How to Connect with Senior Leaders

I was sorry to miss Scott Leeb’s talk, “CI Guerilla Warfare: Winning the Hearts and Minds of Senior Leadership.” Turns out I didn’t: it was videotaped here.

Small business team in theSo my Thanksgiving treat is a recap of Scott’s talk. Almost everyone I know in competitive intelligence complains about their lack of connection to senior management.

Many of us in competitive intelligence are our own worst enemy since we are steeped in competitive intelligence DNA and language, and don’t understand how the c-suite operates.

Treat getting in with the c-suite like battle:  “If you know the enemy and you yourself you need not fear the results of a 100 battles.” Sun Tzu, 500BC

Mind your Ps and Qs

Over deliver, but don’t overwhelm. Start with how your insight ties into the business results the executive cares about. Use their language, which is the language of business and know enough about the executive to understand his/her quirks. Their Admin will know these. Scott would schedule 5 minutes with an executive before his talk to make sure he was touching on what the executive cared about. They will find 5 minutes for you: it’s in their best interest, right?

Scott also applies his 7Ps from his military training to knowing how executives operate:

  • Proper
  • Planning and
  • Preparation
  • Prevent
  • Pitifully
  • Poor
  • Performance

Recognize the differences

Most executives live to work. They are under tremendous pressure and you don’t want to add to it.

Pick and maintain a voice, which is consistent and in alignment with the business goals

  • Be Bold
  • Be Brief
  • Be Gone
  • Be Authoritative
  • Be Opinionated
  • Be Balanced
  • Be Flexible
  • Be Careful (politics)

Scott suggests three practices when communicating with executives:

  • BLUFF: Bottom Line Up Front results Fast
  • KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid
  • 4Qs: Quantify Qualify Quality Quickly – Fast and Forcefully make your presentation to executives

Show them the tip of the iceberg from your analysis. Use appropriate language, not CI, and tie your deliverable to business results that you know the executive is focused on. But be prepared with all the supporting data for questions.

Scott’s motto here:

  • Get the analysis to the
  • Right person at the
  • Right time……to Support the
  • Right decision

Be a Salesperson

Build a competitive intelligence brand in your company with a logo and a name to your group that everyone can easily identify with. While many in competitive intelligence have this stealth mode for what we do, we need to be more outgoing in order to be seen and heard. Scott had a catchy name for his CI group at Prudential, PruView.

If you aren’t good at selling, find champions who are. Ideally they should have some skin in the game, that is rely on you for good work. Ideally these champions should be senior, vocal, CI smart and committed.

I recall when I was at Bell Atlantic, now part of Verizon, I gained a VP of Sales as my champion. I didn’t realize he was testing me when he sent me on what I thought was a wild goose chase to lead a competitor response analysis in a highly political RFP that our sales folks had already answered. What would be the value of this, I thought as I drove to their site with very little notice.

The sales team thought if we didn’t win, AT&T would. There were two other competitors: Rolm (now part of Siemens) and Nortel. They didn’t think either of them had a good chance to win the business. I thought that Rolm had the best chance to win as this was a university, and Rolm was owned by IBM, who manufactured PCs at this time. They could sweeten the deal through discounted PCs, which were very expensive then. Rolm won the business for the reason I had suspected, and the Sales VP became my champion.

Provide Insights

  • Focus on what they need and keeping asking “so what” until you get to this.
  • Also get them to think about, “What’s the cost of inaction?”

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it.

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Recent Competitive Intelligence Insight

Here are some insightful articles related to competitive intelligence and customer intelligence.

Make A Choice Between 2 Alternatives - Two-Way Street SignEmotional Intelligence: Cult or Competitive Advantage This is a great rebuttal to Adam Grant’s recent article, “Emotional Intelligence is Overrated.” There is a lot more scientific proof that a high EQ is a teachable skill, and that people respond well to those who have empathy. Competitive intelligence is a people business, and those who can motivate people to share have a leg up. Having a high EQ and empathy motivates most people to share. As Dr. Kenneth M. Nowack concluded in his article on this subject, “It’s not how smart you really are that matters in terms of work and life success, but how you are smart.”

How to Build a Culture of Givers: 4 Tips Authored by Laura Montini, this article reports on Prof Adam Grant’s recommendations, the same one who somewhat slammed emotional intelligence above. You can see this perspective here, “What you want is a disagreeable giver–one who will tell it like it is without regard for your feelings, but only because he or she has the best intentions for your organization at heart.” As a proponent of emotional intelligence, I think it’s better if they do have some regard for your feelings.

In competitive intelligence, we expect our sources to share with us. I enjoy Prof Grant’s Reciprocity Ring as a crowdsourcing way to get people to ask and provide answers in an open forum within the company. Everyone in the ring is required to ask for something. “When the whole room is making requests, it’s not uncomfortable,” Grant said.

When everyone’s requests are out in the open, individuals in the group decide which ones they’re best equipped to handle based on their expertise. “And make no mistake. Everyone will give,” Grant says.

“The takers actually start giving because everybody’s contributions are visible and they worry that if they don’t volunteer to help anyone, they’re going to get caught. The end result? Employees will get on board with the idea of building a culture of givers. That’s because they’ll see that if they give more, everyone can get more of what they want.”

This is a visible and cooperative way to engage your fellow employees to ask for and give tips to strengthen your company’s competitive position. How do you engage your employees to share?

Employers Want Critical Thinkers, But Do They Know What It Means? This article spoke to me as a competitive intelligence professional since many in our profession spend too much time monitoring the competitive market and place too much weight on digital information. Critical thinking takes time and reflection, which corporations don’t give in the rush, rush, rush culture of most. Critical thinking is an essential skill for competitive intelligence professionals, and many of us are too reactive due to the influx of data that is streaming our way. What do you think?

10 Great Questions Product Managers Should Ask Customers, shares some great questions that can also be used in win loss interviews. After all product managers need to know how and why customers use your products, and how they could work better for them. Customer intelligence is such a key piece of competitive intelligence. My 3 favorite questions that Jim Semick suggests are:

  • How do you feel about the current solution or product? This one is good for understanding opportunities to differentiate your product from competitors or simply learning how they use the product or service presently.
  • What is the most frustrating thing about the current solution or product? This is how to discover your customer’s pain. You can go deep on this one with some follow up probing.
  • What do you wish you could do with this product or solution that you can’t do today? This is a great feed to product development, and sometimes opens up unintended uses for the product.

What are your favorite questions?

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Win Loss: Indecision is Often Stress

Lost maze conceptI have been conducting win loss analysis for 25 years, and have wondered how stress affects decision-making, since it crawls into most aspects of daily life.

I recently discovered Stephen W Martin’s studies on this very topic. In 2012, he interviewed several hundred B to B salespeople about their challenges in winning deals with prospective clients. Their companies ranged from start-ups to billions of dollars with the majority between $50 – $150 million in annual revenue. He has also interviewed thousands of decision-makers in the win loss analysis process.

The top finding from Sales is that their biggest enemy is not the competition: it’s “no decision.” Customers are afraid to make decisions due to the stress of buying. Psychologically, stress shortens attention spans, escalates mental exhaustion, and contributes to poor decision making. This can lead to analysis paralysis. To reduce the fear, uncertainty and doubt in decision making, customers will:

  • List needs in lengthy RFP documents
  • Hire consultants to help them make the right decision
  • Conduct lengthy product evaluations
  • Talk to existing product users to ensure they work as the vendors claim they do

Customers are seldom sure they are purchasing the right product or solution, and there are often naysayers in their organizations who are against moving forward. So customers increasingly don’t make a purchase even after a thorough evaluation. They feel too overwhelmed with information and contradicting evidence to make a decision.

I have paraphrased and embellished on the specific forms of stress Stephen has uncovered in his research that can postpone decision making or lead to indecision.

Budgetary Stress – Is the money available and justified for this purchase? A company’s budgeting process is not only designed to prioritize where money is to be spent but also to remove the fear of spending it.

Evaluation Committee Stress – Finding common agreement for a solution. Whenever a company makes a purchasing decision that involves groups of people, self-interests, politics, and group dynamics will influence the final decision, and can cause it to stagnate.

Vendor Selection Stress – What is the difference among competitors? The difference between most products is often small in that they share the same basic features, functions and benefits, which makes decision making more difficult.

Information Stress – What is Truthful? Most customers have had a negative experience with a salesperson which leads them into the stressful position of separating fact from fiction. Thus salespeople carry the burden of proving they’re telling the truth. Later in the sales cycle, competitors will often sabotage one another and this quarreling can cause customers to postpone or cancel decision-making.

Corporate Stress – What is the best solution for the company? Evaluators want to do what’s in the best interest of their company and to be good corporate citizens. Even after a formal evaluation process, the likelihood that a purchase will not be made jumps tenfold when the recommended solution is not aligned to the company’s goals and direction. This is more often the case with purchases that are instigated by lower level employees.

Peer Level Stress – What will my peers think? Whether from above, below, or the same level in an organization, coworkers continually evaluate the behavior, success, and failures of those in the decision-making process. This exerts pressure on the evaluators to make the right decision and not to make a decision if there isn’t an obvious choice or clear-cut direction.

Individual Stress – Retaining my job. Today, employment is never guaranteed and loyalty frequently goes unrewarded by companies. This leads some prospective buyers to feel continual pressure to put their individual needs before the company’s to keep their job or to help them land another opportunity.

Conclusion: I believe the stresses that employees face in making a wrong decision gives incumbents and big companies with strong brand ID even better odds at winning business. According to Stephen, incumbents have 80% odds of winning the business. This makes customer retention an even more valuable goal for companies.

In the last 10 years, I have lost business increasingly due to being small and having lower brand ID than larger firms even though I have been doing competitive intelligence since 1985, have led initiatives at two Fortune 500 companies, and am widely published. In many cases I feel that decision-makers are too stressed out to change providers or to seriously consider a smaller solution provider. I would love to hear other people’s stories on this.

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Honoring Maya Angelou

The world has lost one of our greatest women this week, Maya Angelou. Her words have inspired so many people ranging from world leaders to the mainstream population of men and women around the world.

Years ago, I read about her life, and how she chose to be silent for a number of years during her difficult youth. I am so grateful she endured that time, and chose to share her many reflections about life over the years. She has impacted my life with her statements, particularly this one.

Maya Angelou

So many of us, myself included, spend too much time thinking about saying the right words when we hold a conversation. Maya made me realize that it’s my intention and the tone that I share that influence the conversation much more than the exact words.

I intend to make the person I talk to feel better at the conclusion of our conversation than when we started, even when I cold call.

I reinforce this intention with a short meditation or reflection before a conversation. This helps me think about the other person.

Another habit that reinforces this intention, physically is to put a smile on your face, whether on the phone or in person. Sometimes I have to force it at first, and then it just stays.

“Don’t take yourself too seriously.” What’s the worst thing that will happen in a conversation? Nothing life threatening that’s for sure.

Be enthusiastic: it’s infectious and you bring good energy to the other person, which is a gift.

Show appreciation for their time and what they’re sharing; and not just at the end of your conversation.

Be polite. This is a rare commodity in this digital world.

Listen closely and without judgment. Wow, it’s amazing what great questions you will ask; how much you’ll learn; and how good you’ll make them feel.

I share this Maya Angelou wise saying in almost every competitive intelligence, elicitation training, interviewing or conversational presentation or training session I give.

Thank you Dr. Maya Angelou.

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From Competitive Intelligence to Sales Enablement: Free Webinar

Join us for a free 45 minute webinar on April 22 at Noon Eastern US time (11 am Central, 10 am Mountain, 9 am Pacific).

Getting from collecting competitive intelligence to winning more deals from collected competitive intelligence can be tricky if you don’t have a good road map.

  • Companies collect competitive data, but don’t know what to do with it
  • Sales teams waste time finding the data they need to win competitive deals
  • Product selling is not an effective way to convince customers to buy

Join our informative webinar and learn how to turn your competitive intelligence into sales intelligence to improve your sales force’s close ratios and customer retention.

ellenmitchdean

Ellen Naylor of The Business Intelligence Source will share her knowledge on how to collect from your sales force, which helps them win more deals and retain more business. Mitch Emerson of Compelligence will show how you can transform that data into competitive intelligence that your sales reps can tap into for each deal. Dean Davison of Forrester Research will show you how to convert your marketing buzz words into conversation that customers resonate with, so they listen, ask questions, engage and buy.

Compelligence offers the first software solution which targets Sales to input and share competitive intelligence that works seamlessly with Salesforce.com. This is awesome since many sales reps use Salesforce.com already, so are more likely to use a system that builds off of what they know.

For more information on the webinar, check out: http://www.compelligence.com/2014/04/01/webinar-from-competitive-intelligence-to-intelligent-sales-enablement/

To register directly, go here.

Learn Elicitation Skills at AIIP in Baltimore, Apr 2: 8 – Noon

AIIP Logo 2014AIIP holds its annual conference from April 2 – 6 this year in Baltimore, Maryland at the Hyatt Regency in the Inner Harbor. I will be giving a half day workshop from 8 am – Noon on April 2. The topic is elicitation skills with my corporate spin rather than the military intelligence angle.  The talk is entitled, “How to Use Conversation to Optimize Data Collection.” After all, elicitation is best done conversationally.

So here is a little more detail about why you might want to attend this workshop, especially if you live in the DC or Baltimore metro areas.

Many info pros and CI professionals dread conducting telephone, video, or in-person interviews, an essential skill for data collection. Through conversational interviewing, we can probe more deeply, and gain much more intelligence than through the Internet and social media. Actually my best audience for this workshop has been sales people who want to close more deals and retain their customer base. Elicitation forces them to organize their thoughts about what they’ll cover before they visit or telephone their customers.

Attend this workshop and learn how to successfully conduct interviews every time. Discover how to take your collection skills to the next level, and use this session to practice your skills.

Prepare yourself to conduct a conversational interview: physically, mentally and emotionally
Conduct a conversation to optimize data gathering–whether it’s a cold or warm call
Present your findings persuasively to your client

Ellen Speaking AIIP2012 1For those of you who don’t know me (Ellen Naylor), I have been using elicitation skills since about 1985, and have led workshops at SCIP and for clients privately for many years. I keep learning new ways to be more effective, which go far beyond the elicitation skills that we learn as competitive intelligence professionals.

The fee is $125 for AIIP, SCIP and SLA members, and $150 for everyone else. This is about 1/3 what I charge when I give this training at corporations. The maximum class size will be 20, and you will get individual attention, not just from me, but from fellow attendees. For more details about this workshop, check out AIIP’s site.

For more details about the AIIP’s conference, check out the detailed schedule, and the 4 other pre-conference workshop presenters. You can register for the full conference on line, which includes the pre-conference sessions on page 2 of the registration form.  There is a member rate for my session–How to Use Conversation to Optimize Data Collection–listed at $125, but it doesn’t specify SCIP and SLA specifically. I will honor these memberships, so if you belong to either, take the “member rate.” If there is a problem, we will sort it out at the session.

Competitive Intelligence Software Integrated into Salesforce.com

Compelligence recently introcompelligenceuced the Compelligence App which is competitive and market intelligence software that integrates seamlessly within Salesforce.com. It builds off the strengths of Salesforce.com in that it helps sales close more deals since it extends the reach of Salesforce.com to include data from the competitive marketplace.  Armed with this information at their fingertips, account reps have even more time to sell. Typically, sales people and others populate the fields at various points in the sales cycle, most notably at the conclusion of the sale in conjunction with reporting results in the Salesforce.com world. This information is shared with the sales force, but can also arm marketing and competitive intelligence personnel with current information about customers, competitors, suppliers and partners as well as market trends. The Compelligence solution enables sales teams to win competitive deals faster by providing them with on-demand, customized sales strategies that are tailored to each deal.

The Compelligence App is the only app on the market that can provide sales people with customized competitive sales strategies directly within Salesforce.com.  By simply specifying the products or services that a customer is considering, the sales person is given guidance that includes:

  • Detailed competitive product or service comparisons
  • Highlighted strengths and weaknesses
  • Competitive sales positioning guidance
  • Access to relevant content and news

When I interviewed Mitch Emerson, Compelligence President and Co-Founder, he said, “We really believe our strongest unique capability is Dynamic Comparison, where we can determine relative strengths/weaknesses between sets of specified products or between products and the rest of the industry in general.  We are building this into a feature that will allow the system to create customized silver bullet lists for each sale.” Anyone who has sold or supported sales knows that silver bullets are what sales people crave, and they do help them close deals.

Mitch Emerson

Mitch Emerson

When I first read about this Compelligence App I thought, “Finally, a nice place to park the results of win loss interviews and the analysis in a place where sales, marketing and product developers can access it right in salesforce.com, a software they already know and use.” My customers have been screaming for this capability. Compelligence captures so much more, such as data from suppliers, partners and how the various players are positioning themselves in the competitive marketplace. Not only will Sales win more deals and improve retention rates with existing customers: product developers, marketing and competitive intelligence people will be armed with a real-time flow of data from customers and sales people that previously was not shared dynamically at best, and in many cases not shared at all.

The Compelligence solution is being used at Hill-Rom, a leading worldwide manufacturer and provider of medical technologies and related services for the health care industry. Another customer is electronics manufacturer, Jabil. The product is in beta trial at a major financial services company as well.

Compelligence’s CI software is available as through the Salesforce1 App exchange. You can walk through the demo and take it for a test drive.

Put your request here for a more detailed walk through with the Compelligence team. Mitch Emerson or one of his staff will provide the demo and answer your questions right on the spot.

Benefit from Analog Communication aka Conversation

When you rely solely on the Internet and social media as sources of intelligence, you just have your interpretation of what you think is going on. You perpetuate your blind spots, which we all have. That’s why I like to engage in conversation with others when I seek information for important things in my life, such as where I will attend school. I have almost completed my health study at the Institute for integrative Nutrition (IIN) to become a certified health coach. I am so pleased with how much I have learned in just a year’s time. IIN is the largest nutrition school in the world and I found them on the Internet.

health coaching IINBeing a long time researcher, I was skeptical that I could learn enough in one year to be an effective health coach. I found other programs on the Internet including a couple in Colorado not too far from home that were 2 years programs. I spoke to people at one of the programs, and since the other didn’t respond to my call, they were disqualified. I interviewed people at out of state health programs. When I spoke to people at IIN, they answered my questions thoroughly and were professional. A former student is assigned to you when you telephone IIN. She ended our call by telling me that I would have a transformational year if I attended IIN as that was her experience. “Yah right,” I thought. I did, but that’s a conversation for another time.

The point is while I found the program on the Internet, this was an important decision for me, so I reached out to several people before I settled on IIN. At my age, I also favored a one year program, since I was anxious to get my new coaching business launched, Naylor Wellness, which will focus on corporate wellness programs.

It’s a relief to me that leadership in America is stressing the importance of conversation. Perhaps there is some correction from the imbalance and overreliance of digital connections to provide us with the answers we seek in our personal and business lives.

Here is what a couple of leaders have shared about conversation versus email communication:
According to Diego Rodriguez, Partner at IDEO, “Here’s the truth: when it comes to making stuff happen, email can’t hold a candle to talking. The root issue is that email makes it difficult to recognize critical communication signals such as humor, fear, anger, defensiveness, kindness, curiosity… Empathy gets stymied. The generative give-and-take of an in-person conversation devolves into a disjointed, inefficient volley of keyboard strokes.

There’s a productivity hack that riffs on that age-old military saying, “never stand when you can sit”:

* Never email when you can call
* Never call when you can video chat
* Never video chat when you can face-to-face

Whenever possible, talk. Listen. Talk some more. Digest. And then talk again.

Yes, plain old talking is the ultimate productivity hack in situations involving anything beyond your quotidian routine. Why? Because crafting solutions to new problems demands the highest fidelity communications possible. Success comes from grappling with the most important issues via the energetic collaboration of warm-blooded human beings, each a wonderful mĂ©lange of hopes, fear, talents, and foibles.” (Excerpt from LinkedIn’s Productivity Hacks: More Talk Less Type.)

Another LinkedIn influencer, Ilya Pozin, Founder of OpenMe and Ciplex recommends that people skip social media and pick up the phone as a way to improve productivity and reduce distractions. “Let’s be honest, sometimes the quickest route to information is to actually just pick up the phone. The typical employee sends about 43 emails per day and receives a whopping 130 messages. Instead of wading through a never-ending deluge of emails, picking up the phone can be a much faster and more personal way of getting the information you need. Not only will you be building connections with your coworkers, you’ll be cutting down on your distraction-filled inbox.” (Excerpt from LinkedIn Productivity Hacks: 6 Ways to Fight Distractions).

I have certainly found the conversation to be a useful conduit to great information in my competitive intelligence practice, and wonder what others think.

How often?

Look at your intelligence on your competitors, your competitive environment, your customers, your suppliers, that is, on your entire corporate environment. How current is that intelligence? Using the above analogy, after some period of time, say 90-180 days, your data, and therefore the conclusions which you have based on that data, and the actions you have planned to take based on those analyses, are at least “cold”.

See the full post: http://diy-ci.com/2013/12/12/how-often/

Ellen Naylor‘s insight:

Add to the fact that so many just monitor Internet sources for competitive intelligence, and you can understand why companies make some uninformed decisions. Even some of the data which is news, is old news with the reporting party’s bias. You need to include conversation with people in your mix to really stay current.

How to Incent Sales to Share Competitive Intelligence

Last week I read Using Your Sales Force’s Competitive Intelligence Wisely. The source of this sales intelligence is business customers, and the reps who are the most likely to receive it are those who have formed strong customer relationships and focus on long-term customer satisfaction and placing the customer’s needs first while developing solutions to help the customer to reach their goals. These are the sales people that go above and beyond to help the customer.

Armed with this competitive information, a flexible rep will adapt their selling style and work on better solutions for the customer. Low-adaptive sellers often fail to use customer information to more strongly position a product to meet the customer’s needs, so the customer gets a negative impression of the company’s products, and also don’t see the value of sharing so they stop.

The value of good intelligence through the sales channel is precious to those in product development, strategic planning, marketing and customer service. However, it can be challenging to get sales to share with marketing, the obvious conduit to push good data to other sources in the company. The article suggested that engaging sales in collaboration to develop the company’s strategy can promote communication.

SharingLearningTogetherThe key to success in communication to and from sales is to understand your company’s sales culture, and what might be fun and engaging for them to be cooperative in sharing what they learn in a timely manner. Sales has a shorter term focus than most in the company, and they keep score so you need to give to get. At the very least, you need to thank them publicly within the company, and show them how better decisions for product development or marketing strategy were modified for the better, thanks to an individual sales person’s contribution. They also love publicity about a big sale that was made. Perhaps a competitive tidbit that they learned or shared, helped make the sale.

Go to where sales is to get them to engage. Sales managers communicate at least weekly through a teleconference or digitally on what’s happening. Become a part of this process by contributing content that sales values. Most value news about their customers that you dig up. That gives them an excuse to make another sales call and look knowledgeable. Sales people like to look good and be in the know. They also value information from their peers. Maybe you can facilitate more sharing among peers, even informally.

Most companies have annual or quarterly sales meetings. Insert yourself as a speaker, a panelist, an attendee, however you can best serve them.

Many sales people travel extensively, so they have time in the car or airplane to write, tape or text about what they’re learning. This is when they learn the good stuff: make communication easy for them. Some companies let them call in and leave a recording of what they learn or maybe even a human being answers the telephone and engages in conversation to promote even more real-time intelligence sharing. Others use a text bulletin board.

Many do sharing through their sales force management software since sales uses this extensively in the course of doing business. While this sharing might not be in-depth, it is usually enough for the intuitive person to probe deeper with select sales people and detect patterns that sales alone might not have put together. Their job is to make the sale, not to put all the marketing pieces together. This is something you can share back with sales and sales management. If you get sales management on your side, good sales people will often cooperate.

Exercise your creativity to incent sales to share. A colleague had a PC bag designed that was truly classy. She would give them out sparingly to sales people who gave her excellent leads. They became a status symbol and it was common for the sales person to display the bag in his office rather than use it.

You can have a contest each quarter and give the winner gift certificates on Amazon, dinner for 2, a sporting event, something that you know they will enjoy. You cannot compete with the money they make on the commission plan, but they appreciate the recognition and the treat.

When I worked with sales, they most appreciated that I was responsive to them when they were in touch for competitive data, since many others were not. In return, they supplied me with incredible competitive information. However, this took a couple of years to develop as it takes time to build relationships and you have to earn their trust.

Be creative in how you communicate with sales. Change up your ideas and keep them fresh. Recognize how many touch points you can have with sales, and where you can be the most useful. I guarantee they will open up over time.

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