How flexible are you in competitive intelligence and Win/Loss analysis? We usually aren’t in situations where the daily news changes how we’ll be with people. However, it’s likely that no matter how much planning we do, there are surprises. So the bottom line is as with many things in life. Do your homework and be prepared. Be flexible and swallow your pride, and let your heart speak when it’s needed. That way when the unexpected happens, you will have an ability to change gears.
I am most fascinated by what motivates people to share, and how to figure this out quickly, especially during a telephone conversation where you don’t have the benefit of body language. Contrary to what I have been taught: “Do not treat others like you would want to be treated.” Treat them the way THEY want to be treated.
I have applied Johari’s model to classifying those we talk to in the collection process. It’s helpful to be aware of their pre-disposition towards sharing versus what they know. My classifications are: Egocentric; Deeply Knowledgeable; Intellectual and Helpers.
Small talk is an appetizer to any relationship. People like to do business with their friends. When you forget someone’s name, for example, be open and ask them graciously. This psychology of assuming the burden of someone else’s comfort is similar when you are on the telephone doing research or competitive intelligence. Make the other person feel you care, but also keep in mind that you might be catching them at a busy time.
In competitive intelligence and other forms of primary research we so often just concentrate on techniques to extract information. We often forget to get ourselves grounded and in the right frame of mind to conduct these interviews. Yesterday I was reading Lee Glickman’s relational presence description, and it spoke to me. In relational voice, you start with deep, relaxed breathing and use your voice to almost do inner calisthenics. This exercise will strengthen you by getting you in the right frame of mind to do primary research of any type whether it’s cold calling, win loss analysis calls or trade show collection.
The first step in primary collection regardless of whether it’s a standard interview, elicitation or some combination is preparation. 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. 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.
Recently I gave a webinar for SCIP chapters in Mercyhurst and Ohio on how to capture competitive intelligence from Sales by using cooperative intelligence skills. I love serving Sales Reps since I can easily translate what I provide into an ROI benefit, namely more sales. Serve Sales well and you will have job security even in a tough economy since they are the company’s revenue producers!
Many companies use CI software to both collect and disseminate intelligence. As a CI professional, I look for a solution that will free up my time to be a critical thinker, to do the analysis, prepare persuasive communication from what I can deduce, and connection with my users and providers of CI–in some cases maintaining that relationship in others finding and building relationships. here are some practical questions you want to ask a prospective CI software service provider.
Competitive Intelligence has historically focused on strategic and tactical forms of intelligence. While CI is an important input to strategic planning, and companies benefit from scenario planning, many companies miss the boat by not conducting and communicating CI in real-time.
How often do we get stuck in patterns and either make mistakes or don’t see events coming? In competitive intelligence, we look for what isn’t or what looks odd or out of place since oddity often is a precursor to change. There is always surprise in life and business. How we prepare ourselves for it is what separates the excellent from the average. I find I react better to surprises if I get out of my comfort zone more often.
Tactic #5: Remain ethical and avoid deception as you collect competitive information. As a consultant I am sensitive to the topic of ethics since there is such a variance among my clients. Some clients have the attitude of “Just get the information for us, I don’t care how!” Others go as far as to have me sign on to their company ethical standards. I find that having an honest discussion around ethics at the proposal stage is helpful so I can decide if my ethics and the company’s are similar. Ultimately it’s your conscience that will guide your behavior and ethics is part of that.