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.
22 April, 2014 | Posted in Uncategorized
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.
- A replay of the event can be viewed here.
- You can download a copy of the presentation to review at your leisure.
If you have any questions or comments about the webinar, please do not hesitate to contact us!
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!
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 sales people have to face competition, one way or another, in every single deal they encounter. So why do many companies make this a difficult process? Sales people 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.
27 December, 2013 | Posted in Competitive Sales
You’ve just make a sales pitch to a customer and left their building or hung up the phone with them. Why are they going to remember what you said, and how is it going to encourage them to buy what you are selling? There are of course thousands of different ways to influence a buyer, but they all boil down to having a compelling sales pitch. So how can you make sure that your sales pitch persuades your customer to make a purchase? Keep the three items listed below in mind as you build your pitch, and you will be one step closer to having a more convincing sales pitch.
Imagine this scenario: you are a sales person having a drink with a friend who works for a competitor. Your friend is also a sales person, 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 with in the past few months. However, you had no trouble and never experienced the “No solicitors” sign.
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.
9 July, 2013 | Posted in Competitive methodology
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.
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?
You know the old saying about trying to sell ice to Eskimos. Common sense notwithstanding, it still happens all the time. What’s worse is that you’ve probably been on the receiving end of it.
If you’re reading this, you probably already know that you need better information to make sure that sales happen as efficiently as possible in your company. But choosing the perfect schema for your company’s competitive intelligence needs can be daunting.
There are many services that compile, sort, or assess massive amounts of information from across the Internet. These service providers will tell you that you don’t know enough about the market or the competition, or that you cannot adequately use information without some kind of automated searching tool. They say you need more information in order to be more informed. They want to sell you ice.
We have a revolutionary idea here at Compelligence: you don’t need more information; you just need better access to the information you already have.