A few weeks ago I posted an article on my thoughts on SCIP 2016 and the options that practitioners have available to them to support their intelligence program. Those options came primarily in two forms (and I am generalizing).
- Analytics & Discovery Platforms – These are dashboards that try to scan the internet for new information or to find that ‘secret’ that is not yet known.
- Services Providers – Those firms that you hire to do projects for you. This can range from a Win-Loss analysis project to other custom research.
What was missing in my opinion (well, except for Compelligence) was an Intelligence Platform.
So what is an Intelligence Platform and how does it support an Intelligence Program?
The easiest way to think of a platform is that it supports your business processes and integrates with other enterprise applications. It should be multi-user and support a virtual team business process of intelligence. And it should enable each and every user in the company to participate in the Intelligence process.
Where do we see this in other areas?
Sales & Sales Operations has Salesforce.com. Each and everyday they use this application to improve their operations and be more efficient. (Many sales people may disagree with this statement!)
What does the Competitive Intelligence or the Market Intelligence team have? What software supports the Intelligence Program?
- Do you have a platform that helps your team with work-flows such as project management, objective-management, and key intelligence topic management?
- Do you have a platform that has both portals and dashboards, but also can autonomously identify news, events and trends?
- Do you have a platform that can help not only the intelligence team, but other teams like Sales and Marketing?
- Do you have a platform that integrates with other enterprise applications like your SSO & identity management systems.
Competitive Intelligence Business Process – what makes us different.
What makes Compelligence different is that the partners were actual practitioners for a combined 30 plus years before becoming vendors. We simply didn’t find some technology and think that it applied. We knew what was necessary to build a platform for practitioners, built by practitioners.
In support of this function Compelligence is announcing a new user interface to support those functions in that latter part of June. Look forward to our announcement soon… and in the meantime I ask you this.
What is your strategy for people, process and technology? And for technology do you have a point product or a full blown platform?
I’ve been asked to discuss my views on how Competitive Intelligence is changing in 2015 with Arik Johnson of AuroraWDC. Many of you know that I am a strong proponent that Competitive Intelligence today must change with the markets. The days of long-drawn out projects based on the traditional CI methodology are over. Today, we need immediate on-demand intelligence solutions. That means utilizing Intelligence based systems to help us.
Join us on the 21st. I’d like to hear what your thoughts are…
Sign up at: http://aurorawdc.com/how-to-transform-salesforce-com-into-a-competitive-sales-analysis-app-using-intelligent-agents-intelcollab-webinar
How to Transform Salesforce.com into a Competitive Sales Analysis App Using Intelligent Agents
The Next IntelCollab Webinar from Aurora WDC
12:00 Noon Eastern /// Wednesday 21 January 2015
~ featuring ~
Ed Allison is Co-Founder and Managing Director at Compelligence Arik Johnson
Arik Johnson is Founder & Chairman at Aurora WDC
How will you compete in and win more deals in 2015?
You could simply work harder… but you probably already work hard enough. You could hire more analysts… but that requires getting requisitions approved and lots of training. You could stop doing less productive work… but those “less-productive” tasks usually are required by your management.
These are the things people typically do when trying to be smarter about competition. But will all of this ensure you deliver intelligence to the entire firm when and where they need it, both strategically and tactically?
The problem is that competition really isn’t just a matter of work, it’s a matter of scale. Consider this: If you have 100 sales people competing against five competitors with 10 opportunities per sales person each quarter, that represents 4,000 opportunities for intelligence delivery and collection per year. Each of those could be 1 of 5^4 (625) strategies. Do you have the tools and know-how to scale to that and deliver quarterly assessments to your strategic planners?
Adding intelligent agents will help you meet these challenges. Learn how you must use tools and systems in 2015 in order to win more deals, learn more from the field, and collect systematic information from the environment.
Understand how systems can conduct and deliver competitive analysis to sales teams at scale.
Learn how to apply machine analysis to environmental scanning increasing the relevancy of news analysis.
Discover how Competitive Intelligence and Analysis techniques are changing based on a changing world of new data management tools.
Working to change the way companies compete and win, Ed Allison is the Managing Director and Co-Founder of Compelligence, Inc., a competitive, market and sales intelligence platform. Ed previously served as a competitive team leader at Cisco Systems, Symbol Technologies, Juniper Networks and Polycom. In his most recent engagement, Ed helped Polycom, the leader in video communications, grow from a $1B to a $1.4B annual sales. Ed brings a history of frontline competitive experience. He’s a practitioner, not a theorist, of competitive, market, and customer intelligence leadership at large, marketing-leading technology companies. Ed developed analysis and strategy techniques as a military officer in the U.S. Army (Signal Corp) and has adopted those techniques to strategic planning and sales effectiveness. Ed Allison speaks regularly at industry events such as Frost & Sullivan Mind eXchange, The Altamont Group executive education series, Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) and other industry events.
Ed will present 30 minutes on how you must use tools and systems in 2015 in order to win more deals and will be joined by webinar moderator Arik Johnson, Founder & Chairman at Aurora WDC.
The second half of the hour will continue with questions from the online audience and thoughts on what the future holds for helping business leaders make more confident decisions in uncertain times, concluding with a description of the next webinar and other upcoming activities in the Intelligence Collaborative series.
We hope you can join us.
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.
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 sales people 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, sales people 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 sales people 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. Sales people 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 sales people 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 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.
COMING UP NEXT!
In my next entries I’d like to discuss the types and value of competitive intelligence to the sales force. Topics I’ll cover will include:
- How CI teams can help sales people increase their sales effectiveness.
- How sales can verify the efficacy of their company strategy.
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 road map. Fortunately there is help for you!
Please join us on Wednesday, April 22nd at 9:00am 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!