Competitive Intelligence (CI): Myths, Blind spots, and Biases

Experts, Masters, and Grandmasters. There are different grades of salesmen.

The divergence of their outcomes can be explained by the convergence of their skills. Running a regression on winning traits reveals the Relationship and Competitive Intelligence (CI) have the strongest influence on their success. Given the limited role of technology in strengthening relationships, I believe solving for CI has a direct and immediate impact on Sales efficacies.

However, the way it was pursued, accessed and utilized weakened CI’s reputation. Sales character has a heavy borrowing from wars and battles and sales language reflects loyalty to its war-centric origins. I wonder, why the same origins fail to emphasize the CRITICALITY of CI and its significance. Wars could be lost, people killed, hostages shot down or deals might just vanish if the CI is not precise, comprehensive and consumable at that point in time.

Contrary to the common perception of Competitive Intelligence as “nice-to-have” capability, it has a disproportionate effect on the deal closure smoothness and velocities. Differences between winners and losers in the sales battles are essentially differences in their CI strength. Empirical evidence basis our Enterprise Sales Analytical projects across the globe corroborate this.

Organization’s muscle memory of yesteryear successful companies and blind spots in B2B Sales thinking have perpetuated bias towards Competitive Intelligence. Looks like Sales organizations ended up becoming self-fulfilling reinforcement loops. One way to break smart is to label these strong but wrong notions. Calling them out helps in de-biasing and adopting CI in the right way. Consider:

BIAS 1

CI is cost-intensive and takes a long time to value, i.e., to see any tangible benefits.

Perception-editing is the essential first step: it is not a cost but an investment. Insufficient data, tedious process for sales to comply with and static analysis are some the primary reasons for the value gap

  1. Expecting Sales to comply with the tedious process has been the main The present and future of B2B sales apps are voice-based. By design, these apps are zero-click and zero-friction for Sales. It means sales calories well spent, as their time is not wasted on manual entry and other non-Sales administrative tasks. Everything is on the go.
  2. CI quality is a function input data and algorithms, hence problem areas. ML/AI Guided Selling products begin with the assumption what if data is sparse, alloyed and incomplete. These are trained to solve precisely these set of issues. With respect to analysis, AI algorithms inside these products are ahead of the analytics evolution curves. They can generate insights and out-of-sights that you never knew existed in the first place.

BIAS 2

CI is “good-to-have” component. It is a strategic piece of knowledge and hence no immediate utility.

Consider Account Based Marketing (ABM), DBM (Deal Based Marketing) or Contact Level tactics. CI is feet-in-the-fire consumables and it is super-critical. CI covers the entire spectrum, right from strategic to micro-tactical.

BIAS 3

CI makes sense only for multimillion dollars. Smaller deals do not make a business case for it

Most organizations have badly designed process for acquisition and synthesis of CI – which translates into cost and hence prioritization of resources and time.  With

  1. Voice-based sales assistants that capture tribal knowledge and atomic level hard-to-find-elsewhere data at
  2. Advanced AI algorithms which capture external data (think of 100s APIs) and synthesize invaluable insights at a speed and scale dilutes the premise of that argument.

 

To put simply, if an organization can obtain that military-grade sales super intel at 1/1000th of spending without an extra effort from Sales or Marketing, why wouldn’t business use it for every deal? It is like sales nuclear power at your disposal – just hello-away from you. To understand the future what I am referring to, check this new age Sales app BRiDGEfunnel, which provides highly-contextualized, deal-level winning recommendations in real time.

 

I don’t pretend this list to be exhaustive. I shall cover other points in the next post and more
such as How do you measure the CI quality and utility? What are best consumption methods for maximum impact?

Author: Prashanth Kale

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