Competitive Intelligence: Four Pillars for Creating a Successful Sharing Strategy

In Pragmatic Institute’s September webinar, Tim Rhodes, former director of competitive intelligence (CI) for Oracle, discussed the importance of establishing a CI sharing strategy and identified the four pillars necessary to establish a strong program: culture, CI structure, sharing process and tools. Companies that engage employees as a CI source learn important information about what’s happening in the marketplace. In addition, by developing a rich source of intelligence about their competitors’ products, marketing strategies and sales tactics, these companies are better prepared to respond to changes in the marketplace. Culture Without a collaborative culture, a company may find it challenging to create a CI program that involves internal employees. Implementing an assessment of the company culture can identify things that may need to be done differently to increase the odds of success. In siloed companies, where there is less sharing and collaboration, the key is to start small, perhaps at the team level, and then build up that culture. CI Structure Having a structure in place and someone to own the process, is a prerequisite to successfully capturing and using CI. In a recent poll, 32 percent of the respondents said their company’s CI process is ad hoc or doesn’t exist. However, when CI is done, it’s usually done at the product line or product level. This makes it particularly important to have a structure in place that is familiar to everyone. Sharing Processes In building the case for a CI sharing process, it’s important to formally share information with managers, leadership, and peers to create and nurture program advocates. This helps pave the way toward implementing a CI sharing strategy. Also, scheduling regular CI sales huddles may help create an information-sharing culture where one hasn’t previously existed, and establish an initial foundation for changing the company’s culture. It’s a great way to create a CI team within the company. These sales huddles not only give reps live access to the information that they need, but they give everyone else live access to the information they have. Let reps know these are brainstorming sessions that focus on how to win against top competitors. What sales messages are competitors using? What product feature functionality are they are leading with? What’s the customer perception on who is winning? Seek out reps who have won – and lost – against competitors and learn about the sales packets and messaging they use. It's as important to understand losses as it is to understand wins: Are there things to address from a product delivery standpoint, or a product feature functionality standpoint that may not have been known? Tools Communication tools are important, but providing collaborative tools doesn't guarantee employees will use them. Usage depends on culture, motivation, ease of use and the education and promotion of the tool. If a tool doesn’t integrate with the company’s operating system, chances are the sales and account teams won’t use it. To ensure adoption, new tools must be easy to use and extensively promoted. Internal collaborative platforms like Chatter, Yammer, etc. can help with collecting and distributing information throughout the company. Creating a successful CI sharing program requires buy-in from leaders and employees. That’s why it’s critical to develop a formal business case, include an honest assessment of the culture, and share it with everyone. That way, all employees will understand the process, the program and the expected outcomes. For more information about these four pillars and other tips for developing your competitive intelligence, listen to the full webinar with Tim and the Pragmatic Institute team.

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