A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with Mimi An and August Jackson — who run competitive intelligence (CI) at Akamai and Deltek, respectively — about the top insights from Crayon’s 2023 State of CI report.
When you spend an hour chatting with two people as bright as Mimi and August, best practices are more plentiful than golden retrievers at a Cape Cod brewery; to try to jam all their wisdom into a single blog post would be a fool’s errand. Instead, I’ll walk through my 3 favorite tips from the webinar — each of which is actionable for CI practitioners of all experience levels.
- Work with what you've got
- Manage your expectations
To promote this webinar with Mimi and August, we sent 4 emails to our subscriber database over the course of several weeks.
Why? Because we knew some people would miss the first email. And the second. And the third.
We knew they’d miss them not because we’re bad at writing subject lines (hopefully), but because we’re just one of the hundreds of companies competing for our audience’s attention.
When you announce to your sales team the release of a new battlecard or the date of your next CI office hours session, you’re competing for their attention with lots of other people — including some who work at your company!
That’s why you need to overcommunicate. When you publish a new battlecard, show up at the next sales team meeting and announce it. Send a follow-up via email or Slack. A few days later, give a shout-out to the sellers who have used it the most. And as soon as someone wins a deal against that competitor, take the opportunity to update and re-promote the battlecard.
Like it or not, this is what it takes to cut through the clutter and drive adoption of CI.
2. Work with what you’ve got
This advice applies to two of the topics we discussed during the webinar: win/loss analysis and key performance indicators (KPIs).
Let’s start with win/loss. In a perfect world, every buyer who chose a competitor over you would gleefully accept your request for an interview and shower you with feedback so actionable your head would fall off your shoulders.
Alas. Our world, unlike Led Zeppelin IV, is not perfect. Mimi and August are seasoned CI leaders and they still struggle to get face time with buyers.
So what do you do? Give up on win/loss?
No! You work with what you’ve got — which, in this context, means interviewing your sellers to get their perspectives on why deals are won and lost. This isn’t a substitute for buyer interviews, but it’s much better than nothing. Plus, the value you get from seller interviews will help you build the business case for a third-party win/loss partner — a team of experts who are very good at getting time with buyers.
Next: KPIs. Ideally, you’d measure the success of your CI program using KPIs like competitive win rate and CI-influenced revenue. But you can’t do that unless you have Crayon.
So what do you do? Buy Crayon? Yes.
But even if that’s not an option, you can still find ways to measure success. The number of battlecards you maintain, the number of deals you support, the praise you get from sellers — all completely valid KPIs. Not the pinnacle of success measurement, but a great place to start.
3. Manage your expectations
Getting your sellers to habitually use battlecards and share the intel they get from buyers. Securing budget for win/loss services. Finding the right mix of quantitative and qualitative KPIs.
Each of these is a marathon, not a sprint. That’s not to say that running a CI program is extraordinarily difficult — but it does require patience, commitment to incremental progress, management of expectations.
One day, your battlecards will influence tens of millions of dollars in revenue. Ultimately, that’s what you should strive to achieve. But if that and that alone is how you define success, you’re going to be disappointed — because results like that take time.
Hearing a seller use your competitive positioning during a call. Facilitating peer-to-peer learning in your #competitive Slack channel. Getting invited to present at sales kick-off.
Small victories like this make the marathon fun — so remember to celebrate them!
Get your copy of the 2023 State of CI report
Originally published in 2018, the State of Competitive Intelligence is the industry's longest-running benchmark report. The 2023 edition is based on an extensive survey of more than 900 CI leaders and stakeholders. You can download it here.
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