sales tools!   The panelist of speakers includes Ellen Naylor from The Business Intelligence Source, Mitch Emerson from Compelligence, and Dean Davison from Forrester Research.  They will take you down a path that starts with showing you how you can be more effective at collecting competitive intelligence that will help your sales teams win more deals.   The next stop on the journey will teach you how to transform that data into competitive sales guidance that your sales teams can customize for each of their unique deals.  You’ll finish the trip with ideas on how to reframe your data into customer terms that will add impact your sales discussions.

SPACES ARE LIMITED FOR THIS FREE EVENT, SO REGISTER EARLY TO GUARANTEE YOUR SPOT!


Four Ways to Improve Competitive Sales

Every sales deal today is really a competitive sales engagement.  It is tempting to think that a customer is only considering your product or service. But with the ease of finding out information on the Internet,  every customer is researching not just your company, but also your competitors.  The fact is that salespeople have to face competition, one way or another, in every single deal they encounter.  So why do many companies make this a difficult process?  Salespeople frequently do not have the right competitive sales tools or easy access to competitive sales guidance.  Most of the time they have to hunt this information down on their own or build it from scratch.

If this sounds familiar in your company, here are four ways you can alleviate the stress of competitive sales.

1. CENTRALIZE YOUR COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE

One major challenge that sales and marketing people face is that they don’t know where to go to for the competitive information they need.  Many companies have islands of competitive data—each business unit might have it’s own internal website or Sharepoint site; data might be stored in different people’s e-mail boxes, etc.  If people don’t know where to –find- competitive information, they also don’t know where to –report-  new intelligence that they discover, and critical information can be quickly lost.  By providing a centralized database of intelligence, you can make it easier to track, find, and process information about competitors and competitive market events.

2. STANDARDIZE COMPETITIVE CONTENT.

Salesperson Jim goes to the centralized CI website and downloads a competitive sales guide for his Widget product.  He finds that it has information about the competitors’ pricing and features.  The next day, Jim needs to know features of a competitor’s Button product, so he downloads a competitive sales guide for his Button product. However, instead of finding pricing and features, the Button “competitive sales guide” has an overview of the competitor’s financials and their marketing messages.   Now Jim does not know what to expect the next time he downloads a competitive sales guide, and his job has become more frustrating and time-consuming.  Make it easy for your salespeople to know what to expect by using standard templates and definitions for your competitive sales content.  If a salesperson knows what kinds of documents are available and exactly what to expect from the content, it will be much easier to prepare for a competitive sales deal.

3. PROVIDE GUIDANCE THAT CAN BE EASILY CUSTOMIZED.

Every salesperson has experienced this problem:  she needs to make a presentation to a customer tomorrow. What does she do? She clicks to the marketing team’s website and gets the latest product presentation.   But once she has it, she finds she has to modify it to be tailored to her specific deal.  Different competitors in a deal and different customer needs will change how a product or service has to be positioned in a sale.  Using Powerpoint, Excel, and other tools are good for communicating information, but they do not easily adjust to different selling scenarios.  Make sure your sales teams have a way to get information that can be easily modified to fit different scenarios.  Compelligence is an example of a system that allows salespeople to get information tailored to their specific deal without having to request help from the content owners.

4. MAKE COMMUNICATION EASY.

Salespeople can be a great source of competitive intelligence:  they hear first-hand what customers are saying; they know why customers are or are not buying products; they know what product marketing messages do or do not work; they hear rumors about the competitor’s products and companies, etc.  The problem in many companies, however,  is that there is not an effective way for salespeople to report this information back to someone who can actually do something with it.  Sure, they can use e-mail—if they know the proper person to contact. In many large companies, it may not be readily known who that proper person is.  Make sure your salespeople have the right tools and access to report competitive intelligence not only to their immediate sales groups, but also to the people who can make the necessary changes to products, marketing material, and strategy.  In turn, once that information is processed, make sure it gets back to sales teams so they can update their sales strategies.


Use Competitive Positioning to Close Doors on Competitors

Imagine this scenario:  you are a salesperson having a drink with a friend who works for a competitor.  Your friend is also a salesperson, and is lamenting how every time she approaches a potential client’s office, she sees a “No solicitors, please” sign on the door.  So she turns away and heads to the next lead on her list, only to find the same situation.    You feel sorry for her and suggest that she might be approaching the wrong type of customer, and you ask whom she has visited recently.  She lists several company names, and to your amazement, they are all clients that you were successful within the past few months. However, you had no trouble and never experienced the “No Solicitors” sign.

This scenario would be unfortunate for your friend, but wouldn’t it make your job as a salesperson much easier?  It would suggest that you effectively found a way to block the competition from entering your deals.

If you fully understand how your competitor is going to approach a deal, you can disarm their positioning before they even arrive at your customer.  This is assuming, of course, that you get there first.  If you arrive at a potential customer’s door after your competition, you may have a little more of an uphill battle, but it can still be achievable if you know what your competitor’s strategy is.  Having effective competitive positioning is one thing that will help bring the scenario above to life.

One of the challenges between marketing and sales in many companies is that marketing teams tend to focus more on how they market their own product, and they leave their sales teams blind to the competition.   When first meeting a potential client, it is incredibly useful to understand how competitors are going to try to position themselves.  If you know what they will claim are their advantages, as well as how they might try to de-position your product, you can set a bias in the customer’s mind before you even finish your discussion with him or her.  That bias is what will turn into the “No solicitors, please” sign on the customer’s door.  Selling isn’t just about convincing your customer that you have the best solution to their problem, but it also involves proving to them why the competitors do not have an adequate solution.  This doesn’t mean you have to bash your competition.  In fact, with the proper competitive positioning guidance, a skilled salesperson can set a customer’s bias against the competition without ever mentioning the competitor’s name.

Our recent white paper titled “Creating Effective Competitive Positioning” (which can be found here) provides a methodology of how to come up with material that will prepare your sales teams to set that bias with the customer.  It defines a process of evaluating your own positioning as well as that of your competitors and gives tips on how to keep the material updated and relevant.

So next time you visit a potential client, make sure you have an effective competitive positioning strategy.  When you leave their office, you can turn around and see that “No Soliciting” sign go up just before your competitor walks in.


“It Won’t Happen To Me”: Optimism Bias and Competitive Intelligence

I remember when my 16-year-old daughter got her driver’s license.  She took her lessons, practiced on the road, and passed the test.  Thrilled at her success and potential for independence, her demeanor about driving quickly changed.  The cautious girl behind the wheel that I gave lessons to only a few short weeks prior, suddenly, apparently, was granted knowledge of everything there is to know about safe driving.  “I don’t need to buy insurance because I won’t get in an accident!”  “I’m very careful so there’s nothing to worry about.”  Those of you with teenagers are probably familiar with this scenario.  All the warnings in the world about safe driving techniques and accidents couldn’t deter her. She had the “It won’t happen to me syndrome.”  Of course, several weeks later she got in her first fender-bender and was dumb-found on how it could have happened.

I was reminded of this story recently as I was having lunch with an old colleague.  He is a Senior Director of Competitive Intelligence at a large, publicly traded company.  He has done quite well there, building a reputation of really knowing about the competitors, and has earned a seat at the executive staff meetings.  For several months, my friend’s team had collected intelligence and built reports showing that a competitor was developing a new product and marketing strategy that would drastically alter the competitive playing field. The competitor developments essentially would nullify the current plans that my colleague’s company was working on. He presented the intelligence at meetings in the form of scenario analysis, competitor updates, and via other methods.  He had evidence to show the progress of the competitor’s events.  He had effective data showing the likely outcomes of the threat.

So what did his company do?  As anyone in the competitive intelligence field likely knows, the company did absolutely nothing.

Why?  Because the executive team took the “it won’t happen to me” approach.  This is simply basic human psychology.  When presented with a likely threat, it is much easier to say “I’m smart enough to prevent it from happening,” or “I’ll be able to avoid that situation.”  We do it every day, in and out of business.  It frequently is our default response to a threat.  There’s even a term associated with it: “Optimism Bias.

I hear the statement over and over again in the competitive intelligence field “My executives don’t listen to me!”  But that’s not quite right.  Your executives do listen to you.  They just choose to not act.  This is the comic flaw in the competitive industry: strategic competitive analysts spend their cycles doing research, producing reports, presenting evidence, and getting few results.

Don’t get me wrong—this doesn’t mean competitive efforts for strategic purposes is wasted.  There are countless examples of where competitive intelligence reports are very successful and executives do pay attention. It just means that it frequently is an uphill battle, and the competitive analyst should expect and plan for the optimism bias response.

So what –can- the competitive practitioner do? My suggestion is to ensure that your company has adequate competitive resources addressing sales. If not, then perhaps it would be an area better served with competitive efforts.  Sales tends to be a very willing consumer of competitive intelligence.  If it is done correctly, the competitive activities actually can help increase deal win rates and drive revenue for the company. In addition, it is an excellent area for competitive intelligence resources to get a real-world view of the competitive forces at work in their industries.  This real-world perspective adds to the analysis capabilities of the resource and builds more credibility for when the time comes to present strategic competitive reports to the executives.   With that little bit of extra backing, perhaps the executives can be encouraged to overcome their optimism bias.

Oh, and as for my daughter—after her third fender-bender, she now sees the value in having insurance.  Especially since she is now paying the bill for it.


Why Comparison Makes All The Difference

You might have already read our blog post on Dynamic Comparison and learned how much time and money you can save by allowing our software to do the tedious work of comparing what you already know about your industry and competition.

Well, there are even more benefits to be had by allowing Compelligence to handle this heavy lifting.

The people in your marketing and product teams are likely well versed in framing your products and know exactly what features your customers should be interested in. They’re probably even actively aware of the close competition in your industry, and provide salespeople with that information as well.

But the problem is that your customers aren’t thinking about your industry or which products your marketing team considers comparable products. What the customer knows is their own needs, and odds are that they aren’t just trying to choose one of your products to buy or trying to decide between you and your two primary competitors, they’re looking at every available product that meets their need.

For example, I was recently shopping for a new laptop. So I, like many of my peers, hopped online to go compare some products. I know how much I want to spend, and I know what I need the computer to do. The websites that sell computers, however, don’t always realize what it is that I need. Once I had sorted for my price range, I found myself presented a wide selection of products largely designed around the new Windows 8 touch interface.

Page after page I was being bombarded with how many points of contact the screen tracks or how ‘conveniently’ the laptop origami-folds into a tablet. And while that’s all well and good, they were wasting words on me. All of those marketing teams forgot that they’re also competing with traditional laptops, and phones and desktop computers, for that matter.

It’s really easy to lose sight of what it is to be a customer while you’re immersed in a sales job. We all get caught up in our brand messages and standard channels.

This is why you need a sales battle system.

A responsive system will always be better than any deck of battle cards: the system is unbiased and offers comparisons based on any parameters you like. This allows you to set your sales team up for success by letting them have not only ALL of the relevant information they could want, but this data is all automatically and dynamically compared and crafted into guidance unique to each particular sale.


Corporate Maturity and Quality Pizza

For lunch yesterday, I had a slice of Domino’s pizza. I haven’t had Domino’s in a while so I was pleasantly surprised to be reminded of how much better their pizza is than it was a few years ago. That little reminder got me thinking about marketing routines. I know what you’re probably thinking; what does pizza have to do with marketing?

We’ll get back to that in a minute.

I know that your company spends a lot of time organizing information and creating sales content (sales guides, battle cards, silver bullet lists). Ultimately it’s just variations of the same information in different formats.

I know this because just about every company works this way. If you are in marketing, you probably create this type of content because when you started your job, someone else was creating it and told you “this is the template we use for sales material.” And before they were doing it, someone else had created it and showed them how to do it. It’s like a traditional art form that is handed down to every new generation of marketing person.

But it’s never quite “just right.” Every day someone is either putting together a new sales deck or a slideshow about some product or competitor, because the “template” material you created was made to apply to several sales deals, not just one. And truth be told, there’s really no way around having to custom tailor information before it can be used efficiently.

Once you’re done organizing and framing what you know, some poor salesman is going to have to shuffle through those battle cards or skip around a Powerpoint slideshow to re-customize it for his or her particular deal. All things told, there’s a lot of time and money wasted by everyone involved in this process that you’re only doing “because it’s way things have always been done.”

Unfortunately, being the best at building slide decks, silver bullets, and battle cards doesn’t mean you’re doing the best at helping your sales teams win more deals. What you might not realize is that all of this time spent creating and reading through marketing and sales materials is a huge, unnecessary waste of resources.

You see, there is a better way.

What if you had a system that could automatically create customized sales guidance for you? Instead of spending time creating yet another slide deck every time there’s a new potential customer, you could be utilizing a system to unify all of your resources and to free yourself from creating or modifying new sales decks, battle cards, and slide decks forever.

At Compelligence, we believe that a mature company doesn’t rely on manually reapplying information, but rather they enter information into a database once, and then automate the time and resource intensive processes. This allows for streamlined communication between content creators and the people actually using the content.

We understand why you might be resistant to this kind of significant change: “But Powerpoint slides are a big part of our sales process.” We’ve heard it all before. But the reality is that growth works through change.

For a company to mature, they must find better solutions to all their needs. This is an opportunity to build real efficiency and effective best practices into your company. Doing something “just because that’s the way it’s always been done” is the best way to get into a rut.

Now back to Domino’s Pizza.

You might remember that Domino’s Pizza used to offer a deal that if you didn’t receive your pizza within 30 minutes, your pizza would be free. For a long time, this was just “how it was done” at Domino’s, because it was a core piece of their brand image. As they continued to invest in that brand, though, they didn’t see a correlation in growing sales.

After their stock hit an all-time low in 2008, Domino’s finally came to terms with the reality that their continued focus on quick delivery had blinded them to the fact that their pizza was about as tasty as the box it came in.

They could very well have poured more advertising money into their existing advertising and brand image, but instead, they decided to try to do something new, different, and better. They even did something pretty radical: they admitted publicly that their pizza was no good and that they were going to fix it.

They abandoned the focus on hurrying pizzas out the door as fast as possible.

Their bold move paid off and Domino’s is still going strong. Within only two years after their stock prices hit that all-time low of $4.00, they had bounced back up to $32.50 per share.

So perhaps it’s time for you to take some bold new steps toward corporate maturity as well.

Maybe your focus on delivering all those silver bullet lists, sales guides, and slide decks is a lot like delivering bad pizza as efficiently as possible.

Maybe there’s a better way to deliver sales guidance and to win more deals.

Compelligence can show you how.