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Sales is an inherently competitive function. You and your rivals are battling for every potential sale. When a customer chooses to go with you and not the company across the street, that’s a victory for your sales strategy. 

So, why leave it up to chance? Knowledge is power and the right Market and Competitive Intelligence (M/CI) will help you understand exactly how your competition goes about securing clients. And when you know their playbook, you'll have a competitive advantage.

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Why Sales Leaders Need Competitive Intelligence

Market and Competitive Intelligence (M/CI) is a branch of analysis that looks at rival companies operating in your market space. With the right competitive intelligence tool, you can set up an automated M/CI process that gives you detailed files on every rival firm, updated live with the latest information. 

Think about what you could do with that. M/CI would help at every stage of the sales process: 

  • Sourcing: When competitors make changes, they risk losing loyal clients. For instance, a price hike will always lead to some customer attrition. If you can anticipate these moves, you’ll be able to swoop in and grab those customers.
  • Prospecting: Your prospects are making difficult decisions when they decide to buy. You can help by showing how you stack up against rival companies. This works best when you have detailed information about your competitors – for instance, if you know they plan to discontinue a product or that they increase prices each year. 
  • Qualifying: When your customer is weighing pros and cons, you may have to respond to some questions about a rival. For instance, perhaps they’ve just launched a new product benefit that you don’t offer. With the right information, you can talk about your rival’s product in depth and help your customer perform an accurate cost/benefit analysis.
  • Presenting: When customers are first experiencing your offering (such as during a free trial period or a product demo), they’ll often ask questions about how you compare to rivals. With CI, you can answer these questions and ensure success at this vital stage of the process.
  • Closing: Why do potential customers pull out just before closing? It’s often because they get cold feet and worry that they might get a better deal elsewhere. With M/CI, you can overcome these objections and ensure that you seal the deal. 

Using market and competitive intelligence in the sales process is ultimately about helping customers to make an informed choice. When you know what’s available on the marketplace, you’ll be able to guide people through the decision-making process and arrive at the option that best suits them. 

M/CI also helps you see your competitors from a customer’s point of view. If you see that a rival firm has a vastly superior proposition, then it’s time to up your game. Conversely, if a competitor is nowhere matching your value, then it’s time to get aggressive and go after their clients. 

How Sales Leaders can Start a Market and Competitive Intelligence Team

Most sales teams will have done some basic market and competitive intelligence. If not, they’ll have received M/CI reports from other departments such as Marketing or Product Development. 

If you’re new to M/CI, you’ll typically approach it like this: 

Identify Competitors

Sales teams know who most of their current competitors are because you hear their names in client conversations. 

But if you want to keep an eye on potential future competitors, you’ll need to perform a detailed market analysis. This means performing a detailed analysis of the competitive landscape, which is a three-step process: 

  • Identify known competitors: Make a list of all the companies you know you’re competing with.
  • Group by industry and capabilities: Each of these competitors will have a different industry focus and differing capabilities. Once you chart these attributes, you’ll start to notice clusters of rival companies that operate in the same space as each other. 
  • Find additional competitors: When you have this overview of the market, you can start to identify other companies that may pose a threat in the future. Which companies operate in the same space as your rivals? Who are your competitors’ competitors? 

At the end of the process, you should understand exactly who’s in your market and how they relate to you. 

Collate Data About Each Competitor

You can now start building a file about each competitor. Suitable data can come from anywhere, as long as it's trustworthy. The main types of data to look at are: 

  • Competitor’s digital presence: Competitors will voluntarily publish useful data. This could be website content, social media posts, press releases, or anything else that comes directly from them.  
  • News coverage and discussion: Your competitors may also appear in news items, blog posts, or forum threads. You need to weigh these sources by their reliability: a New York Times article is probably more reliable than a Reddit post. 
  • Regulatory filings: Competitors have to make filings, and these can often contain valuable data. Financial returns, test reports, and patent applications all offer highly credible data. 
  • Field reporting: Your sales team is also a rich source of data. Their notes from the field can offer unparalleled actionable insight into competitor activity. More importantly, this data will tell you a lot about how customers feel about your rival. 
  • Primary research: You can beef up your M/CI by performing some direct competitor research. This might include focus groups, one-on-one interviews, secret shopper activity, or anything else that allows you to obtain detailed competitive insight first-hand.

 

Keeping data organized is essential. You’ll need a process for tagging and indexing everything so that you can monitor trends over time. 

Analyze the Data

Your next step is to try to turn this data into something useful. Some of the topline information, such as pricing, might offer immediate value. But if you dig deeper, you can find something more interesting. 

Try looking for data that gives insight into long-term trends like: 

  • Pricing fluctuation: Do they keep raising prices? Or have they been forced to deep discount? 
  • Customer LTV: Can you get an idea of the lifetime value of each customer? Can you break that down by customer type? 
  • Product lineup changes: What products are they developing and pushing? Which ones are receding into the background? 
  • Consumer sentiment: When people talk about the competitor, are they saying positive things or negative things? 

The more data you obtain, the more you’ll be able to identify long-term trends. 

Discover Useful Information

Now, you need to turn this data into information that helps your sales team. Battle cards or a SWOT analysis can help to focus on the most important insights of your competitive intelligence analysis. Look out for the following: 

  • Strengths: What’s so great about their offering or product marketing? Why did their customers choose them? 
  • Weaknesses: What are they getting wrong? What are the unmet needs that could lead to customer attrition? 
  • Opportunities: As you get deeper into the data, you’ll start to see the most promising opportunities for each competitor. This will help you anticipate the areas where they will be most expansive and aggressive. 
  • Threats: You’ll also see what’s keeping rival sales leaders awake at night. Companies face all kinds of threats, from supply chain disruption to regulatory changes to a toxic brand. 

All of this information will help your sales team with their objection-handling and conversion techniques. 

Collaborate with Other Departments

Any kind of analysis depends on the amount of data available. Your sales team doesn’t have the entire picture. To really understand the market, you have to make contact with other leaders and see what they know. 

You may find that everybody wants to get on board with your M/CI project. Some of the most enthusiastic leaders will include: 

  • Marketing, who want a heads up on market trends and competitor strategy to help with their competitive edge
  • Product managers, who want to know if rival products are making any major changes
  • Operations, who want to know more about customer expectations
  • Executive leadership, who need input for their strategic decisions
  • HR, who want to know if they’ll be competing in the recruitment marketplace against expansive companies

When all of these leaders put their heads together, they’ll help to create an unprecedented flow of M/CI data. And when you have the data, you’ll be able to produce rich, actionable information. 

Taking Competitive Intelligence to the Next Level

Competitive Intelligence is immensely rewarding, so why do some companies neglect their M/CI process? 

Quite simply, because it’s too much hard work. Manually collating and analyzing data is an exhausting task, and it only gets harder over time. 

If you want to build a M/CI function that produces results over the long-term, you’ll need a reliable Market and competitive intelligence tool. Knowledge 360 is one such option. You’ll find features such as: 

  • Automated data collation and organization, powered by AI
  • Analytics tools for discovering patterns
  • Data representation and knowledge mining
  • Collaborative tools, including customizable dashboards

M/CI is not a manual task, unless you’re doing a short-term project. If you want a lasting M/CI function, you need the right automation tools in place.  

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