Best Sales Intelligence Practices

Sales Team Working Together Reaching Selling GoalThis week I spoke with a competitive intelligence manager in the auto industry, who has engaged about 1/3 of his workforce in his competitive intelligence program. I think that’s pretty awesome! His key audience is sales, and he also serves product management and account managers who service the accounts. I felt a kindred spirit in our discussion since we both came from sales before plunging into competitive intelligence, although that was 30 years ago for me.

I was impressed with what he had accomplished in three years and will share some of his best practices, geared mostly to gaining competitive intelligence from sales people.

  • The company has a technology a lot like Facebook that sales and marketing use to ask and answer questions. There are so many questions that marketing will ferret out those that he can best address
  • He has set up a Sharepoint site for CI since it’s scalable
  • He set up an easy to remember email address with good brand ID that comes directly to him
  • He monitors over 100 competitors, housed in a self-service technology for employees to access
  • When he gets a question repeatedly he puts it in the CI Sharepoint, and reminds users what’s there
  • He gives presentations to sales each month. He has a goal of 10 per month, but so far his biggest month has been 7
  • He is involved in sales conference calls both as a listener and contributor
  • He is the last person on the roster to give new sales rep training. I think that’s great psychology to be last. He follows up soon after the training and they remember him. Many of them engage in the competitive intelligence program right away
  • When he sees a new person engages with the system, he reaches out to him/her to find out how he can help them further
  • He never says “no,” but he does refer non-CI requests to other departments
  • He addresses ethical issues in collection from competitors with his sales force

I appreciated his attitude to try new things. For a while, he tracked which sales were made after he gave a sales rep some information to help. He was looking to show management a ROI for his work. Sales didn’t appreciate this since his guidance wasn’t the only reason they won the deal. He discontinued this practice as soon as he learned that it was not popular with Sales, as they are both his major client and source of competitive intelligence.

Sales force management is anxious to learn how they can close more deals, so I suggested that he consider a win loss analysis program. Since his company closes thousands of deals per year, he was concerned that he might have to conduct hundreds to be statistically significant. When I asked what his specific goal for win loss is, we agreed that 100 win loss interviews could go a long way to gather in-depth customer intelligence, which appears to be a weaker link.

He produces videos and said Sales didn’t look at them as much. I suggested that he produce podcasts on competitors, new announcements etc., since sales spends a lot of time in the car. Perhaps he could interview a sales person who just won a major deal, or perhaps a win back.

What are some of your best practices to gather or give competitive intelligence to your sales reps?

Here is a timeless article, Capture Competitive Intelligence from Sales.

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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.

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.

Maximize Your ROI through Competitive Intelligence

This is the second in the series from my Pecha Kucha presentation for our SLA Competitive Intelligence tournament. In the first I described life as a competitive intelligence professional back in 1985.

This will focus on maximizing your ROI (return on investment) while providing market intelligence. You want to prove your worth as soon as you can. First you must find out what is missing that you CAN PROVIDE ETHICALLY! We conduct interviews with those who fund our competitive intelligence initiatives, as well as those we know will ultimately be great sources of CI (CI sources and users will often be the same people, but not always).

I was fortunate in that I came from field Sales, so I knew sales intelligence was an area where I could improve our company’s ROI by helping them win more deals. I had a good idea how I could help without interviewing anyone, since I knew what we were missing. We didn’t have regional detail on how to win against specific competitors. We just had a global outlook on the competition, and this was too broad to be useful. In addition, people in Sales didn’t know each other, so I could connect individuals who were combating the same competitor, and let them strategize together. Then I could share their success story so others could take advantage and win more deals. This would pump up the sales force, so they would share even more with me, since they liked this kind of publicity.

Competitive intelligence is a support role. You need to shelf your ego. I learned that I portrayed a cooperative attitude which I have since dubbed “cooperative intelligence”, which opened up the floodgates of sharing from Sales in particular. I went to them on a mission to help them, rather than to extract information from them. This was a first for them. Since I was a giver and a listener, this cut through politics and promoted information sharing. When you give without the expectation of something in return, anyone can tell.

There are more subtle ways to gain brownie points with Sales. I noticed that most staffers were coming to sales people with requests for information repeatedly, and that their requests were often for similar or even for the same information. I decided to become a conduit for others in our headquarters staff to centralize and consolidate their requests for information from Sales. Sales loved this since this reduced the number of staff requests. I also kept track of what other staffers had collected from Sales, so that I could intervene in some cases when Sales had recently already provided this data to a different staffer. Staffers appreciated this too since most of them didn’t like to call Sales with requests for information. This is a great way to insert yourself into the Sales process and prove your value. It doesn’t take much extra time, and Sales is really grateful.

Even doing all these things “right,” it still took me about 2 years to connect with Sales throughout our company. You cannot rush connection and relationships. It takes time to build trust.

It took me a little longer to connect with Sales Vice Presidents, the subject of my next blog.

12 Tips to Guarantee Your Success in Collecting Intelligence from Sales

Recently I gave a webinar for SCIP chapters in Mercyhurst and Ohio on how to capture competitive intelligence from Sales by using cooperative intelligence skills. I love serving Sales Reps since I can easily translate what I provide into an ROI benefit, namely more sales. Ongoing sales intelligence is the best tactical competitive intelligence, and it’s current.

1. First realize how Sales is motivated: they have a short-term outlook, want to look good, are often in competition with each other, and have a high need for recognition.

2.You need to Give to Sales before they will believe in you. And it better be what they need, not what your corporation wants Sales to have. Likewise if you don’t use what Sales provides, they will stop giving.

3. Gaining cooperation from Sales isn’t tough. It’s in their best interest to collect competitive intelligence to do their job, to win more deals. You just need to convince them that you’re a worthy client.

4. Find out what’s hard for them to get that they value. You have access to so much information. What about those industry analyst or financial analyst reports? How about competitor profiles you’ve developed? They’ll tell you what they need.

5. Make it easy for them to locate what you develop for them. It’s best if you can make it part of a software system that they already use like salesforce.com. Remind them where your nuggets of information reside periodically.

6. Think about ways you can help sales depending on where they are in the sales cycle. What do they already produce that you can build off of?

7. Start slow in Sales and find the right people to service. They can be low in the organization as long as they’ll publicize how great what you provided is. While Sales Reps spend a lot of time out of the office, it’s amazing how connected they can be. As you start producing the right deliverables for Sales, their bosses will find out, and you will be recognized.

8. Insert yourself into Sales events like teleconferences, conferences, webinars or blogs to maintain your visibility.

9. Be easy to find and responsive since many in corporations hide from Sales rather than service them.

10. I enjoy developing win loss analysis programs since I can cooperatively include Sales as I get positioned with their customers and prospects to learn how we can improve win rates, customer service, product features, implementation, tech support, customer testimonials, develop better products and so much more.

11. Involve Sales for Trade Show collection since they’re already at shows with their customers, so put them to work collecting competitive information since most have not a shy bone in their body. They know how to ask the right questions, so you don’t need to train them.

12. A final tip: don’t forget to ask Sales how you’re doing so you continue to deliver the right products to your sales force.

Serve Sales well and you will have job security even in a tough economy since they are the company’s revenue producers!

I have posted the Sales Intelligence presentation in Slideshare.

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?

Reviewing “Win/Loss Reviews”

This is the first book I have read on win loss analysis where Sales is the primary executor of this process. After all, Sales is the best source for sales intelligence as no one is more directly connected with your company’s customers. This is also the first book I have read where a company is using technology to collect customer intelligence from Sales which includes wins and losses.

Win/Loss Reviews is real-time intelligence collection from selected sales events. It provides Microsoft sales, marketing and product mangers with early warning intelligence like no other win loss process out there. While there is incredible value from deeper interviews of your customers by a neutral third party, there is delay both in execution and the time to assemble good analysis, and get it to the right people.

Author, Rick Marcet describes how he established a scalable win loss process using technology that hangs off Microsoft’s sales force management system. This makes it easy for Sales to input their data, no more than 15 minutes per case. He refers to Sales’ input as micro intelligence.

I particularly appreciate the psychological aspects Mr. Marcet weaves throughout this book to engage Sales cooperatively as so many in marketing and competitive intelligence fail to motivate Sales to share!

  • Sales is the primary beneficiary of these win loss reviews and the cumulative database, and they know it. After all they helped design the system.
  • Sales highly values peer-to-peer interaction, which this database of sales and customer intelligence facilitates.
  • Conducting win loss reviews is part of the sales process and is considered an “advanced” sales skill.
  • Rick also created an APP so Sales can tap into this intelligence on the fly from their Smartphones. Wow, talk about powerful and “for Sales.”
  • Win loss input is essential to be considered for various rewards and recognition at Microsoft.

However, Sales is not the only beneficiary of this real-time intelligence and cumulative win loss database at Microsoft. Product management, product development, executives, and marketing can all tap into the collective “crowd wisdom” from this database, to help them make better decisions with timely information.

Just in case you are skeptical about Sales’ bias in reporting (We win because we’re great. We lose due to price.), Mr. Marcet has factored these biases within his database algorithms.

Kudos to Rick Marcet for developing this process to capture valuable customer and competitive intelligence directly from Sales! This book is a must read for anyone in sales management, marketing especially customer insight, and competitive intelligence.

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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