The ROI of Win Loss Analysis (Primary Intelligence Style)

If you found a surefire way to make your company grow, you would have to consider the ROI potential of the program, initiative, solution, right?

Well, I did a little digging today with a couple of clients to find recent ROI success stories. The results were surprising. I’ll share a couple of experiences here:

We did a round of win loss analysis with Primary Intelligence. The process included interviews with our newly won accounts and lost prospects from the past 6 months. Primary Intelligence provided us with individual opportunity profiles for each sales engagement.

After we (sales leadership) received the profiles, we identified the 10 biggest losses (based on opportunity size). We reviewed the feedback, needs and perceptions that caused the prospect to choose our competitor. Then, we created a plan to reengage each of those 10 lost prospects. Since this was our first attempt at a formal post-sales reengagement, we didnt have any expectations of success. We just wanted to see what was possible.

So far, based on the intelligence we received, we have won 3 of those 10 losses. These were multi-million dollar accounts that potentially stretch out over long-term

contracts.

This is just one way we are using our Sales Intelligence provided by Primary Intelligence. The ROI potential of this sales intelligence is mind-boggling.

A second client of Primary Intelligence described their ROI experience in this manner:

When we perform win loss analysis with Primary Intelligence, we provide PI with a list of our recent wins and losses. These sales opportunities are pulled from our SFA and are based on the best information that our sales reps have.

Primary Intelligence calls through the list of opportunities, setting up appointments for interviews and weeding out opportunities that don’t qualify for analysis. While engaged in this activity, PI regularly finds a few opportunities that were categorized by our company as losses, but are still in consideration. These opportunities may be lukewarm to very warm, but they are not dead.

PI immediately calls us to let us know when they have discovered a nugget, or a potential opportunity that needs immediate attention. We send that information directly back to the sales rep and our conversion rates in these instances is surprisingly high.

We more than pay for our entire sales intelligence effort based on these nuggets alone. The strategic and tactical data we use to create new business is actually just frosting on the cake after you consider the revenue that PI creates for us.

Primary Intelligence provides data and consulting to help companies in over 45 industries create strategic and tactical improvement. Our work extends from the executive boardroom to sales, marketing and product leadership and down to each individual sales rep. We have a methodology to improve the performance of the most key departments in your company.

If you would like to know a little more about these experiences or specific information about the companies that have achieved these results, call me. (801-838-9600 x5050, [email protected])

Forward-thinking Competitive Intelligence

I read a blog entry about reactionary competitive intelligence that you ought to read. It is simple, but makes a strong point.:

Follow The Leader

Have you worked at a company where a significant share of the business strategy is determined by what competitors are doing?

Have you worked on a product plan that includes features based not necessarily on what your customers have asked for, but based on what your competitors already have?

Have you bought ad space in a magazine because that’s where your competitors are advertising as well?

Assuming that our competitors know what they’re doing is a dangerous game. Assuming your company has the right ingredients and circumstances to match or exceed their success is an equally slippery slope.

Competitive intelligence is critical, and identifying elements of a competitor’s business and marketing strategy for further review and testing is a great idea.

But do your own homework. Know your customers, your industry, and your business better than anyone else. Don’t just follow the leader. (Matt Heinz, Matt on Marketing)

Does your company culture and leadership support a forward-thinking intelligence strategy? Are you encouraged to scout out a trail to new ground or is your time dominated by reactionary what just happened questions?

You can discern your companys cultural bias easily by answering the following questions for yourself:

-Do competitive surprises throw us into a frenzy or do we hold the course on our own strategy?

-Does our CI strategy remain constant or does it change with the blowing winds of businsess?

-Do we study way to increase business and retain contracts or are we more concerned with knowing trivial facts about the competition?

-Does our company use cutting-edge analytics or do we still make decisions based on gut feeling alone?

If your organization is stable and includes the support of leadership, you are poised to do good work and your efforts will have to match expectations. If not (and if you want to be forward thinking), you are going to have to work very hard to change the current scenario. Otherwise, you risk becoming an order taker with no end in sight. And, those people who bring interesting, but non-impactful, information to the table usually don’t go very far.

And, if that assessment is too harsh, my apologies. But, I have a great deal of respect for those CI professionals that don’t settle for trivialities, but work to find the strategic areas of opportunity for their company. The highest rung on the ladder is reserved for those that have the experience, clout and voice to insist that the intelligence be used in the executive boardroom for decisions.

Let me know what you think. I would like to hear from you ([email protected], 801.838.9600 x5050)

What’s in a Win?

Yesterday, I was working with Chad Sly, reviewing a proof of concept trial with a client that had purchased win loss analysis from Primary Intelligence.

To be more accurate, they purchased loss analysis. In other words, they werent interested in measuring won opportunities; only lost deals.

I can understand that. I can respect that. Your instinct tells you that you are going to learn more from your losses than your wins. You might think that you are in a better position to talk to your wins later and find out the story of what happened. These are true statements.

But, Id like to toss out a couple of reasons that you ought to apply your same, rigorous study of sales opportunities to your wins, too:

1-Knowing why you lose is interesting. Knowing why you win is just as valuable. If you don’t thoroughly understand your winning value proposition, how can you make the necessary changes in the less certain opportunities?

2-Benchmarking of successful data. If you want to make improvement, you have to understand where you are starting. Get a benchmark of your performance across the board (and not just in losses) or you will have a skewed benchmark that doesnt really reflect current performance. (BTW, Primary Intelligence believes that measurements in 20-30 individual performance areas make the best sales

reviews)

3-Interpretation of comparative data. If you see that your sales team is weak in certain skills during losses, how will you know if they were strong in those same areas during wins? Or, did they win despite the an across-the-board weakness? Youll never know unless you discover their performance in both wins and losses.

4-Goodwill with your new customers. Your new clients worked very hard to make the best decision for their company. They appreciate the opportunity to tell you

what went right or wrong and how you can be more effective in like situations.

5-Competitive intelligence from a friendly source. Your new clients are the most likely to provide you with the best actionable competitive intelligence, based on the tactics and messages presented during the recent transaction. You shared time with your competitors. Find out what your prospect/new customer found out during

that time.

I understand that losses look more important. I understand that having the inside scoop on a recent loss is nearly a status symbol. But, don’t forget the wins. Theyre what keep you in business.

Let me know what you think. ([email protected], 801.838.9600 x5050)

Can’t We All Just Get Along? (Sales and Marketing)

I was working with a company yesterday that just doesn’t get it. They have a fairly traditional relationship between sales and marketing. Sales says that the leads that Marketing produces are worthless (and thats an attempt to keep this blog family-friendly) and Marketing says that Sales doesn’t work the leads and expects too much.

So, in the end, these departments tend to go their own way, complying with corporate strategic initiatives, but leveraging each others strengths to produce a result that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Read more

Marrying Competitive Intelligence, Business Intelligence and Analytics

Business intelligence companies are starting to how they are relevant to the gathering of competitive intelligence in the organization. Surprisingly, they are demonstrating how to leverage your customers (of all people) to gain the necessary intelligence to compete more effectively.

Jerome Bergerou of AccuraCast says the following:

“In an increasingly competitive world, using your client database smartly, to gain a better understanding of your number one asset your customers can make or break the success of your company.”

“One of the primary reasons companies do not fully realize the potential competitive advantages they can gain from their own databases is the lack of proper integration of datasets across departments. Even though all the information might reside within the company, it may remain elusive due to a fragmentation of the data across incompatible databases. Regrouping all internal data into a single dataset or a series of interconnected datasets could be the single most useful step a company might take towards providing a solid foundation on which quality business intelligence can be developed.”

This article goes on to demonstrate some specific techniques in building a BI repository and system that would be of benefit to most companies. If you are interested in my content, you should probably check them out, too.

I agree whole-heartedly that the quest for competitive intelligence needs to be founded on the most productive sources of information. And, there has to be more to analyzing the data than gut feelings and educated hopes. Analytics are not just important; they are essential to making sense of the information. Otherwise, the intelligence may be skewed by the loudest voice or hidden trends may be ignored.

If you have some ideas on competitive intelligence and analytics, Id enjoy talking to you ([email protected], 801-838-9600 x5050)

Competitive Intelligence Needs a Personal Touch

I am a little hard of hearing today after yelling and cheering at the Utah Jazz/Houston Rockets game. What a great game! The crowd was nuts. The players played hard, and (more importantly for Jazz fans) there will be a game 7 on Saturday night.

You may have already seen this, but check out the Google driving directions from New York to London, UK: (click here)

The fun of it is when you consider that these are driving directions. The best part is looking all the way down the list and finding out that the Google people know that you cant drive across the Atlantic Ocean. However, they have a practical alternative.

This does have a point.

The Google directions are smart enough to tell you that youre going to have to swim to cross the ocean. Someone at Google had the notion to take a piece of information that was delivered automatically and insert a custom bit of instruction that is either useful or entertaining, depending on your point of view.

If you provide competitive intelligence in your organization, you have to help advise the users on different points. If you leave everything to the reader of the data, it is possible that they will end up in the wrong place with the wrong tools. Use your experience to understand the context of the data and provide recommendations.

One of the worst things that can happen to intelligence is to orphan a report or brief in a department. In most companies, they will suffer from neglect. Very sad, indeed.

And, I think the Jazz will beat the Rockets in game 7. Goooooo JAZZ!

Let me know what you think (mailto:[email protected],, 801-838-9600 x5050)

Effectiveness to Greatness Making the Leap

I just read an article titled, Dr. Stephen R. Covey Interview, Going from Effectiveness to Greatness, Featuring Jay Abraham. This conversation seemed to offer a lot of nuggets in a few pages.

The article is not specifically written for competitive intelligence professionals. In fact, at times, it is geared toward the entrepreneur and small business owner, but I’ll share a couple of excerpts from the article in today’s blog.

In summary, Dr. Covey takes his principles of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and promotes a way of thinking and being that moves from effectiveness to greatness. For example:

JAY ABRAHAM: Define Greatness in the organization

DR. COVEY: Well, I would say that a great organization would be one that has sustainable impact on all of its stakeholders for good. That includes the whole supply chain, obviously the customers And the culture would be extremely empowered to use a lot of initiative in making great things happen. And also, I think another characteristic would be that the people are constantly growing and improving their skills, their knowledge base, and their capacities to become even greater in the future. I think one of the biggest problems is sustainability — that many people are like cotton candy. It tastes good, and then within a short period of time it just is worthless, essentially, and nothing happens. But to make it sustainable, to me, is one of the great keys.

JAY ABRAHAM: What changes or shifts would you recommend they make to convert their enterprise from tactical, reactive, episodic, to strategic, enduring, and basically a geometric growth machine?

DR. COVEY: I would say a couple of things. One would be I would make sure that I surround myself with people who are different than me — who think differently, who challenge — so that you can get the spirit of synergy in producing a strategic plan that everyone gets emotionally connected to. And I would try to get them very involved in this development of this strategic plan so that they really have a clear sense of what the most important goals are, and also what the values are. Because if you have commonality on the values which never change, then you apply those values in getting synergy and developing strategic goals and plans to achieve those goals. Then youve tapped into as much wisdom as possible.

JAY ABRAHAM: you talk a lot about the difference between proactivity and reactivity. Can you shareproactive things that great leaders do continuously, predictably, that average, ordinary business owners don’t seem to understand?

DR. COVEY: Well, I would say one proactive thing is that they decide what their mission is, and what their values are in the context of a larger vision. And I think that most reactive people tend to just kind of live out old programs that have been given to them by other people and by other models that theyve had. I think another thing is that they start investing in people and in the building of high-trust relationships, where the reactive people kind of hope that trust will result. They don’t proactively nourish the relationship.

Another one is they really get invested in the growth and development of people for instance, the very thing were doing here. If theyre learning things from this, they would want to immediately share this with the people around them that might have an interest so that they create a kind of a learning ethic — not just a hard work ethic, but a learning ethic– so that people say, Boy, hes really interested in my growth and development, and in my career.

I think another one is they set up empowerment agreements with people so that they don’t have to hover over, check up, follow through, and kind of micro-manage people according to the way they normally would clone someone. But they realize that every personality is different, will often take a different tack. But as long as there is a common agreement on the overall strategic purpose and goals, thats the important thing. And therefore, you allow other people to express themselves.

Reactive people tend to be firefighters that are impulsively running to and fro and trying to solve problems. They almost get addicted to urgency, rather than being addicted to focusing on that which is important, the Pareto Principle, where 80% of the results come from the 20% of the key activities that produce those results. And I think that what I call Quadrant Two — that which is important but not urgent — is the basic thrust of proactive people

Most people are drowned by the urgent, and the important often gets neglected because the urgent acts on you. Its right in front of you. Its pressing. Its like a ringing phone. And they get so addicted to it they almost feel guilty if they focus on long term, strategic thinking and listening in depth to other people because theyre frantic. Theyre just driven by action and by constantly wanting to make things happen. They don’t take time to reflect, and to gain a deeper understanding of what the real needs are, and to also deeply understand another person and to find out what their voice is… what is unique about that personthat they have certain talents and passion. They don’t do that. They talk more than they listen. They should realize they have two ears and one mouth, and use them accordingly.

(copyright 2006 All Rights Reserved, www.abraham.com)

I know that this post contains a large chunk of information that might not seem applicable at first, but take a look at your position.

-Are you providing information, services or solutions that will make your company more competitive from the strategic and tactical levels?

-Does your department (and those with whom you interact) position itself to be effective (at the least) and potentially great? Does your organization support this type of thinking and growth?

-Are you drowned by the urgent without having time to work on the important?

-Do you have balance in your life that allows you to be great in the most important things?

Anyway, I’ll return to the Competitive Intelligence topic in the next post. Thanks for todays indulgence.

And, if you find a nugget of info that means something to you, place a comment or contact me ([email protected], 801-838-9600 x5050)

Where does your Competitive Intelligence Go?

In some recent studies from Primary Intelligence, we have asked representatives from various industries and company sizes “Who has access to the competitive intelligence data?”

For the most part, Competitive Intelligence is distributed to executives and marketing managers. Sales receives the information to a lesser degree.

From our observations:

-Execs receive the data. Generally, they are sponsoring the research

-Point of the lance (Sales Reps) are not being included

-Indicates a predominance of strategic intelligence over tactical intelligence?

From my point of view, I think that it is an interesting phenomenon that the sales reps are not receiving the competitive intelligence as often as other departments. If they are front line, I would want to push out a little more information to them and help them be more competitive. If I were a sales rep, I would ask for more of this information.

I am curious about your experience with the executive group. What do they ask for the most? And, in your experience, do they use the information you provide? My experience is that many CI initiatives are reactionary (“Why did we lose that deal?!?!? When did [competitor] start selling widgets to compete with ours?!?!?!”) By the time the Competitive Intelligence has been compiled, so much time has passed that the data can’t be used.

But, I’m willing to believe that I haven’t seen it all. Hopefully, there are various experiences.

What is your organization doing to broaden the distribution of your Competitive Intelligence? How are you maximizing the usefulness and benefits of your programs? Let me know how you think the intelligence should be used (or how the perfect CI program would run if you had a magic wand).

Im here at [email protected], 801-838-9600 x5050

Use Voice of the Customer to Collect Competitive Intelligence

Yesterday, Primary Intelligence hosted a webinar for a great group of people. The purpose of this presentation was to show how current Voice of the Customer (VOC) initiatives can be modified to provide Competitive Intelligence to different departments.

The first step is to review your current touch points with customers at different stages of the relationship. The second is to figure out how to add competitive intelligence questions into those processes.

Of course, if you don’t have those processes in place already, you might consider the cost/benefit of implementing a broader range of VOC listening programs (surveys).

You can see below a chart that shows many possible interaction points with your clients. Every single one of these touch points is a potential source of competitive intelligence.

This is a chance to think strategically about your VOC program in relation to CI. You should be asking yourself During each phase of the relationship, what does my client think or know about my competitors and marketplace?

And, you would be very surprised by how much your clients actually do know about your competitors. They may have purchased from you, but they have evaluated many other vendors over time.

Over the next few days, well review specific ways to integrate CI questions into different steps.

I would also like to thank everyone that attended the webinar. We had a very interactive group and the questions provided a very rich environment for knowledge exchange.

As a follow-up, were hosting a panel discussion on Tuesday, April 24 at 2PM ET (11AM PT). If you are interested in participating in an open discussion, let me know ([email protected], 801.838.9600 x5050)

Leave me a comment on the topic. What would you like to know about this topic?

Competitive Intelligence in the 21st Century

Moving Past the SWOT with Predictive Analytics

In my last post, I said that a SWOT analysis leaves a strategic decision-maker with a problem. You may be able to identify some competitive weaknesses (compared with a specific competitor or in the marketplace in general), but you don’t have any way of gauging what would happen to your market share if the weaknesses were improved.

And, you cant tell whether continuing to improve the strengths would provide a bigger competitive benefit to your companys efforts.

So, if a competitive intelligence professional spends all of their time studying the market and the end results is a list of strengths and weaknesses (with no predictive analytics or direction), how much value does that person provide?

I guess that I should be clear that a SWOT analysis is not useless. There is tactical value in a SWOT. You can figure out what to say today with a SWOT, but you cant make strategic decisions based on a SWOT. There is still too much guesswork.

So what? Replace the SWOT with Impact-based Competitive Intelligence. For instance, Primary Intelligence does this all the time. To determine competitive strengths and weaknesses, we:

1-Interview recent wins and losses where your company competed head-to-head with specific competitors.

2-Measure your competitive performance in 20-30 specific decision influencers

3-Determine strengths and weaknesses (Not the gap score in the table below. Positive gaps indicate weaknesses. Negative gaps indicate strengths)

4-Use predictive analytics to determine the influencers that, it improved, would result in the greatest increases in market share. (Impact column, explained below)

Impact identifies your expected improvement in market share. For instance, in this example (a real-world example taken from one of our clients), if you were to improve your companys performance in Product Knowledge by one point (In other words, if you improved the 7.7 rating to an 8.7), you would expect your win rate and market share to increase by the impact score of 5.7% (at the 90% confidence level).

And, Product Knowledge is already a competitive strength. Overall, you outperform the competition by 5% in this area. The key may be to make this competitive advantage more consistent throughout the company.

In other words, there are influencers that would provide 2x, 3x and 4x the results of others if improvement were made in those specific areas. This could result in gains of millions or billions of unexpected dollars, based on some potentially simple improvements in the right areas.

This approach takes a lot of the guesswork out of the equation. No espionage required. And, yet, the company makes the biggest gains in increasing its client base.

Now, this approach does not satisfy all Competitive Intelligence needs, but it sure does take the OPPORTUNITY column of the SWOT table to a completely different level.

I am happy to talk about this approach with you. Let me know what you think about how this would fit your organization. ([email protected], 801-838-9600 x5050)

Why the Competitive Intelligence SWOT is Stuck in the 20th Century

A very typical request we receive at Primary Intelligence is for a SWOT analysis. Our clients want to know the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats presented by a competitor or group of competitors in a marketplace.

Of course, this SWOT analysis has a place, but its value is more tactical than strategic. Sales guys should have access to a SWOT, but I don’t know that executives should make decisions based off of this kind of information.

The problem that I see with the SWOT analysis is the fact that a company will know where its current strengths and weaknesses may be, but doesnt have any insight into the areas of change that will bring about the biggest improvement in win rates, market share and defeating the competition.

Below, you will see an example of a Strength/Weakness evaluation based on data from recent sales opportunities. Half of the data come from new business that was won and the other 50% come from opportunities that were lost to competitors: (click on the image to see a bigger version)

The data are sorted from biggest negative competitive gap (weakness) at the top to the biggest positive competitive gap (strength) at the bottom. The scores are based on a 1-10 scale where 1 is Poor and 10 is excellent.

If you were to make strategic changes in your company based on the data in this table, you would probably look at the weaknesses and evaluate the most effective ways to close the competitive gap.

But, would this make a difference? What would happen if you were to increase your performance in Overall Solution Cost or Understanding Needs by ten percent? (A 10% improvement would mean that you increase your score of 8.1 to 9.1) How much would your win rate increase? Would making improvements in your weaknesses correlate with a stronger competitive preference, or would you be pulling the wrong levers and pouring time and money down the drain?

Traditional intelligence looks at Strengths and Weaknesses

Should you fix weaknesses or accentuate strengths?

Strength/Weaknesses don’t always correlate with decision making.

Where is your opportunity to increase win rates and market share?

In my experience, efforts to improve the biggest weaknesses rarely result in an overall improvement in market share and competitive sales wins. In other words, odds are good that most companies are wasting time and money by using SWOTs for strategic planning.

In my next post, I’ll show you a new way to prioritize your strategic plans, based on a more intelligent form of Competitive Intelligence and performance evaluation.

If you need more info on this topic, let me know ([email protected], 801.838.9600 x5050)

And, don’t forget to register for my webinar on Thursday. Click here to register (all of the info is on the registration page).

Producing ROI from your Competitive Intelligence – “How To:”

If you have every spent any time talking with me about Competitive Intelligence, you know that I am a big proponent of intelligence programs that produce revenue. So many companies launch an intelligence program with the intention of “understanding the competitive landscape” but, this is hardly a focused goal.

Over time, the intelligence program expands (bloats) to include as many intelligence categories as possible. Soon, the company hires a “librarian” and implements content management systems just to keep all of the information organized. Corporate personnel are happy because they can ask just about any question and get an answer. CI personnel are happy because they have a job that keeps them busy and security for the future.

But, my argument has always centered on, “Why do the work if you can’t justify the ROI?” In other words, Competitive Intelligence has to be a driving force for strategic corporate planning. The Competitive Intelligence group should be able to tell the executives, “At a high degree of confidence, if we do ‘X’ in market ‘Y’, we would expect a 10% increase in market share and revenues.”

This is so much better than knowing “how many square feet are in our competitors’ new warehouse in Cedar Rapids” or “what color is our competitor’s intranet login page?”

How do you determine ROI criteria for your Competitive Intelligence? I’ll give you some suggestions:

1) Top-line Revenue

Will this intelligence create new revenue opportunities?

Will we take away sales from the competition?

Will our existing accounts stay longer and be more profitable?

2) Bottom-line

Can we be more efficient or learn best practices?

Are there better ways to manage our processes?

3) Application

How easily will we be able to act on these data?

If your CI efforts match up well with these criteria, you are probably pretty advanced. If your initiatives serve other purposes, they may still be valid, but ROI probably isn’t your goal. If you need some help determining the ROI potential of your efforts, talk to Primary Intelligence. We’re here to help.

And, if you don’t know what the purpose of your CI initiatives are, you need to start asking. Or, looking for another job. If you can’t show potential return on your efforts, you run the risk of becoming as valuable as your data; interesting, but worthless.

Please, add to the ROI criteria list. Post a comment or call me (801.838.9600 x5050, [email protected])

This Just In: Corporate Espionage Continues to Grow

The corporate world is in a constant state of battle and each participant searches for the key bit of competitive intelligence that will give an edge. Espionage has been a constant practice in nearly every industry and there is no sign of slowing.

http://economicintelligence.blogspot.com/2007/04/corporate-spying-grows.html

The likelihood of getting caught is pretty slim. So many do it because most activities are never going to be discovered. And, some forms of espionage are so simple to execute that you almost feel compelled to try.

To stay on the side of ethical, I use a pretty simple rule: “If a person would lose their job by providing this information to me, I won’t pursue it.”

Just because you can think of creative ways of gathering info doesn’t mean that you should execute on every one of them.

And, then, you need to decide if the information you pursue is going to provide you a benefit anyway. If the information is interesting but worthless, why would you risk your company’s ethics and legal standing?

Before you chase any piece of information, try to apply the following two questions and plot the answer on the quadrant below:

1- How practical is it to procure this information?

2- What is the potential ROI?

Try to stay in the upper right-hand quadrant. Otherwise, your company is wasting time, money, and perhaps legal capital on efforts that just don’t really matter.

If you have an idea about a competitive intelligence or competitive advantage project, talk to me and let’s figure out where it might fit in the overall productive scheme of things.

Email or phone (801-838-9600 x5050)

Making Competitive Intelligence Louder than the Corporate Noise

At Primary Intelligence, we just finished working with a company that had very mature competitive intelligence processes in place. The processes provided information that should have helped maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Overall, the builders of the CI program put a lot of work into creating and refining processes that collected the right information.

And, their department just lost most of its funding. New initiatives won’t be added and it will be difficult to preserve much of the status quo. Smart people will soon be working with other companies.

Why?

Because, the CI department never really figured out how to make the results meaningful to the executives. Decisions were rarely influenced (let alone, based on) the results of their efforts.

And, thats all she wrote. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there

This is not a one-time occurrence. And, it is a way of life that is not limited to the Competitive Intelligence, Marketing Research or Marketing departments of the world. In fact, important people in mission-critical roles are dismissed regularly if the perception is that they are not producing results.

What is the take home lesson?

Be seen. Be heard. Be effective and make your presence known. Specifically, in relation to Competitive Intelligence:

1- Push information into the executive boardrooms as often as possible

2- Ask, ask, ask, ask, ask about the current questions that need to be answered for the company leadership

3- Study the way key decision-makers in the company find and read information. Do they prefer raw data, spreadsheets and crude analysis or will they only consume small, polished briefs, one chunk at a time

4- Be a consultant. Present intelligence options and drive the topic of competitive intelligence methods as an agenda item.

5- Be prepared to show case studies of related efforts showing ROI potential in competitive intelligence.

After all this, be prepared to do it over and over. If you want to stay above the noise in the corporation, you have to be a little better organized, targeted and unified than everything else. Otherwise, you will just be static.

Inteligencia Competitiva

Yesterday, I received a very kind note from a gentleman (and Competitive Intelligence Professional) named Adrian Alvarez. His company, Midas Consulting , provides consultative services in Latin America.

I read his latest blog entry and found his observations to be insightful. If you don’t read Spanish, I’ll take the liberty of (very briefly) summarizing Mr. Alvarez message:

Adrian ponders the fact that Guillefmo Caas has beaten Federer twice in their last two meetings. He suggests two reasons for Caas success:

1- Based on quotes from Federer, his intelligence on Caas game may be out of date. I would appear that Federer was surprised when he was not able to exploit Caas game during the last two matches.

2- Caas desire to win may have been underestimated.

These points are brought to business by demonstrating:

1- Companies need to update their intelligence regularly. Old (bad) data may be worse than no data.

2- Dont underestimate the lengths that smaller, more hungry companies may go to in order to take your customers and market share.

Adrian says that he posts once a week. Join me in returning to his blog regularly to review his insights. And, if you read other Intelligence blogs and think I should know about them, email me.

Librarians are boring. And, of limited value

This morning, I read an article summary which provides information on establishing a library of Competitive Intelligence.

While it is important to gather information, too many companies settle for too much information and too few results.

Pretty soon, you have a big, dark library of information and a librarian that serves as caretaker rather than consultant or expert.

While a library of information needs to be collected to power a CI program, lets not get lost on the fact that piles of information don’t necessarily mean that you have the power to win more business.

In other words, if an exec approaches the library with the question, What information in these stacks will improve our win rate by 10% this fiscal year, how does the librarian answer that question?

And, if there is no answer, what is the value of the library?

For my ideas on how to avoid the useless librarian syndrome, check out this webinar and find out how to create ROI with your CI.

Be the Consultant, Not the Waitress

Last night, my family went to dinner to celebrate the birthday of my oldest son. As a family with five children (and two grandmas present), we kept our waitress very busy with requests for drinks, napkins, condiments and the like.

Fortunately for us, our waitress was very patient and kept a smile on her face the whole time, even though she was under some pressure to serve a number of tables in our area. For her efforts, we added some extra to her tip to show our appreciation. Since the restaurant pays very little, the service help usually works very hard to impress the clientele in hopes of increasing their take-home pay.

In my experience, many CI managers work much like our waitress. Hopefully, you are not in the majority here. Too many people expect the CI group to be a passive, order-taking bunch. It is disappointing to see the number of CI requests that come through our company for data that has a miniscule chance of making a difference.

You cant always say, No to CI requests. But, you should have a broader view of the landscape. Start by listening. But, make sure that you understand the actual business problems before anything else. Find out why the requested information is necessary. Relate the business problem to revenue generation, market share or operational efficiencies. (If you cant, push back.) If there is no plan, what is the likelihood that the information you collect will be used?

Be a guiding force in the types of information that are collected. And, be proactive. Create CI programs that will regularly feed high quality information into different departments.

You arent working for tips. Be a strategic thinker, improve the bottom line and make a difference.

Share your ideas with me. Call me at 801.838.9600 x5050.

Clients Will Build Your Market Share

Recently, I was working with my son, trying to teach him to help him start his own candy business. He wanted to know how to make a certain sucker that he buys from the store. He was a little frustrated that he couldnt find their recipe online and he certainly wasn’t going to get the formula from that company.

In the end, I told him, it just doesnt matter. It would be cool to know how to make the competitors sucker. But, it would be even better to create your own and make it better.

How do you find out what people will like better? Ask them. The consumer (or client) knows what they want to buy and they will tell you without much trouble. In my sons case, following the leader might not be as productive as blazing a trail, based on market needs.

Yesterday, I described an RFP we received at Primary Intelligence that requested mountains of competitive intelligence. In a nutshell, our client wanted to know the inner workings of a specific competitors sales, marketing, operations and financial divisions.

Some of the more interesting requests were:

*What is the typical, daily experience of a LaborFree sales associate (number of prospect/client contacts; roll-calling requirements; prospecting vs. account maintenance/growth; interaction with accountants and existing clients to acquire referrals; support from other LaborFrees organizations and management, etc.)?

*How does LaborFree calculate its customer retention rate (by client, or by revenues)? What has that rate been over the last five years?

*Does LaborFree use its LaborFree Agency commission revenue to support discounting to customers who use the pay-as-you-go insurance products? If so, to what extent?

*As compared to SOFTTIME, does LaborFree match us expense-for-expense, or are there whole categories of expense not present in the LaborFree business model?*Where LaborFree and SOFTTIME expenses are similarly defined, where are their expenses materially less or more (proportionately) than SOFTTIMEs expenses?

This laundry list was five pages long and most of the requests could only be fulfilled by tunneling in to the competitor and stealing all of the trade secrets.

The most amusing part of the deal was their requirement that the vendor had to demonstrate how each data request would be fulfilled in an “ethical manner.”

And, when we asked SOFTTIMEs CI group to explain how they were going to turn this information into revenue, they had no clue; just a hope that someone above them knew what would come next.

At this point, the CI group at SOFTTIME needed to step up. They should have asked why all of this information was critical. They should have made stakeholders explain what they would do with the information. They should have explained the risks in obtaining this kind of data. (How would a competitor find this information out about us? They couldnt? Well, how do you expect us to ethically get this information on them?)

If the goal is to win business, increase market share, serve clients and keep them in the fold, these information requests have very little to do with those objectives. In short, collect the data that will bring more clients to your company and keep more from defecting. Knowing your competitors sales commission plan probably won’t get you there.

This approach is working for my son. It will work for you. Make the Voice of the Customer an integral part of your CI plan.

Let’s chat about these ideas. Call me at 801.838.9600 x5050 or leave me a comment below.

What, How and Why

As a third-party competitive intelligence provider, Primary Intelligence receives numerous project specs and requests for bids, advice or consulting. By the time we hear about the project, our clients already know WHAT needs to be discovered and they want us to tell them HOW we will collect their data.

Logical. They want our expertise (or that of any third-party vendor) to make their efforts more effective. And Primary Intelligence exists to show companies how to grow market share, increase revenues and keep clients in the fold.

But, too often, nobody has considered WHY the information should be gathered.

For instance, one of our clients approached us with a formal RFP. From the content, it was obvious that there were concerns about sales effectiveness against a specific competitor. At the risk of:

*How is LaborFrees sales organization structured (numbers; roles; management structure; span of control; by product)? Is there a sales organization chart that presents this structure? In a more general sense, is there a detailed, company wide org. chart? If so, please provide.

*To whom does sales report, both regionally, and at the corporate level?

*How are the sales offices geographically dispersed?

*What is the role, and extent of, inside sales?

*What is the typical, daily experience of a LaborFree sales associate (number of prospect/client contacts; roll-calling requirements; prospecting vs. account maintenance/growth; interaction with accountants and existing clients to acquire referrals; support from other LaborFrees organizations and management, etc.)?

*How extensively do LaborFree sales associate make use of product demos in the sales process? Describe the typical sales call.

*Describe LaborFrees discounting practices, at the time of initial sale.

*Does LaborFree raise its price over time to these customers who received initial discounts? Do these customers experience greater price increases than those who did not receive initial discounts?

*Are these price increases a major cause of customer losses?

*How does LaborFree calculate its customer retention rate (by client, or by revenues)? What has that rate been over the last five years?

*Does LaborFree use its LaborFree Agency commission revenue to support discounting to customers who use the pay-as-you-go insurance products? If so, to what extent?

*Number of orders submitted / % errors

*Number of payrolls setup / % perfect

*Number of first payrolls processed /% perfect

*Number of hot-start orders submitted / % actual starts

*Average cycle times

*How does LaborFree categorize its expenses? Provide specifics.

*As compared to SOFTTIME-ES, are similarly-labeled expenses actually alike, or are there definition differences? What are these differences?

*As compared to SOFTTIME-ES, does LaborFree match us expense-for-expense, or are there whole categories of expense not present in the LaborFree business model?

*Where LaborFree and SOFTTIME-ES expenses are similarly defined, where are their expenses materially less or more (proportionately) than SOFTTIMEs expenses?

*Per the above question, why are their expenses proportionately less or more than ours, for similar activities?

After five pages of this information, it was apparent that the CI group of this company looked like a Saturday evening DJ; taking requests and serving up the tunes. But the group wasn’t doing their job of pushing back on the stakeholders and asking WHY.

Tomorrow, I’ll examine a different course of action that eventually made a big difference in SOFTIME’S financial performance.

And, if you want to talk in the meantime, give me (Chris) a call at 801.838.9600 x5050.