Competitive Intelligence in 1985

ImageWhen I wrote my Pecha Kucha presentation for our SLA Competitive Intelligence tournament, I decided to go back in time to 1985, the first year I focused entirely on competitive intelligence. This is the first in a series about how I evolved in my career in competitive intelligence, and what I have learned over time. Overall I am glad I had a start back then for the critical thinking and deeper relationships I developed. I am glad to still be in this field today where I can reach out to sources quickly that I would never have dreamed even existed, thanks to social networking.

1985 was a very different time and I will focus on the US.

  • Gas was $1.09/gallon
  • Movies were $2.75
  • Rent averaged $375/month
  • The Fed’s interest rate was 10.75%.

Technical differences were also noteworthy:

  • Windows 1.0 was introduced
  • CDs were introduced in the US in 1985
  • The first mobile telephone call was made in the UK by Ernie Wise

I started to focus on what we called competitive analysis just before the Society of Competitive Intelligence (SCIP) was formed, and didn’t learn about SCIP until 1989, two years before SCIP published its first membership directory. I worked for Bell Atlantic, a new company then, a Baby Bell from the initial AT&T divestiture. We were working out our company infrastructure as I was figuring out how best to provide and collect competitive intelligence.

I did not have a PC at my desk. My telephone was the most immediate form of communication with most of the company, although I could easily have in-person meetings with our product and marketing managers who sat close-by. In fact I had to be careful not to attend too many of their meetings else I wouldn’t get my work done. It correlates somewhat to spending too much time on email and social networks today.

We shared a fax machine among many of us, and waited in line at the photocopy machine. Secretaries typed up memos and reports. We took notes by hand. We memorized people’s phone numbers and had a Rolodex of names. I cross referenced my Rolodex names by job function in case I forgot a person’s name. We used company mail and US mail (which we didn’t call snail mail) for written communication.

Presentations would be typed up, given on overhead machines or written up on flip charts. I spent less time putting together presentations through these primitive means than I do today on PowerPoint decks since our standards were lower. I think people spent more time listening to what you had to say back then, since what you produced wasn’t much to look at. It also meant you had to know your stuff since there wasn’t the crutch of media to support you. People asked more questions and had more comments since they couldn’t easily get smart before a meeting like we can today by accessing the Internet to read up a bit.

I read the news in hard copy. We distributed news sources like Time, Business Week and Fortune among ourselves. I got my own copy of The Wall Street Journal which I read daily. We noted who got which industry consultant reports and subscriptions throughout Bell Atlantic. It could be that our Philadelphia office would get the only copy of an expensive industry report, and we would have to wait our turn to read it due to copyright issues.

The first organizational thing I did was a personal SWOT. My strength has always been visionary. I can see the big picture pretty readily and am creative. I am not strong with the details and execution although I am highly intuitive. I was lucky and found a wonderful lady to work with who was great with people and had a similar work ethic to mine. Unlike me, she was attentive to detail and great with execution. Over time we became a strong team, and are still friends some 25+ years later, although we live 2000 miles apart.

Our opportunity and our immediate threat were the same thing:

  • Learn how each of our regions communicated
  • Learn each region’s culture
  • Learn how individuals were motivated to share
  • Learn how individuals and each region would accept facts and ideas from a centralized group outside their region, namely us

We had to talk with each other more often than we do today, since there was no email; no voice mail or social media connection. I got copies of company’s (competitor’s) press releases from my company’s industry liaison person soon after she received them, so I could pass on the scoop to my company clients.

We had to use our creativity to achieve real-time intelligence, since people were our only real-time source, and we had fewer people we could reach out to since our world was smaller. On a positive note, our relationships with people were deeper, perhaps since we had fewer relationships. Our critical thinking skills were naturally sharpened with these deeper relationships. I had a few people outside the company that I had provocative discussions with often. These people helped me reach outside of Bell Atlantic’s culture and expand my vision of the competitive environment.

Independence or Not?

It’s Independence Day in the US, and it makes me wonder how independent we are as individuals. These thoughts were inspired by “The Busy Trap” in the New Times by Tim Kreider.

How many times have you heard people say, “I am too busy. I am soooo busy.” Are most of us really busier than we used to be? Or are we imposing busyness by all the distractions of everyday 21st century life? I think the only ones who are truly too busy are those who are pulling 3 jobs barely scraping by; students who also work long hours while at university; single parents who no longer have the means to support their family; and those who take care of their elderly parents while also raising kids and working. Not only are they too busy, they are tired and we are losing their creativity while they are in these circumstances.

I traveled a lot in the last month to Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, DC, Virginia and Maryland. While I didn’t think about it, I found myself engaging with the present, with the people I was around and paying less attention to my social networks. I found myself a lot more relaxed, and less busy! I slept longer and was in a better mood. Laughter, which comes easily to me, was ever present. How many ways do you need to connect every day? Do you have to be connected to Twitter and Google+ constantly? How often do you need to log into LinkedIn not to mention Facebook and Foursquare? Do people really need to know what you’re doing all the time and where you ate and what airline you’re flying? Knowing when to connect on social media is a competitive advantage for individuals and for companies. Knowing when not to connect gives you more independence.

We have have had a record amount of fire destruction in Colorado already this summer. I don’t watch TV, another way that I am less busy. Last week when the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs expanded ferociously from the wind gusts and dryness, I was in touch with the present through Twitter feeds and the live video-stream on the Internet. Soon we will have systems in place to help the many families who lost their homes build back their lives.

So how does this translate into competitiveness? We are flooded with incoming information and ways that people steal our time from us, if we pay attention to all of it, or even to too much of it. You don’t need to know ALL the information out there about your marketplace, new technology, the economy, the political situation, your customers, your suppliers and your competitors. Rather you need to know WHEN to pay attention when you are NOTICING CHANGE. If you spend too much time listening to all the chatter you might miss the important changes or your ability to predict how the marketplace is evolving and what you need to do to stay on top or at least to stay competitive!

So on this Independence Day, think about how you are going to regain some lost time in your life by turning down some of that “social noise,” tempting though it be. Learn how to relax again. I plan to enjoy my Mom today who is 94 and is visiting us. Maybe that’s why “The Busy Trap” spoke to me. I want to relish the time I have with her today. BTW she is napping now.

Timing is Everything in Win/Loss Interviews

Too many product managers seem to avoid customer interaction. While they know that customer Insights are useful to define products, features and the marketing message, there is this fear of customer confrontation. Yet most customers are actually quite willing to share the experience of dealing with your sales force, and how they chose your product or a competitor’s.

In a recent webinar I learned a few new things about the psychology behind conducting win/loss interviews. I have always told clients to makes sure that the sale is complete and implemented before handing them off to me to interview. In the webinar, Steve Johnson of discussed the timing of the win/loss interview.

Customers are the least confident during implementation, and often experience stress, so you are less likely to get a clear headed reaction to their decision-making process, and what features they do/don’t like or what they think of your products or marketing message. They will be preoccupied with the process of implementation. For example, they might have thought they would get more handholding or professional services during implementation.

Timing is everything in life, and the same is true in win loss analysis. I think the best time to call customers is after implementation, since how that went will often affect their desire to do future business with you or the competition. If implementation did not go well with a lost customer, you might have a chance to jump back into the sales mode sooner. The loss interview will uncover this. You will also learn, in detail, how the competition implemented the product or service, which is great competitive intelligence. The customer is more level headed after the stressful implementation phase is complete and they are trained on how to use the product.

Another observation: It used to be rude to email customers/prospects to schedule win/loss interviews. Now, this is the best way for connection. People appreciate knowing who you are; the value proposition of partaking in a win/loss interview; and that you are not trying to jump back in to sell. Another reason I like to connect via email ahead of time is I hope that they will pick up the telephone when I call them. Caller ID is not a win/loss interviewer’s friend since many people won’t pick up the phone unless they recognize the telephone number.

I like it the best if my client informs their customers and prospects that I will be calling. Better yet, if Sales informs all prospects and customers during the sales presentation that win/loss interviews are part of doing business, and they occur after the sale is consummated and the product is installed regardless of who wins the business: your company or a competitor.

Win/loss learning is often more about the failure of the selling process rather than selling the product. There were several sources that Steve shared that are worthwhile for those who want to understand customers and the buying and selling processes.

The New Rules of Sales Enablement by Jeff Ernst – This explains that the way we sell is often out of synch with how people want to buy.
Buyer Persona – Adele Revella instructs people on how to ask probing questions to learn what matters to your buyers. This relates to win/loss since it’s by probing that you learn the real reasons why your buyers choose you or your competitors, or decide to do nothing at all. You want to uncover how to delight the person who is buying your solution. Other books include: Innovation Games and Never Eat Alone.

In conclusion, if you just have one time to conduct win/loss interviews, wait until after implementation or a rule of thumb is wait 2-3 months after the sale closes. If you wait too long, they’ll forget the details around the sales event that you are trying to collect and analyze.

Win/Loss Analysis book gives you a process to learn why you’re losing business and how to keep more of it!

Receive our 6-page Win/Loss Cheat Sheets

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Six Things you Can Learn from Conducting Win Loss Interviews

I am always surprised that more companies don’t have a formal win loss program since the ROI is amazing, and what you learn from this process can often be quickly implemented.

To conduct win loss, interview your customers or lost customers shortly after the sales event to find out why they chose to do business with you or decided on a competitor. The data gathered combines sales intelligence and knowledge from customers, competitors, and your marketplace. Those companies that do win loss analysis claim to improve their win rate by 15-30%. That’s a nice return on investment.

Here are some improvements I have helped companies uncover through win loss interviews and analysis.

1. Improve sales professionalism: Benefit-more customers and customer retention.

Beware of the sales person who is fixated with, “How are we doing compared to the competition?” This is a turnoff. In one recent case, this behavior cost the sale. The customer was strongly leaning towards this company’s solution, but the account rep rubbed the decision-maker the wrong way with his pushiness to close the deal. This was a gift to the competition. This behavior is most injurious when your product really isn’t that different from the competitor’s.

2. Improve the quality of your customer testimonials: Benefit-more customers

This one comes up often. Make sure you have picked respectable and responsible people among your customers to represent your product or service. Make sure they really know your product, and can answer just about any question your prospect might have. Provide enough customer testimonials, so prospects have a choice and you are not overburdening your testimonial customers.

3. Improve implementation, training and service: Benefit-customer retention

I hear this one time and time again. Companies often get careless after the sale is made, and don’t hold the customer’s hand enough during implementation and during that period of time when the customer is ramping up and learning how to use your product or service. Make it easy for them. Ideally assign them a dedicated rep, so they don’t have to repeat their story to a new “help desk” rep every time. This continuous repetition is also not efficient for your staff. Get it right sooner and you will have happier customers, less downtime and fewer help desk calls.

4. Focus on Product Features Your Customers Value the Most: Benefit-more customers and customer retention

You will find out about features that your product doesn’t offer that the competition does or does better. This isn’t always a quick fix, but sometimes it is. However, this knowledge can fuel product development. More immediately this information helps Sales focus on your product features that customers value the most, perhaps by vertical market, knowledge that also comes out of win loss interviews.

5. Learn Which Clients Are and Are Not Good Prospects: Benefit-qualify the right customers sooner. More customers

Good sales people tend to focus on solving the customer’s business problems with your company’s solution. They usually are not fixated on the competition, but rather on your company’s solution. Win loss data can help provide fuel for how and why your solution is the best, and where it is not so strong. Knowing which clients are not good prospects for your service gives Sales more time to focus on better prospects, which improves close rates and revenue.

6. Don’t Forget to Research Wins: Benefit-customer retention and incredible intelligence, not just competitive intelligence

Many companies just want to focus on losses. Wow, are they missing the boat. Your customers are usually a better source of intelligence. Generally they will spend more time telling you what you’re doing right; what you’re doing wrong; and provide you with ideas for product development and the competition. They will tell you about implementation, service and how well your product is working for them (or not). Psychologically they want you to be successful. They chose your solution. Their sharing is a reflection on their good business decision using your company’s solution.

Conclusion: This is just a smattering of what you can uncover in win loss interviewing. If you analyze the data, you can quickly uncover trends in your business, and more importantly take corrective action.

What have you uncovered in win loss interviews to help your company or your client?

Connecting with Business Colleagues in Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for sharing, caring and expressing gratitude. I am grateful to have so many wonderful friends in business. In the spirit of cooperative intelligence and sharing, I recently was a panelist in a SLA Competitive Intelligence division (CID) webinar on “Integrating Marketing and Sales to Capture & Deliver Intelligence.”  While this is an SLA CID member benefit, all four of us panelists posted our slides on Slideshare.

I will list us in the order we presented so you have the benefit of a good flow:

Susan Berkman: Producing Intelligence for Sales & Marketing

Marcy PhelpsCompetitive Intelligence for Marketing Professionals

Ellen NaylorCollaborating with Sales

Anna Shallenberger: Research & Analyzing Competitors

Sponsored by Aurora WDC aka Arik & Derek Johnson

Likewise we just concluded a series of Colorado Future Ready blogs on SLA’s FR365 site which features a blog a day. This was initiated by Cindy Romaine, current SLA President as of Jan. 1, 2011. Here is the list and links to each of our Colorado blogs:

Who is SLA? by Connie Clem

Introducing eBooks into the Denver Public Schools by Charles Leckenby

The Value of Information Professionals by Laura Cullerton

How Cooperative Intelligence will make you Future Ready by Ellen Naylor

Economic Gardening by Recca Larson

Collaborative Librarianship by Joseph Kraus

Take a Risk: Reap the Rewards by Shelly Walchak

In closing, here is a poem about Thanksgiving that one of my Facebook buddies shared today. Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow or not, I think it presents a good way to view life!

Thanksgiving…. More Than A Day

As Thanksgiving Day rolls around,

It brings up some facts, quite profound.

We may think that we’re poor,

Feel like bums, insecure,

But in truth, our riches astound.

We have friends and family we love;

We have guidance from heaven above.

We have so much more

Than they sell in a store,

We’re wealthy, when push comes to shove.

So add up your blessings, I say;

Make Thanksgiving last more than a day.

Enjoy what you’ve got;

Realize it’s a lot,

And you’ll make all your cares go away.

By Karl Fuchs

4 Steps to Plan for Successful Win Loss Interviews

I am in the planning stages of a win loss analysis project and in the spirit of cooperative intelligence will share why many of these endeavors don’t shed much light and never really get off the ground. One reason is the person conducting the win or loss interview does not have all the material s/he needs before conducting the interviews. Often people ask me for the template that I use when conducting the interviews. While that’s important, I find that people will tell me what they know once I get to interview them. The real challenge is convincing them to take the time for the interview in the first place!

What you need to get in the door:

 #1 Basic Sales Intelligence about the situation for each person/company you will be interviewing. At a minimum, I like to have:

The Company’s Name I will be interviewing

The Customer’s Name(s) (I like to get two or three if possible and let the customer decide who has time for this interview.)

Customer’s Title

Customer’s Contact Information: Phone number AND email address

Account Rep’s Name

How Long with the Company

Annual Revenue from theSale

Approximate Date of the Sales Decision

Win, Loss or Undecided

If Win, check what applies: Incumbent, Win back, Win with Competition, Win with little competition, Customer testimonial already

If Loss, check what applies: Was previously a customer, Was Never a Customer. Loss to ______ fill in the name of the Winner

All competitors whether win, loss or undecided

Deal Summary (Share the relevant details around the win or loss including the key challenges.)

Specific to the industry or customer. I will create categories of “customer” based on what marketing tells me, so sales can just check that off. I want to make this as easy as I can for Sales.

#2 A good value proposition as to why the customer or prospect wants to talk to you that you will either tell them over the phone or email to them in advance of a phone call to schedule a convenient time to connect.

#3 Flexibility on time and communication for the feedback you need on the win or loss situation. This is the real challenge today. So many people are doing the work of 4 people that they simply don’t have time. Some have that 15-20 minutes that you need to go over a survey and also allow them to simply tell you the real reasons why you won or loss and share precious nuggets about their business and the competitors. Others don’t, so you need to be creative about letting them tell you their story. Sometimes it’s useful to let them tell you some hard hitting information via email and then have a 10 minute call.  Somehow this isn’t as painful to them. Ironically it would probably take less of their time to give you a 20 minute call since email does take time to compose but somehow it often isn’t perceived that way.

#4 Research the companies and the people that you will be interviewing. In yesteryear I spoke to Sales to get this information. Now Sales doesn’t have time to talk to me in most situations, so I check out LinkedIn and other social networks to get an idea of how that person I need to connect with will be motivated to share based on their communication style. This is a good use of time since you can customize your communication based on this intelligence and this really opens up sharing. If you don’t know the company, check out their site so you can appreciate what they do.

So, I have shared the start to my win/loss projects, what do you have to add?

Win/Loss Analysis book gives you a process to learn why you’re losing business and how to keep more of it!

Receive our 6-page Win/Loss Cheat Sheets

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Real-Time Competitive Intelligence

Competitive Intelligence has historically focused on strategic and tactical forms of intelligence. In fact, SCIP changed its acronym from Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals to Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals. While competitive intelligence is an important component in strategic planning, and companies benefit from scenario planning: many companies miss the boat by not conducting and communicating competitive intelligence in real-time. Real-time competitive intelligence deserves to be a focus within the profession.

Many companies think they are conducting real-time competitive intelligence since they monitor their market landscape continuously on the Internet and increasingly through social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook as well as industry specific forums or social networks like Ning. While monitoring is the foundation of real-time market intelligence, it is not actionable. The action you take in real-time will give you a competitive advantage.  As David Meerman Scott said at our AIIP conference, “Speed and agility bring competitive advantage…Act now before the window of opportunity vanishes.”

That’s the point: many in competitive intelligence sit on the knowledge they gain from monitoring the environment. I think part of the reason is that competitive intelligence is a staff job, and many in the profession don’t have the authority to take action. Some corporate cultures reward information hoarding, the exact opposite of sharing and taking action.

However, competitive intelligence managers can inform our company employees in real-time, and in areas where we have more knowledge, we can make recommendations. The balancing act in our job is to offer cooperative intelligence: don’t inundate people with too much information, just what you know is important to them.

When you read a rumor about a competitor or marketing trend that could significantly impact your company, check it out right away. This usually involves talking to another human being. That’s why having a deep human source network is essential for every competitive intelligence practitioner.

When you’re at a trade show, report back your findings several times during the day to the sources in your company who are asking. Invariably your findings bring up more questions.

It’s interesting that Sales will quickly follow up with leads immediately after a conference or trade show. With the same exuberance, you need to fire off a report of your key findings to those who need to know, and those you suspect should know. Don’t put it off: some of the most timely intelligence comes from trade show interviews. What I really like is that much of this is not published yet, and can be used to give your company’s marketing, sales and product teams a leg up.

When you hear that a competitor is merging or acquiring another company, put the word out immediately at your company, especially to sales people, as they can reassure your customers that your good service will continue, and perhaps instill doubt about the merged competitor entity.

The point is those companies that take action more immediately are the winners these days. Those that ignore events or sit on valuable information lose. What has been your experience with real-time competitive intelligence?

Real-Time Competitive Advantage

I am enjoying David Meerman Scott’s book, Real-Time Marketing & PR. He explains the competitive advantage to companies and individuals of being responsive to events that affect them in real-time: that means right NOW, not tomorrow. No longer can you just monitor the news: you have to take action! In this book he tells the story of how United Airlines broke Dave Carroll’s Taylor guitar. Dave Carroll, a songwriter gets back at United with a song about how United breaks guitars which becomes a YouTube hit. The saga continues as Taylor Guitar and Calton Cases (yes you guessed it, they created Dave Carroll guitar cases) capitalized on this event, by responding quickly and decisively. A most amusing story, if you’re not United who came out smelling like a skunk. David tells the story here.

I hadn’t really thought about real-time response as a competitive intelligence professional. Often we’re so busy monitoring, studying and analyzing competitors, market trends and our customers that we ignore what action we should be taking right now to be more competitive. So many companies are stuck in the past and the future and forget that we operate in the NOW!

How many companies are connected to their customers in real-time? Some listen to what their customers say on Twitter and other social media, which is a step in the right direction especially for companies in the B to C space. But what about companies selling B to B? How do they stay connected to their customers in real-time? At SCIP’s annual conference, Rick Marcet spoke about the win/loss model that he developed at Microsoft which is fed by sales. This is the best example I can think of continuous learning from customers. These assessments are completed at the conclusion of the sale, while the information is fresh, and is viewed as part of the sales process. The company takes action on an ongoing basis based on these results. You can read more about this in Rick’s soon to be published book, Win/Loss Reviews: A New Model for Competitive Intelligence.

Carrying this a step further: how many companies have real-time communication with their employees? While many companies claim that their employees are their biggest asset: how many companies really listen to them on a regular basis? Southwest Airlines comes to mind immediately as they solicit suggestions from employees, implement the winning suggestions and reward employees appropriately. This is America’s second largest airline, and has been profitable in an industry which has slim margins and where most competitors have had a bout with bankruptcy.

Almost every company monitors its competitors and the marketplace it perceives that it competes in. However, too many companies just monitor these activities using Google and other forms of electronic connection and social networks. I think this is just a first step and that winning companies take action based on what they learn, and they don’t need to get the board’s approval. Companies that are excellent also have a human source network that they are connected to in real-time who they can count on to be responsive as business needs dictate.

As our world becomes smaller and more easily connected through the Internet and social media, this real-time connection and communication is becoming a way of doing business. Don’t be left out by disallowing your employees to participate in real-time. You will never have enough information to be certain that you are correct, but if you wait until you’re sure of what you “should say” or “should do,” you will be too late.

Your Employees are Your Competitive Advantage, REALLY

How many companies say “Our Employees are Our Most Important Asset,” but their actions don’t match these hollow words?

This is not the case at Southwest Airlines, where employees are valued in all phases of their relationship with the company’s management from the hiring process; allowing them to do their job and to make decisions that don’t quite follow the “rules,” but are often the right decision for the circumstance; to letting an employee go—tough LUV—who isn’t a match for the company’s culture.

Colleen Barrett, Southwest Airlines President Emeritus, was our keynote speaker at ASP’s (Association of Strategic Planning) annual conference. Her recently published book, Lead with LUV, co-authored with Ken Blanchard details Southwest Airline’s formula for success.

One of my favorite quotes from the book epitomizes Southwest Airline’s history:

“Profit is the applause you get for creating a motivating environment for your people and taking care of your customers.”  The airline has been profitable since 1973 two years after it was formed. Hmmmm treating your Employees as Customers works!

Another favorite quote: “We’re in the Customer Service business—we just happen to provide airline transportation.”

Southwest Airline’s employees do their best to ensure that Customers have a safe, on-time flight, for a reasonable price, with as little stress as possible, in a caring environment with a little humor to boot. In these tough times, Southwest Airlines does not charge an extra fee for luggage, unlike all its competitors who do. A resulting customer benefit is that the planes are not crammed full of luggage which takes a long time to stuff into compartments. A resulting operational benefit is passengers get on and off the planes faster, so Southwest Airlines can turn them around faster than the competition.

Employees follow servant leadership practices where they serve first and lead second at every level of the company. This promotes the egalitarian attitude that prevails at Southwest Airlines and makes it such a desirable place to work! Servant leadership was inspired by Robert K Greenleaf: A Life of Servant Leadership by James Sipe and Don Frick . In addition to traditional approaches, such as sending out cards on employees’ birthdays or anniversary dates of hire, the company sends notes of sympathy and condolence to employees when their family members are sick or die. As in cooperative intelligence leadership, all levels of management pitch in to get the job done. When the plane lands, everyone rushes to clean it out, including the pilots, as one of Southwest Airline’s competitive advantages is the speed with which that aircraft is back into the air producing revenue.

Southwest Airlines has a painstaking hiring process, and they run a lean operation. While many candidates have simlar professional qualifications and experience, it’s the right attitude and behavior that differentiate those who are hired and who stay—which is most employees. What differentiates my experience with Southwest Airlines, is the fun that the employees share with us customers.

One of my favorite customer service stories Colleen shared was just after 9 11 when one of the pilots rented a bus to take his stranded, stressed out passengers to the movies. He didn’t have to ask management’s permission, and didn’t tell management what he had done. Management heard from delighted customers. Southwest Airlines has many, many delighted customers. It has grown to be one of the largest US carriers from its humble roots in 1971, where it had to fight hard against the major US airlines to even enter the business.

Southwest Airlines is true to its original goal to make air transportation affordable for most people. What’s interesting to me as a competitive intelligence professional is how Southwest Airlines has publicized its competitive advantages for years giving its competitors the opportunity to study, analyze and adapt them to their operation. The one thing that just doesn’t translate is the supportive, egalitarian and fun loving culture that Southwest Airlines has valued right from its inception.

I was one of the lucky ASP attendees to win a copy of Colleen’s book which she signed “with LUV”.

Win/Loss Analysis book gives you a process to learn why you’re losing business and how to keep more of it!

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Improve Your Competitive Intelligence Skill: Move out of Your Comfort Zone

Yesterday I impatiently waited for the lady driving the car in front of me to turn left onto the Freeway. The coast was wide open. Her head just kept wagging from left to right for what seemed like an eternity. So I went around her onto the right hand lane to turn left. As I swung onto the Freeway, so did she. She was going straight across the Freeway to a restaurant. I never assumed that’s where she was headed, as I always turn left from that lane as does most of our neighborhood. Fortunately, I stopped in time and she got to her destination.

How often do we get stuck in patterns and either make mistakes or don’t see events coming?  In competitive intelligence, we look for what is missing or what looks odd or out of place since oddity often is a precursor to change. How many people predicted that the overturn of the Tunisian government would lead to the riots in Egypt and the resignation of 30 year dictator, Hosni Mubarak? And now the wave continues to grow in that part of the world as other country’s citizens express discontent with their government. It reminds me of the surprise the world felt when the Iron Curtain tumbled in 1989.

There is always surprise in life and business. How we prepare ourselves for surprise is what separates the excellent from the average. I find I react better to surprises if I move out of my comfort zone more often.

  • Don’t rely on RSS feeds too much! That’s too much the same old same old.
  • Be spontaneous and pick up magazines you don’t normally read.
  • Pursue Twitter links that are out of your mainstream.
  • Comment on blogs out of your mainstream.
  • Go to a trade show which is not relevant to what you do.

In cooperative intelligence, I follow the time tested “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.” Retain and cultivate your Gold relationships, but keep your connections fresh!

Don’t always rely on the same colleagues to support your research projects. Reach out to new people, and prevent yourself from being blindsided by industry changes, new competitors, innovative technology and regulatory change. Seek new sources of intelligence on the Internet and social networks, but don’t forget the reliable standbys. Did you know that Highbeam Research is coming out with a business research product that will compete with Hoovers? Connect with people on LinkedIn that you don’t know, who are not “relevant” to what you do. You won’t believe how many more people you can connect with for research projects when you have over 10,000 first connections rather than the 300 people you already know!

The explosive growth of e-publishing makes me squirm as a prospective book author. However, I am squirming less as I just attended a class on “how to” given through our Denver Author U by the good folks at Darkfire Productions! Darkfire Productions will format your book for e-publishing. I’m excited as a first time book writer, since I don’t have to wait 1 year to get my book published! I have only myself to blame for any delay in getting published.

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