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The Intelligent Sales Organization: Utilizing Data in a Competitive Landscape

by Heather Frazier

Jul 05, 2019

With the right information on industries, markets, vendors, competitors, products and customers, sales teams can become much more than account managers and order takers.  They can become the heart of a company that uses data and intelligence to break boundaries and grow into existing and new markets.  The front lines in the battle for growth in a competitive landscape.

So, how do you move from just selling to taking advantage of market intelligence and research to increase sales and grow your business? 

First let’s look at what Competitive Intelligence is.

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Competitive Intelligence - the action of defining, gathering, analyzing, and distributing intelligence about products, customers, competitors, and any aspect of the environment needed to support executives and managers in strategic decision making for an organization. Competitive Intelligence drives and guides strategic decisions about your business using data gathered through market research, surveys, and partnerships. Competitive Intelligence often falls under the umbrella of Business Intelligence or Corporate Intelligence, as organizations leverage research from other business practices to drive decisions company-wide. Besides your people, it is the most valuable tool that you have in your arsenal for growth and expansion.  Understanding how to get it and how to use it is imperative to your success.

So, how do you get it?  Internal and external sources.

According to Data Scouts, a Competitive Intelligence Source is a medium that provides relevant insights about competitors. Processing real-time and up-to-date data is crucial to gain accurate insights.  These sources often use artificial intelligence, machine learning and/or Natural Language Processing (NLP) to scrape and consolidate information through website scanning, voice to text processing, and other methods.

A great, customer-oriented sales team is a valuable source for competitive information.  A sales executive is frequently in meaningful contact with your clients to build a strong and trusted relationship. They are in the perfect role to keep a finger on the pulse of any future decisions’ clients will need to make and what market competitors influence their behaviors. 

9 Internal and External Sources of Competitive Intelligence:

Competitive Battle Cards - These cheat sheets provide concise breakdowns of a competitor's marketing strategy, key sales messages, product info, positioning, and unique value propositions to use when selling against competitors. In addition to the sales teams and marketing teams leveraging battle cards, these cards can be used by management to make strategic decisions on the direction of the company.

Blogs and Resources – These resources consist of eBooks, infographics, whitepapers, webinars, and news updates. By tapping into information about the way organization’s present their product or service information, you can learn what their focus and drivers are for attracting audiences.

Off-Site Publishing – These are considered secondary sources, often used to supplement other site content or syndicate information on other websites for added reach. Check for presentations on SlideShare or Prez, videos on YouTube or Vimeo, long-form content on Medium, and podcasts on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Customers and Partners – Information on websites can indicate relationship changes. Track customer pages or logo trains on client or partner sites to see if a logos have been added or removed. Could be an opportunity to win a new account. 

Pricing and Products - Note competitors’ packaging and pricing, and track if they make any changes.  This can lead to valuable information that can be used to propel your product or service into the market.

Messaging and Positioning – Keep tabs on competitor’s homepage or solutions page.  Notice if they make any changes to their service offerings and how they describe it.  Valuable marketing intelligence to be learned.

Jobs and Team – Noticing what and where the competition is hiring can give you valuable insights into where the need help and what they may be working on.

Discussion sites - Quora, Reddit, or local discussion sites can tell you about competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. These sites often have reviews or commentary from clients or the business themselves.

How do you govern, analyze and consume competitive data for use?

As you see, there are many ways to gather data, but just gathering it is the first step. This data is raw and useless without a way to analyze and make sense of what you have gathered and turn it into intelligent, meaningful information that can be consumed by key business leaders.  You will need a system in place to store the raw data and governances to keep it manageable and usable.  Analysts can then use a business intelligence tool to access the data in a consumable format, find correlations and trends and advise decision-makers on how to use it to your company’s advantage and growth strategies.  

This information can also be distributed to your sales force in an understandable and consumable format allowing them to be knowledgeable and prepared when faced with a question like “Why is your service or product better than Company B’s offering?” Beyond the sales team, this information can be shared with executive team members for corporate intelligence to leverage in presenting their own brand and offerings.

Use the intelligence gathered to drive growth.

Competitive Intelligence is all about gaining a better understanding of your business strengths and avoiding or minimizing the threats from current and emerging competitors.  It brings a better agility to the following strategies within your sales or executive teams:

Strategic Decisions:  Long-term decisions based upon strategic planning cohesive with the mission of your business.

Operational Decisions: These are mid-period decisions that are not frequently made.  They are related to industry growth.  With competitive intelligence you can better exploit any gaps in the market.

Tactical Decisions:  These are short-term decisions that are made to solve issues that help you to capture market share and increase revenue.  Intelligent data helps you make wiser decisions and understand the potential market and competitive opportunities, enabling you to navigate uncertainties in the market.

The intelligence gained should be used to improve your business framework by understanding your competitors’ strategies and tactics.  It can be used to aid you in understanding the weaknesses of your rivals and identify innovation opportunities.  Follow the well-known SWOT analysis framework:

Strengths: Internal, positive attributes of the business that assist or create growth. Competitive Intelligence helps identify your uniqueness and analyze your competitive advantage.

Weaknesses: Identifying and classifying your weaknesses can help in adopting the best practices that your competitors have so you can make improvements in your own business strategies.

Opportunities:  The gathered intelligent data can be analyzed to provide guidance on the latest market trends and your key competitors.  Exploit competitive opportunities and build a plan for business growth.

Threats: Competitive Intelligence can serve as an early warning for disruptive changes in the competitive landscape.  Based on your gathered information you can implement defensive strategies, thereby overcoming threats from your competition.

In this competitive world, customer-centric businesses are more likely to see exponential business growth.  It is necessary to build and maintain valuable connections with potential and existing customers.  Competitive Intelligence can help you craft improved customer experience strategies.  These strategies will expand your business value and broaden your loyal customer base. You will find the best tactics and procedures to solve customer needs by monitoring competitors’ engagement activities and solutions for their customer pain points.  Understanding the data gathered can help you understand customer satisfaction and build a strategy for impeccable customer support, listening and addressing their concerns.

Always measure your success

You can use the intelligent data to create actionable strategies that bring you closer to your goals.  You must measure the impact on sales, performance and growth.  As with all initiatives, it is good to measure whether the data is fueling your growth or not. 

  • Establish metrics
  • Determine accuracy of the intelligence
  • Win rates against competitors
  • Does it influence your revenue?
  • Get feedback from sales or other customer-facing teams
    • How do they use Competitive Intelligence?
    • How often do they use it?
    • Data usage specifications?
    • What more do they need?
    • Did they hit their target?
    • Issues with value pitch?

A thorough investigation into the competitive insights can be a great guide for your business strategies and it can augment your key decisions and abilities to drive growth. For more information about how to leverage competitive intelligence, business intelligence, and corporate intelligence, contact a data and strategy consultant at info@ccganalytics.com or call (813) 265-3239.