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Who Says Librarians Can’t be Analytic Competitive Intelligence Professionals?

42-21056354I taught a couple of courses about analytical tools and techniques to librarians as part of SLA’s (Special Library’s Association) competitive intelligence certificate program.  I was amazed at how quickly these librarians built off their information expertise and applied it to analytics.  Here’s an example of how they dove into win loss analysis, my favorite sales intelligence tool. We used the scenario that they sold for Dialog and were losing cases to Lexis-Nexis.

Approach
First we would identify all the products that both vendors sell by geography and their perceived value proposition to our customers. We would divide sales according to our market segments to learn which segments are growing and shrinking. We would also consider our product bundling, and would ask Sales about this. We also would look to Sales and Customer Service for their perception of client’s needs versus wants and our competitor. We would tap into our Customer Service people to learn what problems they deal with and how they resolve them. We would incorporate strategic changes to our product line and how projected new releases would affect our position in the marketplace.

This information would help us develop a profile of our product and positioning versus the competition and identify the important issues so we ask the right questions in win loss interviews.

Start-up Issues
How often do we conduct win/loss interviews? We should conduct these interviews within 3 months of the sales event so people remember. Do we involve Sales in the process or do we conduct these calls anonymously without Sales’ knowledge? The argument for anonymity is that you will get less biased answers with neutrality.  However, you might get less deep answers since the customer isn’t sure where this information is going, even though you promise confidentiality. In all cases, we must stress the confidentiality of customer’s answers.

Is Sales already doing some form of win loss analysis or did they do it previously and discontinue it “for some reason”? If you involve Sales, they have great insight as to what questions we to ask since they know their customer’s decision-making criteria.  They also can help us target the right person at each account who has the most knowledge. Overall we thought it would be better to have sales involved in helping us develop questions, to tell us who to call and some facts about their dealings with this customer, their customer’s personality, motivation and communication style. Sales can also tell us why they think they won or lost a sale. Sales might not be as strong in developing questions around product development.

We needed to have the support of senior management all the way down to Sales if we include Sales in this process. We also need to be sensitive to Sales’ relationships with their customers. Perhaps win loss analysis was conducted before and it was not a positive experience for sales, so we need to find out why and overcome those objections and make it cooperative, a win:win for all, which if done correctly, win loss analysis is!

Questions for Win Interviews
Why did they select us? Was there a particular deal swinger?
How close a call was our “win”? Was this new business or a larger contract or was it harder to win than before? Was there some hesitation to continue business with us or to maintain the same level of business?
Did they consider competitors? Who?
What do we do well that we better continue to do if we want to keep their business? What does the competition do well that we could adopt or build on?
What improvements can we make in how we conduct business?
Are there specific wants or needs that we’re not addressing?

Questions for Loss Interviews
Why did we lose? (not in those words)
Who did we lose to?
Were there also other competitors & if so, how did we rate? Why?
Terms: price and contract duration
What was the customer’s budget for this service?
What improvements can we make in how we conduct business?
Are there specific wants or needs that we’re not addressing? Is there anything we could have done which would have caused us to win the business?

I particularly liked this question for both win and loss interviews: What do we offer, which is included in our cost, which is superfluous to our customers—that is they don’t need it?

Obviously we would reword our questions and perhaps incorporate some elicitation skills to be more conversational, but I was impressed that these librarians were so insightful!

Here is an article to supplement your knowledge in win loss analysis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Ethical Considerations around Elicitation

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

3. Resources I recommend

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

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