Internal credibility for competitive intelligence

Forrester has a webinar coming up about building credibility for competitive intelligence with sales teams. This is an interesting topic. It can be argued that any competitive intelligence should be useful to a company's sales efforts, otherwise how is it contributing to the company's success? Even where the contribution is indirect, such as intelligence that feeds into product innovation or employee retention, the end result has to be more sales.

Where credibility with the sales teams is most relevant is when competitive intelligence is supposed to feed directly into sales. For example, intelligence about a competitor's pricing and sales terms. Salespeople are understandably nervous about making claims to prospects or clients, based on intelligence that they have not personally vetted. There is less room for error when giving intelligence to sales teams.

Additionally, there are complications around how sales teams can contribute to intelligence efforts. Best practice would have companies collecting competitive intelligence from their own employees, and salespeople are well placed to learn much, but depending on the circumstances there may be legal issues with that. Like all employees, salespeople may also be too subjective as sources, or make assumptions that are not correct (e.g. that a proposal was lost on price).

Some considerations for delivering intelligence that sales teams will be confident enough to use include:

  • Make doubly sure that the intelligence is accurate and precise. When you deliver intelligence to corporate strategy teams for internal discussion, it may be acceptable to talk about Q2 rather than April 18th, or to say $10-20 million rather than $17 million. Intelligence given to sales teams is more exposed, and it matters to salespeople whether something costs $8,000 or $7,000 per month.
  • Give salespeople the opportunity to discuss the findings. Delivering intelligence on a take-it-or-leave-it basis to a sales team makes it likely that they will read it as interesting trivia but not feel confident enough to use it. Instead, let salespeople have the opportunity to bring up their doubts, and any contradictory data they may have, so that these issues are resolved in-house before approaching clients.
  • Provide battlecards. Salespeople do not want to spend a lot of time on the intranet looking at reports. They spend a lot of time on the road, and a lot of their office time writing RFPs. They need intelligence delivered in small chunks relevant to their specific clients.