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Dialog on Social Networking in Competitive Intelligence: Post-Conference #SCIP09 Chicago

scip-09-chicagoThis continues my report from talks I attended at SCIP’s (Society of Competitive Intelligence Professional’s) annual conference in Chicago last week. Roger Phelps and Suki Fuller facilitated this open dialog.

Almost all attendees use LinkedIn, while not even half use Twitter. Social networks even less used are Xing, Plaxo, Spoke and Namyz. Some still use listservs within organizations like AIIP (Association of Independent Information Professionals), which alone is worth the annual dues IMO. Although it wasn’t listed, over 700 in competitive intelligence use our Ning group. I think people were confusing Xing and Ning. Xing is a Hamburg, Germany based social network group with over 7 million members while Ning is a social network that lets you create your own social network according to specific niches such as competitive intelligence.

One person boycotts all forms of social networking and differentiates himself by only using email, phone calls and meetings. Others use several social networks as a relationship builder towards email, phone calls or in-person meetings. I prefer to use SN as a relationship builder and use more personal communication with individuals I resonate with. Suki builds relationships to get introductions within a specific industry. The point is: be creative with your connections and cooperative to help others connect.

Spoke is mostly used for obtaining contact information, especially email since it’s an impersonal way to get some competitive data.

Linked In is used by CI pros in collection. It’s the fastest way to find niche experts. You can get names off Linked In and warm up your phone call by asking for a person by name, and know something about them beforehand. You can also use Linked In’s Advanced Searching to find former employees at companies you’re researching who are more likely to share information, although be aware it might be dated or they might be jaded if they were laid off.

Another great use of Linked In is to pose questions within specific groups, whether within a discipline like competitive intelligence, an industry like legal or former employees if you or a friend used to work there.

To be found, create a group to draw on, such as Competitive Intelligence Software within Competitive Intelligence. Answer questions in industry or discipline specific forums. Write e-zine articles which link to your blog and website. Track your industry, company name and key individuals and comment on other’s blogs or connect with them through LinkedIn or Twitter, for example. As with Google Alerts, you can set up Twitter Alerts through Twilert or through Twitter. You can have the results sent to your RSS feed or emailed. Actually you can “find” using many of these tactics too.

Another great source of intelligence in consumer marketing is epinions, which are consumer/loyalty panels, basically unpaid advertising. You can find out if your competitors are developing new products and perhaps why through this channel.

Issues around ethics were discussed since it’s easy to misrepresent yourself through social media. People might have several Twitter accounts, for example and don’t use their name or actual photo for some of them. The usual issues of: “Do I connect only with people I know or everyone who asks?” were brought up. In general I notice that consultants are more likely to connect with anyone, while corporate managers are more conservative and connect mostly with people they know, even if only slightly.

I was interested in learning how you can protect yourself within the social networking space. Apparently Beth Shankle, Chief Research Librarian at the National Press Club’s Library is a great resource and teaches courses on the various social media.

How do you use social media for competitive intelligence?


Are We in a Rut in Competitive Intelligence Innovation? #SCIP09 Post-conference

scip-09-chicagoKen Sawka of Outward Insights led this dialog for our friend, Bill Fiora at #SCIP09’s annual conference in Chicago last week.  Bill had a bike accident which kept him home in Boston. The dialog was a follow-up discussion from Bill’s post on our Competitive Intelligence Ning.

We listed many of the common competitive intelligence tools and techniques such as Porters 5 Forces, 4 Corners, War Games, Scenario Planning, SWOTs and competitor profiles.  There hasn’t been much innovation among competitive intelligence tools and techniques that anyone was willing to share.

The innovation that people shared was around process which involved social networks and more sophisticated monitoring and analysis tools. The cost of information acquisition is really inexpensive today even compared to 10 years ago, so companies can afford to text mine and use tools that provide visualization at a reasonable cost.

Another discussion was around trust: management listens to individuals they trust to get strategic intelligence, such as McKinsey.  This is the kind of relationship we in competitive intelligence need to develop with our management through dialog where we become valued. We need to deliver high quality products that address business needs. Ken told a story about a consultant who listened and advised one of the company’s executives on the Friday before the executive held his Monday monthly briefing. He didn’t charge for this time, but he did gain the executive’s trust. This relationship building supports the practice of cooperative intelligence which integrates leadership, connection and communication.

Ken shared another story where a Best Buy manager openly shared that each of its 983 stores used Web 2.0 technology such as a wiki to share day to day store operations, mystery shopping observations, sales results, and all kinds of good scoop, and how this became part of the company’s DNA. I wasn’t surprised since this is how the retail industry works: it’s more of an open book since you can freely walk into your competitor’s store and buy products and assess their service. Another attendee suggested that Best Buy might have implemented more advanced Web 2.0 processes since sharing their story. A participant in the pharmaceuticals was reluctant to share his company’s Web 2.0 practices since this industry is more secretive due to long lead times to get products approved by the FDA and out to the market place.

We concluded that industry norms can be a deterrent to sharing innovation.  However, as we build our human networks and develop trust, we often share our innovation with others, either one on one or among a smaller group. The Council on Competitive Analysis and Liam Fahey’s Knowledge Leadership Forum were sited as two examples of groups with trusting relationships where innovative competitive intelligence practices are shared.

One fear that some expressed is that we could be replaced by artificial intelligence as described in Jeff Hawkins and Sandra Blakeslee’s  book On Intelligence.

We concluded with a couple of questions:

1. How do we more effectively improve our value?
2. How do we quantify and communicate the benefits of competitive intelligence?

What do you think?  I’ll be blogging about #SCIP09 sessions this week.  Speaking of innovation, look for a summary of Competitive Intelligence Foundation’s book on Competitive Technical Intelligence (CTI) just released at SCIP 09.

Blogging about Competitive Intelligence from #SCIP09 in Chicago

scip-09-chicagoThis week I will be blogging from SCIP’s annual conference, which takes place in Chicago from April 21 – 24.  While I will not be attending the pre-conference sessions on April 21 and 22, here is some more detail about them.

I will be attending sessions on April 23 and 24, and here is the detail about these sessions including titles, descriptions and speaker bios.  As an attendee, you receive a CD-ROM of all the presentation sessions.

Here are the 10 Random Things I am looking forward to doing at SCIP09 from the Competitive Intelligence Ning where you can check out other’s intentions.

1. I look forward to meeting my SCIP friends and making friends with new people, including some of you on the CI Ning who I only have met electronically

2. I look forward to Robert Bugai’s talk on “Meet the Press” since the journalistic perspective of probing and interviewing has always interested me. (11:35 p.m. Thursday…I just found out he WON’T BE THERE!)

3. I look forward to Bill Fiora’s active dialog on “Are we in a Rut?” (5 p.m. Thursday) This would be a great CI Magazine article.

4. I looking forward to Roger Phelps’ and Suki Fuller’s active dialog session on “Social Networking & Its Role in CI.” (11 a.m. Friday) That will make a great CI Magazine article, don’t you think?

5. Due to my interest in sales intelligence, I look forward to hearing Lisa Hicks talk about “Sharpen Your Sales Results with Win/Loss Analysis Best Practices.” (Noon Friday)

6. I think Eric Garland’s talk on “Keeping Positive: Using Competitive Intelligence to Find New Business Opportunities, ” will be a refreshing slant on using CI not just for threats. (2:45 p.m. Thursday)

7. I’m looking forward to spending some time on the Exhibit Floor, and my focus this year is competitive intelligence software providers like Strategy Software, Comintell, Digimind, Cipher, QL2 and Traction.

8. I’m looking forward to our WLC (Women’s Leadership Council) cocktail party which follows the opening reception in the exhibit hall from 7 – 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

9. I don’t have a booth this year, too much else that I have to do at SCIP09 which would take me away from my exhibit. So, if you want to plan a meeting, here’s how to do it:

Attend one of my talks:

Build a Sustainable Early Warning Process through Cooperative Intelligence (1:40 p.m. Thursday) or
Capture Ccompetitive Intelligence from Sales & Customers to Drive Lucrative Product Development (9:40 p.m. Friday)
I’ll be in the exhibit hall from 9:30 – 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, and some time after my talk around 3 p.m. or so.

Otherwise you can reach me at renaylor@wispertel or 720-480-9499

Or you can Tweet me at http://twitter.com/EllenNaylor as I’ll be part of August Jackson and Suki Fuller’s Twitter team following SCIP 09 (#scip09).

10. I will attend social events where we can meet up as well:

Opening Reception: 5:30 – 7 p.m. Wed
Reception: 6 – 6:30 p.m. Thu
Awards Breakfast: 8 – 9:30 Fri

There is a newcomer’s orientation just before the opening reception, which I usually attend, but I don’t see it on this year’s schedule.

If you participate in the Twitter network, check out our tweets on #scip09.  They can also be viewed through out Competitive Intelligence Ning.

Think Before Win Loss Analysis: Stay Connected with Your Customers Before the Sales Event!

I’ve been talking about the sales intelligence practice of win loss analysis a lot lately. It’s the process of interviewing your customers to find out why you REALLY win or lose business, and is one of the best values for collecting market intelligence from your customers. You can get ideas for product development, competitive intelligence, changing account reps, realizing that customers don’t value what you thought they did…the list is as endless as your imagination if you stretch it.

However, many people just interview customers when they have lost business. Be practical: How long will it be before you can do business with them again, unless this loss just represents a portion of the business you do together?

Interview wins since they will give you ideas for product development, and they are interested in maintaining a relationship with you, especially if you can offer products that better meet their needs over time.

Especially in these tough economic times, take the time to develop even deeper relationships with your customers to boost retention rates. This is a key cooperative intelligence practice since your account reps or inside sales will be seen as leaders, connectors and communicators, while the competition won’t since they may be operating with a reduced sales headcount.

If you have the cashflow, don’t lay off your sales force or inside sales: keep them busy connecting with your customers. Here are some processes that you might include in their hardship job description in addition to their periodic account visits:

1. Interview customers one month or a reasonable interval after implementation of the product or service. Keep them happy and engaged, right from the beginning. Work with your marketing and product development people to include some open ended questions so they can vent and you learn what’s on their minds without the bias of closed ended questions.

2. A year after implementation, interview your customers again. They will have had a chance to use the product or service enough to have formed some strong opinions. Listen to their ideas, and let them know that you are considering or have made changes to your product or service based on their feedback. Include open ended questions about market trends, new technology and the competition so you don’t get blind sided.

3. Six months to a year before the contract expires, come back to the customer with another set of questions concerning the product/service, your customer service, you know the drill. Your goal is to influence them to stay with you, and they will be more tempted since you’ve been staying in touch with them…and this is not a last ditch effort just before the sale.

The point it: don’t wait for the sales event and then conduct win loss analysis interviews afterwards to find out what you’re doing right and wrong. Include this as part of the account planning and sales follow-up processes and watch your customer retention soar!

What have you included in your sales intelligence process to increase customer retention in these tough economic times?

Be notified when our book, Win/Loss Analysis: How to Clinch and Keep the Business You Want is published.

Capture Competitor & Market Intelligence through Elicitation: Webinar Follow-up

Last Wednesday, I gave a webinar to give product managers a tool to improve their relationship with Sales. Teach Sales elicitation skills: they don’t get it anywhere else and it will help them close more deals and collect information to help your company develop better products. Elicitation is conversational communication that compels people to voluntarily tell you things without you asking. However, it does involve planning to make it work, since most of us grow up asking people questions directly to extract information. You can download the slides from Slideshare, but as of April 31, 2014, Slideshare will discontinue slidecasts, so I am uncertain how to transfer this to another provider.

There were some questions that got me thinking more over the Easter/Passover weekend.

1. What is the personality type of the ideal person who conducts elicitation?

The person who asked the question assumed that this person would be outgoing and extroverted. Actually some of the best elicitors are more introverted since they are likely to be more thorough in their preparation for elicitation interviews. In addition, introverted people are often better listeners than extroverts, who like to hear themselves talk, not what elicitation is about. Its focus is getting the other guy to talk!

Here are some other desired skills for an elicitator: natural gift for making friends; establish rapport well; practical psychological insight; broad general knowledge; good memory; two level listener; non-threateningly curious; appreciates cultural/national differences; understands subtleties of personal relationships; and is intuitive, spontaneous, and discrete.

2. Ethical Considerations around Elicitation

This always comes up when talking about competitive intelligence, especially collection tools, where elicitation fits. There are two codes of ethics that I point to: SCIP’s code of ethics and AIIP’s code of ethics. My own ethics are the most important to me and they are situational. The other thing to consider is practicality and conversation flow. For example, some people want you to disclose who you are, your company name, where you’re based, who your client is, and why they want to know “x”. Try scripting all this “stuff” at the start of a conversation: it is not natural and it’s too long. It’s better to let the person you’re talking to, ask questions and gradually tell them this information as the conversation flows.

3. Resources I recommend

Confidential  by John Nolan and What Every BODY is Saying by Joe Navarro for supplementary reading on elicitation practices.  I have also written an article entitled “Enable Sales to Elicit Market Intelligence”  published in SCIP’s Competitive Intelligence Magazine.

How to Detect and Prevent Lying Behaviors

Do you ever get that feeling that someone is lying to you, but you’re not quite sure, and you don’t want to ask them since you want to keep the conversation flowing. Perhaps this is a friend who is telling a little white lie or perhaps it is a co-worker who is warming up to the boss.  We are surrounded by lies in our society, and it’s good to identify when you’re being lied to. One way is to ask a question that alludes to a person’s possible lying behavior since if you accuse the person outright, you will put him on the defensive.  Another way is to present a similar scenario and ask the person how they would correct it.  A third way is to start the sentence out with, “Isn’t it amazing” and allude to the behavior or lie in a general way.

Never Be Lied to Again by David Lieberman, is a good read and gives you a myriad of concrete examples to raise your awareness as to when someone is lying to you.  In my fields of competitive intelligence and sales intelligence, we are often asking questions to collect data, whether developing an opportunity analysis for new product or service, finding out when a competitor is introducing a new product, or determining why our customers really buy or don’t buy from us. It is imperative to be attuned as to whether the person you’re talking to is telling you the truth or not. Important decisions are being affected by the information and analysis we develop.

Here are a few tips David shares that I have noticed in my experience:

* Deceitful responses to your questions about beliefs and attitudes take longer to deliver.
* Beware of overreaction to your questions or statements.
* He depersonalizes his answer to your question by offering his belief about the subject instead of answering your question directly.
* He will use your words to make his point.
* Liars often slouch, and are unlikely to stand tall with their arms out or outstretched.
* A liar won’t face you if you’re accusing him, and may turn his head or shift his body away.
* The person makes little or no eye contact.
* There is little or no physical contact during his attempt to convince you.
* The guilty tells his story bit by bit until he gets a verbal communication to stop. He speaks to fill the gap left by silence.
* A liar willingly answers your questions, but asks none of his own.
* Might say, “To be perfectly honest” or “To tell the truth” at the start of the sentence unless they do this all the time.
* Beware of answers that are pat and seem too well rehearsed.
* Use stalling techniques like asking you to repeat the question or answering your question with a question.

I’ve just touched the tip of what David offers to help you spot and prevent deception.  Do you have any tips you would like to share?

Capture Precious Competitor & Market Intelligence through Elicitation: Webinar April 8, 2009


Hello, I just got back from Texas and two weekends at my husband, Rodgers’ art shows in Houston. This is short notice, but tomorrow–April 8–the spotlight will be on me, well just a little. From Noon – 1:00 p.m. Eastern USA time, I’ll be giving a webinar and answering questions from my talk, “Capture Precious Competitor & Market Intelligence through Elicitation.”


What is elicitation? Simply put, it’s a conversational way to learn information from another person, and it can be used with anybody. The technique works across all cultures since it’s based on human nature. It is a valuable communication skill in comparison to interviewing, which relies on questions to get answers, which is more direct. When you interview people, they might wonder why you are asking certain questions, and over time they might even become a suspicious of your motives. Whereas a skilled elicitor will entice the other person to talk and share information almost without the other person realizing that they’re sharing.

One valuable way to use elicitation: learn about the competition, market trends or new technology from customers using sales people, customer service, installation or maintenance people as the conduit. It’s also a very useful skill when going to trade shows, and finding out all that juicy marketing and product development information from your competitors, industry experts and the like.

The key to successful elicitation, aside from practice, is to prepare how you would like the conversation to flow, to be ready for any detours that the customer may present, which will take you off course. Some detours render you even more information than you can imagine, so you need to think about these so you can be flexible. You also need to be prepared to answer questions the customer might ask you. That’s a faux pas of many people who start elicitation programs: they forget about cooperative intelligence.  People usually will share if you give. Know what it is “safe” to talk about with your customers before starting your elicitation program. Sales and other customer facing people are a natural at elicitation, although they often don’t think they are since elicitation is not part of sales training. It should be, since elicitation skills also help sales close more deals. Who is more spontaneous than Sales when things don’t quite go as planned?

The webinar is part of an ongoing series of talks that are sponsored by Ryma Technology Solutions and Ready Talk. These webinars are given most weeks on Wednesday at Noon Eastern USA time, and last for one hour. See you tomorrow if you have the time! This webinar will also be followed by Twitter under #pmv, so you can check out the Tweets. You can also check out this article, “Enable Sales to Elicit Market Intelligence: The Cooperative Angle.”

Opportunity Analysis in These Tough Economic Times

I am traveling with my artist husband, Rodgers this week so I am writing from Rockport which is a charming art town by the Gulf in South Texas. Since we live in the mountains of Colorado, the ocean beckoned us in between Rodgers’ art shows in Houston. How can you go wrong hanging out in the friendly state of Texas?! Last weekend was Houston’s Bayou City Art Festival. This weekend is the Woodlands Waterway Art Festival about 40 miles North of Houston.

I was going to take the rest of this week off from blogging, but I have been inspired by my customer, who works in the industrial space manufacturing products and their main factory and R&D facility are US based. If that isn’t unusual enough, they have hired me to help improve their competitive intelligence process, and improve their sales intelligence by getting Sales to capture competitor data, market intelligence, new technology (CTI) and ideas for product and service development.  This is not a Fortune 500 company, but they are the market leader in their space, and after talking to their leadership and hearing their drive, I am not surprised!

Folks, they aren’t missing a beat in this depression or whatever you want to call these rocky economic times. They are introducing new products, in fact a new technology that will be disruptive in their industry since it can be installed without shutting down the customer’s machinery! They are adding new services to their product line, which are services the customer used to do themselves. However, with all the outsourcing that goes on today, many customers had outsourced these services to contractors, who are not as skilled in providing these services as my customer would be.

The message here is do an opportunity analysis. These are tough times for sure. Study what your customers are going through and how they’re being impacted. This might be the perfect time to introduce a disruptive technology, especially if it saves the customer money or is easier to install and maintain than the “old” technology. It could be that there are more services you can offer your customers today since they’ve reduced their staff in areas where you are very qualified to step in.

Here’s an example in my trade, competitive intelligence. I notice many companies are downsizing their research and library functions.  This is an opportunity for competitive intelligence professionals to add competitor, market trends and technology monitoring to your marketing mix. It’s a complementary skill to what we already do, and I see the demand rising.

So what are you going to offer your customers that they will value in these tough times?

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