Part 9 of the Social Business For Real Work series.

The Challenge

In order to be successful, sales teams need a good understanding of the market they are selling into, and the relative strengths and weaknesses of their competitors. But in many companies, competitive intelligence is often performed centrally by a marketing team resulting in it being rather “dry” and theoretical, lacking the real world experience that is often far more valuable. And sales teams often fail to keep up with the latest analysis, leaving them poorly equipped for competitive sales and unable to differentiate their offering effectively.

The Social Business Advantage

An enterprise social network can host a central repository of a company’s competitive intelligence, and a forum for discussion of this. Analysis can be published by the marketing team, and combined with contributions from the sales team based on discussions they have with customers and prospects, and from any other members of the company who find relevant information. The collective market knowledge can be kept current with contributions from the field teams, highlighting when certain pieces of intelligence are no longer up to date.

Example

The marketing team has established a community for publishing and discussing competitive intelligence for the sales team. Keeping this up to date has always proved difficult in the past, so the sales team are encouraged to contribute their own experiences, however anecdotal they may be. David is responsible for curating the community, keeping the published analysis up to date, and verifying the contributions received from sales.

 

During a break at a prospect meeting, Brad is able to access the community from his phone, download the latest information about competitors who have been mentioned in his meeting, and check if there has been any analysis performed on a competitor he’s never heard of.

Other members of the sales team add to the discussion, and this helps David identify priorities for further analysis.

Make It Real

  • Establish a community (or communities for separate product lines/markets) for exchange of competitive intelligence.
  • Ensure that the sales teams are both consumers and contributors to the community. Their real-world experience of what prospects are really saying is often far more valuable than theoretical analysis.
  • Don’t just limit the community to sales and marketing – in many organisations a variety of other roles (such as consultants and customer service staff) also discover anecdotal competitive information. Together, these contributions form crowd-sourced market intelligence from a variety of different angles.
  • Allow free-flowing exchange of information, but appoint someone (or a small team) to curate the community. This person or team is likely to be office-based, and will check the anecdotal contributions from the field teams.
  • Ensure that out of date information is removed or clearly marked – incorrect competitive analysis can badly damage the credibility of a sales rep.