Rocky Mountain #SCIP Meeting: Mar 30 #Denver

You are invited to our Rocky Mountain SCIP networking meeting on March 30.

Rocky Mountain SCIP MeetingWhere: The Bookbar MAP

Address: 4280 Tennyson St. Denver, CO 80212

Time: 6 – 8 p.m.

Cost: Cash bar. Food available too. MENU

 

Come to meet fellow competitive intelligence professionals.

We also want your suggestions for programs!

  • Where to meet?
  • What time/day to meet?
  • How often to meet?
  • What topics do you want to hear more about?
  • Which CI speakers do you want at future meetings?
  • Local speakers? National speakers? International?

We have a table reserved under Gordon’s name and SCIP. Feel free to reach out to Gordon or me (Ellen) with program suggestions, especially if you can’t attend our meeting.

BTW we have a Denver/Rocky Mountain LinkedIn group, where you can share ideas and pose questions.

Ellen Naylor                                                    Gordon Muschett

answers@thebisource.com                         gmuschett1@gmail.com

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Win/Loss Analysis Q&A from July SCIP Webinar

Q & A from July 2015 SCIP Global Chapter Webinar: “Win/Loss Analysis: How to Clinch and Keep the Business You Want.”

Win/Loss analysis

  1. Competitor analysis comes from Win/Loss analysis (interviews) or comes from Win/Loss + research? If it comes from Win/Loss what is the weight?

Competitor analysis comes from many sources, and Win/Loss interviews should be a key source since they come directly from your customers and those who selected a competitor. I would give Win/Loss a high weight, but definitely continue other forms of research in your competitive intelligence operation. Win/Loss is another piece of your competitive arsenal to analyze the marketplace.

  1. Advantages / Examples of close ended questions versus open ended?

Close ended questions are those which can be quantified, often benchmarking such as comparing your company to the other competitors across a number of categories, such as clarity of sales proposal, effectiveness of the product demo, specific product features, and industry consultant assessment.

Open ended questions are qualitative and give your customers and potential customers the chance to share their buying process in their words and how they like to communicate. You often get incredible insight from the qualitative. Whereas you ask everyone the same close ended questions, and can pull out trends once you have enough interviews to analyze.

Examples of open ended questions are:

  • What compelling goal or event spurred this buying decision?
  • Why did you decide to include our company as a contender?
  1. Where did you get your information?
  2. What information source(s) were most influential?

      3.  Can you give examples of value propositions to use?

Value propositions are an individual thing, geared for your company, industry and your customer. I often ask Sales’ guidance in developing value propositions, since they know what will make their customers talk. Here are a few general ones you can use, but it’s more effective if you individualize your value proposition to maximize customer engagement.

  • We want to improve how we do business with our customers.
  • Our customers are our best source of intelligence. We continually strive to improve our sales, marketing and product development through your feedback.
  • Win/Loss gives you an opportunity for a frank discussion about how we can improve our relationship with you and your company.
  1. Is Win/Loss just for B2B?

Win/loss is mostly for B2B. However, I have had excellent learning from B2C on occasion. In one case we got names off product registration lists and cold called the customers. The weakness was that we didn’t interview enough non-customers. Yet we gained intelligence for this customer that they had been unable to learn from any other source.

   4A. If for B2C, do you think we can use Social Web Listening to do W/L? (Complementing interviews with social web listening)

Social media is a great source especially of complaints from customers, both of your products and your competitors. These comments can help you form questions to be used in Win/Loss, and beyond that product development and customer service improvements. Also you might be able to interview some of these folks, which extends your reach to customers and prospects you wouldn’t reach through more traditional means.

  1. Can you develop / give examples of causes why you “lose”?

Here are a few reasons from my experience: bad customer references, sales too pushy, unclear proposal, generic product demo instead of one geared to the customer’s industry, price, specific product features, competitor’s customer service is so excellent (competitor is incumbent and won the business…again). There are many more…

  1. How do senior executives benefit from Win/Loss?

Most are interested in trends, which might be early warning and new or surprise findings from Win/Loss. This will depend on your company’s goal in conducting Win/Loss analysis. What executives like is that one cannot argue with the results and analysis of Win/Loss interviews since they are fueled by your customers and those who chose a competitor.

For example, the executive might be interested in a new product’s market penetration. Win/Loss might uncover some unintended uses for the product where there is little competition.

An executive might be concerned that you are losing share in your flagship product. Win/loss interviews may indicate why, and what action(s) you might take to reverse this.

  1. In practice, how long does it take for the full Win/Loss process (Win/Loss cycle)?

You can learn a lot even from conducting of 10 – 20 interviews just once. However, you will gain the best intelligence by doing quarterly or monthly Win/Loss interviews over at least one year, and even more over two years and longer. Like competitive intelligence, Win/Loss analysis is ideally an ongoing practice.

Other factors to weigh in are length of the sales cycle, complexity of decision-making, and complexity of your products or service.

  1. If you outsource Win/Loss, how can you guarantee that the interviewer knows the business and does not bias the analysis, and can get to the bottom of things?

No one knows your business like you do. However, most Win/Loss interviewers can learn your business, as long as you’re willing to share the ins and outs of how you conduct business, the sales cycle, sales proposals, product demos, the competition, industry consultant assessments, and let them communicate directly with your sales, marketing and product managers, especially at the outset of the Win/Loss engagement.

There is so much information consultants can gather on the Internet and social media as well. Unless your business is extremely technical and complex, most consultants are capable of learning enough about your business to conduct Win/Loss interviews, and will get better at it over time, not unlike how it works when you use internal sources, who usually aren’t as good at interviewing customers since they don’t do it as a full-time job.

Those who conduct Win/Loss interviews continuously pick up on new industries pretty readily, and tend to be less biased than company interviewers. In most cases, customers and non-customers share more information with a neutral third party than they will with company employees, even though they know that the consultant will be sharing the results with your company.

  1. How much time is the customer willing to spend in Win/Loss interviews?

20 – 30 minutes is the industry average. People are so busy these days. That’s why you need to learn as much about each situation before you call the customer. “Know me before you call me,” is today’s mantra in Win/Loss interviews.

The length of time might differ depending on the industry, and the customer’s culture. Those in technology often are pressed for time, and thus it’s more challenging to get them to agree to a Win/Loss interview. It also depends on the position they hold in the company. Executives tend to give me less time, but they usually impart great information quickly which is spot on.

   10. Is Win/Loss an activity that is just for large contracts or unexpected losses, or can it be used on a much smaller level by sales reps looking to turn a small account around?

Win/Loss is best suited for larger, more strategic wins and losses. That said, Win/Loss can be used however you think your company will best benefit from it. It could be that what you learn from turning around that small account can be used for numerous other accounts, which might be highly profitable.

   11. Who should be involved in the Win/Loss process? My previous experience suggests that sales people do not take kindly to evaluation from other departments. Are CI teams well placed for this or should this be a bigger exercise involving sales, country directors, etc.?

This is a great question, and it involves assessing your company’s culture, and how best to sell Win/Loss to Sales and other departments such as marketing, product development, and your Web intelligence collectors.

Ideally sales, marketing and product development should be involved in setting up the Win/Loss process. CI is often part of one of these groups, and is well suited to do the analysis as long as they have the tactical knowledge of the company’s and competitor’s products and services.

Win/Loss is not just assessing sales performance. You are assessing marketing, product development and your company’s reputation. Most of the buying decision is made before Sales is contacted by prospective customers. A big part of Win/Loss is learning how your company made the short list before they called Sales. Sales is more challenged by this process since someone else is contacting their customers/prospects, and they don’t have control over this, and many in Sales feel they own the customer relationship.

A great way to get Sales’ buy-in for Win/Loss is to have them help set it up, and form the questions that they would like to learn from customers. In my experience over time, Sales will give you customers and lost customers they want interviewed for Win/Loss.

  1. How would you go about starting Win/Loss in a company that doesn’t currently embrace it?

Much of this is answered in question #11 above.

You need to assess your company’s culture, and figure out who is likely to support Win/Loss and who is likely to feel challenged by it. Win/Loss is a sales job, not unlike competitive intelligence.

There is much confusion about what Win/Loss analysis is. Part of the sales job is to educate people as to what it is, and what’s in it for them to cooperate, and specific benefits they can expect from the results.

It is the only form of competitive intelligence I know of that has a clear measurable ROI (return on investment). Following are some of the measurable benefits from Win/Loss analysis.

  • Increased revenue, profit or volume of sales.
  • Increased customer loyalty from interviewing wins means improved customer retention: how much repeat business is that worth?
  • Reduction of buying cycles: how much additional revenue or profit does that generate?
  • Reduced costs through insights into competitors’ value chains.
  • Identification of new markets and applications for existing products where competition might be low.
  • Increased sales force productivity.
  • Increased proposal win rate.
  • Improved product design by identifying features and functionality customers will buy.
  • Refined capacity for negotiation with vendors and buyers.
  • Better quality prospects: less time wasted on poor prospects.

To learn more about how to conduct your company’s Win Loss analysis, check out my book: Win/Loss Analysis: How to Capture and Keep the Business You Want.

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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.

How to become an expert in primary intelligence: Interviewing

Last night I gave at talk to our DC SCIP chapter on primary intelligence collection and elicitation. I promised I would share the slides with attendees. They are on Slideshare.

Here are some of the key points from the talk about interviewing. The next blog will cover key points on elicitation.

When conducting an interview, most people know who you are and why you want to talk to them, except when you are cold calling, which is what we do often enough in competitive intelligence.

The first step in primary collection regardless of whether it’s a standard interview, elicitation or some combination is preparation. Do your homework. Find out about the person you will talk to, even if it’s a cold call. At the very least, you know their profession and their industry, which will help you develop reasons why they would want to talk with you, and more importantly, share! Do not skimp on this upfront time. Often conversations and interviews don’t go as planned. If you have done your preparation, you can more easily be flexible and go with plans b, c or d!

As you prepare for your collection project, think about what it is you will share and NOT share before you pick up the telephone or attend that trade show.

Think about why people will be motivated to share with you based on who they are: their profession, personal issues, politics, predisposition, and emotional intelligence. Be sensitive as to how they like to be communicated with based on how they come across in those first few seconds of the call or the meeting, and alter your communication style accordingly to a dominant, expressive, conscientious or amicable type. Recognize that people may change their practice and predisposition when they are under stress.

Reword your questions to motivate people to open up and share. Start with open ended questions that are easy for them to answer, and that you think they will enjoy answering. Then move to more hypothetical questions and indirect questions before you get to the more narrow questions. I find that bracketing those narrow questions gets a better response.

Listen closely to what the target is telling you, and be flexible. Perhaps they really don’t know the answers to some of those issues that you thought they would know. What are they not sharing that you thought they knew? Did they really know it or are they purposely not telling you? With so many participating in social networks there are too many self proclaimed experts who aren’t so expert once you start probing.

Lay aside your preconceived notions. Many of us listen for what we think is the ‘right’ answer or for what we want to hear. We don’t listen to the full story that the other person is telling us. Listen and put your ego aside if you want to be good in primary collection.

If you are at a trade show or another form of in-person collection, take advantage of the person’s body cues. Do the words match the facial and body expressions? If they don’t, believe the body: it’s easy to lie. In America, people often misinform. They are often just trying to be helpful, but it’s misinformation. Sometimes that’s harder to discern. One way is to make an obvious mistake in a key assumption or statistic as I ask a question. If they don’t pick up on it, I am suspicious about their knowledge level.

Also realize when dealing with people in person that it’s easier for people to manipulate their smiles and facial expressions, less easy for them to control other parts of their body such as their shoulders, arms, legs, feet and breathing.

If you are connecting on the telephone listen for a change in their tone of voice, pitch, cadence, confidence, speed of speech, hesitation, sigh, shallow breathing, silence. There are so many cues when you listen to people beyond what they say or don’t say. Trust your intuition: it’s usually right.

In closing, many people asked me how I represent myself when I talk to people. I tell them who I am right away. Many people seem to think there is one approach that will work with every person, that there is a simple answer to this question. There isn’t. You should choose to be ethical when you conduct research. SCIP has a code of ethics; AIIP and SLA have codes of ethics. Your company probably has a code of ethics or business practices they want you to follow. But most importantly you have to be true to yourself.

BTW, if you want to watch a great interview check out John Clees here and look for my next blog on elicitation.

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.

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.

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