7 Top Competitive Intelligence Blogs Read in 2016

competitive intelligenceFour of the top 7 competitive intelligence blogs were written in 2009. 2 were competitive intelligence analytic tools, which the other 2 were relationship skills: emotional intelligence; and marketing, R&D and product development relationships. These topics are timeless.

Here they are in order of popularity:

1. Templates for Win/Loss Analysis – The Win Loss request I get asked the most often is, “Can you share your Win Loss templates?” I break down Win Loss analysis questions into 4 buckets: relationship health, company reputation, product/service attributes, and servicing issues.

2. How a Good Relationship between Marketing and R&D Improves Product Development – When both marketing and R&D focus on understanding and acting on customer needs, it makes their jobs easier and their results more productive. This is a powerful competitive weapon since this is not the case at many companies. Perhaps R&D can be masters of the Art of Possibility while Marketing can master the Art of the Possible – that is what your customers want and are willing to pay for.

3. Sharpen Your Emotional Intelligence Skills – In competitive intelligence, strong emotional skills are essential since we’re often delivering bad news to management or threats to the business, which causes stress since they don’t want to hear it, even if it is the truth. Be sensitive as to how management will react to our news and analysis, and don’t spring surprises. What’s neat about EQ versus IQ, is that we can learn and be coached to improve our EQ skills.

4. How You Can Become a Conversation Rockstar – So much about life revolves around effective communication. As a primary researcher, I look for ways to motivate people to share. You need to understand what makes them comfortable to share with you. One source I read in 2016 is Traci Brown’s book, Persuasion Point: Body Language and Speech for Influence. While the book focuses on closing sales, the same tactics will work to promote sharing when conducting competitive intelligence collection or Win Loss interviews.

5. 7 Timeless Competitive Intelligence Tips – Here are a few: Company insularity is not a competitive advantage. Don’t forget that your employees are smart. What ever happened to good old fashioned customer service? Let employees create and have access to customer, sales and market intelligence.

6. Visualize Your Competitiors on a Radar Screen Competitor Map, a Great Competitive Intelligence Tool – The Radar screen is a totally visual tool which fits on one page for easy digestion. It can be used both strategically and tactically, and is a great way to visualize how competitors are positioned relative to your company and each other. The uses for the Radar Screen are endless. It can be divided into 4 quadrants which might depict competitors by 4 separate business units, 4 geographies, or 4 different reasons why customers buy. Read more about the Radar Screen in Adrian Slywotsky’s book, Value Migration: How to Think Several Moves Ahead of the Competition 

7. BCG Matrix Study: A Visual Strategic Competitive Intelligence Tool: Explanation and Case Study – Use the BCG Matrix to visually depict a share of market snap shot among competitors.

See you in 2017.

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How You Can Become a Conversation Rockstar

So much about life revolves around effective communication.

As a primary research expert, I am always looking to for ways to motivate others to share. You need to understand what makes them comfortable to share.

Traci Brown Persuasion PointI recently read Traci Brown’s book, Persuasion Point: Body Language and Speech for Influence. While the book focuses on closing sales deals, the same tactics will work to promote sharing when conducting competitive intelligence collection or win/loss interviews. I will focus on speech, since we are often conducting these interviews over the telephone, so we don’t have the benefit of seeing the other person, although we can surely sense beyond their words.

One quick and easy way to start the connection is to match their speed and tone of speech. This also pushes you over to their side by being flexible, and forgetting about yourself.

Traci describes four communication preferences:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Kinesthetic
  • Auditory Digital

First, figure out your own communication preference, so you learn how to modify your language, tone and pace to match the other person’s communication preference. If you don’t, you’re apt to lose them in your conversation.

Visual people are quick as they are often competent and confident. They think and speak quickly. If you slow down, their mind will wander. They require less detail to process information, and when they change the subject you know they are ready for the next topic. They are interested in how things look or will look. They often focus on the future and have a big picture, strategic focus. They can easily think other are idiots. They are judgmental, very observant and don’t automatically like you or your ideas until you prove yourself.

Words/phrases to use: see, look, appear, show, dawn, view. “I see what you’re saying. It’s unclear. How does this look to you?”

Auditory people learn by listening, and are interested in how things sound. They are easily distracted by noise. Tone of voice is important, and they can be hurt by the wrong tone. They like sequence and order and to be told how they’re doing. They are less interested in how things look, and live in the here and now. Structure kills them as they like freedom. A plus is they automatically like you and your idea.

Words/phrases to use: hear, listen, sound, harmonize, music. “I hear you. That rings a bell. How does this sound? Clear as a bell.”

Kinesthetic people tend to speak slowly, in long phrases and breathe deeply. Slow your speech if you’re a fast talker and be patient as conversations tend to be longer. Listen for their deep feelings to emerge slowly. They’re often in occupations that use their hands: carpenter, chef, mechanic, artist.

They need more extensive detail to process information, and respond to touch. They tend to like you and your ideas, a plus. Like Auditories, they live in the here and now.

Words/phrases to use: feel, touch, grasp, get a hold of, slip through. “Does it feel right? Do you grasp this idea?”

Auditory Digital people like detail, structure and order. They are often lawyers, computer programmers, engineers or financial professionals. They often exhibit characteristics of the other three communication preferences.

They tend to be smart, curious and know a little about most things. They can operate in their own head, are often judgmental and don’t necessarily like you or your ideas, until you objectively prove yourself.

Words/phrases to use: think, learn, process, understand, learn. “So does this make sense to you? This is a great way to learn. Do you think this is a good idea?”

In reality, many people jump among these communication preferences depending on what you’re talking about. Sometimes you can’t detect a communication style quickly enough in a telephone conversation. So pepper words of each of the communication preferences, and note what they seem to resonate most by listening to their tone and words.

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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Win Loss Interviews: Compensation and Recording

Win Lose or Draw

Win Lose or Draw

As many of you know, I am writing, Win, Lose or Draw, a book on how to set up a world class win loss program.

 

 

 

 

In this book I am sharing some best practices to capture customer intelligence through win loss interviews:

  • The Steps to Take to Establish a Sustainable Win Loss Program
  • How to Include Sales People in Your Win Loss Process
  • Determining Which Customers and Prospects to Target
  • The Value of Interviewing Wins AND Losses
  • How Your Company Culture Will Impact the Execution of Win Loss
  • What to Look for if You Outsource Win Loss Interviews and / or the Analysis
  • What You Should Cover in a Win Loss Interview
  • How to Conduct a Win Loss Interview to Maximize Sharing
  • Tips on How to Structure Win Loss Analysis

What are your best practices in there two areas:

  • Monetary Compensation to those you interview for a win or loss
  • Recording Win Loss Interviews

#1 Do you compensate the customers and prospects you interview?

If you compensate, has this improved your success at getting people to agree to be interviewed?

If you compensate, what do you think is a competitive rate per interview?

Which industries are you expected to compensate, such as doctors?

Where had you better not compensate, such as government employees?

 #2 How do you feel about recording interviews?

If you record interviews, do you transcribe them?

What software do you use?

Do you use the transcripts for data mining?

I have mixed emotions and experience in both of these areas. I tend to get a pretty good interviewing rate without compensation, but I haven’t queried doctors. I always have a good value proposition, and have an organized process which is more apt to lead to YES for the interview.

Win loss is a good use of a customer’s or prospect’s time, since it gives them an opportunity to tell you what they do and don’t like about doing business with you and the competition—after the pressure of the decision to buy has been made. Yet I am realistic in that people’s schedules are so filled these days that I am competing for their time, so sweetening the deal with a monetary reward will encourage them to find the time.

I feel kind of like a spy when I record conversations. Call me old fashioned. I have such an established shorthand for note taking that I don’t miss much, and have no problem asking them to clarify or I repeat what I thought I heard them say to slow them down a bit. I don’t mind getting back with a question after the interview since I always have their email. I always provide interview summaries, which can be data mined. My clients are more apt to read the summaries since they are a quick read compared to transcripts.

While Win Loss is a relationship business, like all business processes, it continues to evolve. With the advent of big data, some companies include win loss transcripts in their big data to more scientifically uncover trends, for example.

If you’re uncomfortable sharing your best practices on social media or my blog, please email me at ellen at thebisource.com or send me a private message on LinkedIn or Twitter.  Thanks so much. I am closing in on my rough draft for the book. It feels good to get this far.

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How Culture Affects the Win Loss Process

Culture in Win LossI continue to write my Guide to Win Loss Analysis book, which is the best of source of customer intelligence I know of. I still need to find a better title: any ideas?

I have had the pleasure of interviewing two impressive Directors of Win Loss programs. Both work for large companies that have done win loss analysis for a long while. Both emphasized the importance of company culture in how they set up their win loss programs; how they conduct win loss interviews—both internally and with customers—and how they write up the win loss analysis.

Culture at a Telecommunications Company

At a large telecommunications firm, the win loss team and sales people work cooperatively. At the outset, the win loss team worked with the various sales organizations and other key stakeholders, such as pricing and product groups, to develop an exhaustive set of testable hypotheses regarding root causes of sales successes and failures. This process had the benefits of buy-in from Sales and other key stakeholders as well as a higher quality analysis.

This telecommunication firm holds a full blown 360 internal company debrief before conducting a win loss interview with the customer or prospect. The meeting is not recorded so people share freely. Lessons learned along the way are noted as well as why those at the meeting think they won or lost the deal.

After the internal company debrief, the win loss person accompanies the sales person to conduct the win loss interview. The win loss team does not want to interfere with the rapport that sales people have developed with the customer. Thus the sales person is a member of the win loss interviewing team.

The win loss process is not a Sales witch hunt. Rather it is more holistic:

  • Why did we win or lose the bid?
  • What are the gaps in the RFP (request for proposal)?

The aim is not to assess or critique the performance of Sales outside of factual relationship questions that can be tied to a win or a loss:

  • Frequency of sales visits
  • Executive alignment from the telecommunications company with the client company’s C-levels

This cooperation permeates the win loss report. The win loss team is empathetic and sensitive to company politics and face saving in their reports on losses. The recommendations you make at the conclusion of the win loss report can impact people’s jobs. In this vein, the win loss team interviews those who are criticized during a loss interview to get their side of the story before publishing the quarterly win loss report.

Culture at a Big Four Firm

Win Loss is particularly sensitive since consulting firms only provide services. Thus there is no product to assess like there is at the telecommunications firm, so it’s entirely subjective. It’s all about the people: their skills, expertise, presentation, communication and project management. Professional services work tends to be long term, and the projects major, so wins and losses have the potential to make or break a career.

The lead sales person is an Account Partner, which adds another level of politics to the win loss process. Thus the Win Loss Director realized he needed to be collaborative with Account Partners to gain access to their accounts. Being a Director rather than a Manager gives him credibility with his company’s Account Partners and their senior level clients.

Every win loss interview is a sales job in this culture, so the Win Loss Director reduces the politics around which clients to query. He will ask the Account Partner if he can conduct a win loss interview with his client, just after the Account Partner has pitched the sale. Since this request is put forth before knowing how the deal with close, win loss is seen as less punitive.

Due to the company culture and the high stakes of most sales, the Win Loss Director assures the Account Partners, while letting them know he needs their help to be positioned for win loss interviews with their clients:

  • I am an internal third party, but I’m outside of Sales. I need you Mr./Ms. Account Partner to gain entrée to your client
  • Remember we work for the same firm so we have consistent client service standards
  • The first person I will get back to is you, Mr./Ms. Account Partner. At a minimum, I will go to you first with sensitive information so you will not be blind-sided
  • If I find damaging information, I will act with discretion, consideration, and a sense of partnership. We use what we uncover in win loss interviews as lessons learned

Recording Win loss Interviews

The culture around recording is different between the telecommunications company and this big four firm. At the big four firm, the Win Loss Director records every conversation, and asks for permission beforehand. This process gives internal clients assurance that the quoted client verbatim statements are accurate. This also gives the Win Loss Director the ability to pull out the conversation that led up to the verbatim. The report makes a great impact especially from direct client quotes which add credibility and authority to the win loss analysis. Since their conversation is being recorded, the client being interviewed feels important. They know that their feedback is appreciated and that they will not be misunderstood.

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Is Mindset Block a Lack of Listening?

Listening DogI read two great blogs in the last couple of weeks: David Harkelroad’s which asserted that the biggest problem in strategy is mindset; and an HBR blog on “What Gets in the Way of Listening?” I think they are related since if you truly listen, you are open to having your mind changed.

There are many reasons people don’t listen well. We aren’t trained on listening from childhood with the competition that seems to thrive in the classroom for the best answer, to be the best, often at the expense of the other students. Sometimes we don’t listen since we’re scared. We are trying to appear confident and assertive and miss others’ perspectives in the process.

I like the flexible mindset shared in the HBR blog, “I do have a viewpoint going in, but I don’t assume or try to show I’m the smartest person in the room. I’m willing to hear them (colleagues) out for the sake of getting the best answer, not just my answer.” Listening is a sign of incredible self-confidence. Back to David’s point about mindset. I think many leaders don’t fully listen since they aren’t confident, but they want to appear confident. In the example cited of Blockbuster’s Wayne Huizenga having the intelligence to get into digital media, there is something that stops many executives from taking corrective action. Maybe the extremely generous pay that executives receive clouds their judgment and reinforces them not to change their mindset.

“Leaders who take organizational conversation seriously, know when to stop talking and start listening.” (“Leadership is a Conversation” by Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind). When you put aside your fear and anticipation, you are more open to listening. You are fully present and ready to respond to whatever gets thrown your way. You’re not thinking about what you might say next. You realize that a critical part of your job is to fully listen. Good interviewers and journalists have known this for years.

Interestingly enough, when you focus on yourself, you can pick out your listening weaknesses.

  • Do you listen to your inner critic rather than your audience when giving a presentation or sharing findings in a meeting?
  • Do you only see your role as an information professional? (fill in your job title)
  • Does your listening shut down when you are emotionally uncomfortable?
  • Are you trying so hard to show confidence and be right that you aren’t listening?

So what can we do as marketing, strategic or competitive intelligence professionals to change our leadership’s mindset as we provide them information and insight to assist in decision-making, which perhaps doesn’t support where they were headed? I have found that many of them possess a major ego. If I can provide them with the intelligence to feed their ego in a way that makes them think it’s their idea, I don’t have to change their mindset, which I think is a lot harder. But they do change their course of  action when it becomes “their idea.”

I am curious as to how others deal with their leadership’s lack of listening ears? I know as a telephone interviewer that there are not enough listening ears and that job disengagement in the US is around 70%, so if they answer their phone, they are likely to be informative.

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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Benefit from Analog Communication aka Conversation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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