Sales Intelligence from the Competitive Intelligence Expert Panel at SLA 2010

I had the pleasure of moderating the Competitive Intelligence Expert Panel at SLA’s (Special Libraries Association) annual conference in New Orleans. All 3 experts were GREAT! Claudia Clayton has a strong marketing, strategy, and sales background as well as financial services expertise. Jan Herring is one of CI’s pioneers with a strong military intelligence background which he successfully transferred into corporations as he started one of the first CI programs at Motorola in the 1980s. Arik Johnson is a visionary in this field, the consummate consultant, always reaching out for what’s next, and the instigator of Competitive Intelligence Ning with almost 1500 members.

We spent 1 ½ hours taking questions from our live and virtual audiences. In the spirit of cooperative intelligence, I will share the panel’s wisdom through my blogs.

There were two related questions around Price to Win (PTW) and the trade offs of conducting win loss analysis using internal people versus outsiders.

Claudia says there are restrictions once the RFP is out, so much of the monitoring and analysis needs to occur in between RFPs. That way when the RFP is issued, your company will have a good idea of how low the competitor has the capability to bid. Jan recommends PTW guru, Michael O’Guin.  Michael wrote a couple of PTW articles for SCIP’s Competitive Intelligence Review in 1996, and presents at APMP (American Proposal Management Professionals) conferences. APMP is the society to join for PTW. The essentials behind PTW are to learn the competitor’s cost structure and the customer’s decision-making criteria. Arik recommended another PTW guru, Jim Mathews currently Director, Competitive Intelligence & PTW at TASC.

Claudia shared 3 ways to conduct win loss analysis:

  1. Use internal sources with/without assistance from a third party in development
  2. Use a third party while revealing your company’s identity
  3. Use a third party without revealing your company’s identity

Claudia prefers the third option to learn more objectively what the buying manager was thinking when s/he awarded the contract. If you chose option 2, sometimes the buying manager will give the ‘party line’ due to their bias around who is asking for the interview. I like option 2 since it is biased: your customers are biased in their decision-making. A skilled interviewer gets past that bias so quickly. I like to include Sales in this process to identify the gaps between Sales and their customers as to the customer’s decision making criteria and values. Sales can share their customer’s personality and motivation so I get the maximum value out of each interview knowing the customer’s preferred communication style.

Some companies split their win loss interviews among internal sources and a third party. The benefit of using internal sources is they know your products, your company’s culture and can keep building a relationship with that customer. All panelists agreed NOT to have Sales conduct win loss interviews since you won’t get an honest representation of what really happened! Jan’s best practice for win loss analysis: your company conducts its own win interviews and a third party conducts loss interviews. I think a third party should do some win interviews to avoid being blindsided by internal expectations.

Most importantly, use the results and take action. It’s remarkable that only 20% of companies even do win loss analysis given its great insight into customers and competitors, and many of these companies do nothing with the findings and analysis!

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