Many of us in CI are very good at digging up good insightful data and providing relevant analysis. We’re not so good at the human issues of connection and communication, which is where librarians run circles around many of us. Librarians get where their role is in the company, that it’s evolving and provide it with a spirit of service and giving. They also know what they don’t know and learn about it.
Often in competitive intelligence we’re so busy looking externally at the competition and market conditions that we forget to consider how we can improve our own operation by investigating ourselves. Before I look at a company’s competitors, I always like to take a long look at the company which hired me. Their operation, including their management’s behavior and motivation, becomes my yardstick to consider as I learn about the competition.
Competitive Technical Intelligence focuses on science and technology (S&T) and provides methods and tools to help companies, labs and governments maintain a technical competitive edge. CTI often provides the longest future look at your competition versus other forms of competitive intelligence such as sales, product and financial. Order your copy of the recently released Competitive Technical Intelligence book through Bonnie Hohhof (email@example.com).
This continues my report from talks I attended at SCIP’s annual conference in Chicago last week. Roger Phelps and Suki Fuller facilitated this open dialog on using social networks in competitive intelligence. There is a large variety in how people use social networks in CI, but almost everyone is on Linked In.
More of the innovation that people shared was around process which involved social networking and more sophisticated monitoring and analysis tools. The cost of information acquisition is really inexpensive today even compared to 10 years ago, so companies can afford to text mine and use tools that provide visualization at a reasonable cost. We concluded that industry norms can be a deterrent to sharing innovation. However, as we build our human networks and develop trust, we often share our innovation with others, either one on one or among a smaller group.
While win loss analysis will give you ideas for product development and competitive intelligence, it’s often too late to regain your customer’s lost business. Consider interviewing wins, and also interview your customers at various intervals in the account planning and post-sales process to boost customer retention!
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. Some of the best elicitors are more introverted since they are likely to be more thorough in their preparation for elicitation interviews. Introverted people are often better listeners than extroverts, so are often more skilled at getting the other guy to talk!
Do you ever get that feeling that someone is lying to you, but you’re not quite sure, and you don’t want to ask them. We are surrounded by lies in our society, and it’s good to identify when you’re being lied to. As a competitive intelligence professional, it is imperative to be attuned as to whether the person you’re talking to is telling you the truth or not. Important decisions are being affected by the information and analysis we develop.
When interviewing people, they might wonder why you are asking certain questions, and over time they might even become a little suspicious of your motives. A skilled elicitor will entice the other person to talk and share information almost without the other person realizing that they’re sharing. A key to successful elicitation, aside from practice, is to prepare how you would like the conversation to flow, and be prepared to answer questions the customer might ask you.
The tough economic times are a great time to conduct an opportunity analysis. Study what your customers are going through and how they’re being impacted. This might be the perfect time to introduce a disruptive technology, especially if it saves the customer money or is easier to install and maintain than the “old” technology. It could be that there are more services you can offer your customers today since they’ve reduced their staff in areas where you are very qualified to step in.