So far we’ve learned about the different relationships that can affect the introduction of a new technology and the optimal role that technology should play. The discussion now goes to the use of the information provided by the new technology. What information is the most useful to creating a sale? And what information will provide a competitive advantage in a world where competitors are gathering information as well?
The study of competitive intelligence has been alive since the early 70s, arising out the practices of top consulting firms such as BCG and McKinsey and the pioneering academic work by Michael Porter. However, the focus of competitive intelligence has been focused on the collecting and filtering of intelligence by firms, not individuals. Recent work by Dr. Adam Rapp of the University of Connecticut and Dr. Raj Agnihotri of Kent State University has taken the competitive intelligence framework and applied it to the individual, in this case the salesperson.
There are four factors which distinguish organizational competitive intelligence (OCI) from salesperson competitive intelligence (SCI). They are:
1. Tactical vs. strategic use
SCI is mainly tactical in nature, allowing for salespeople to formulate plans for closing leads in a decentralized fashion. OCI is mainly concerned with strategic purposes, the direction of the company’s growth, allocation of resources and such.
2. Longevity of use
The longevity of information is tied to how long its use is relevant. Thus, SCI has a shorter lifespan due to the short term nature of tactical actions than OCI, which is used for strategic actions. It should also be noted that the longevity of SCI is related to OCI in that a change in strategy will change how relevant tactics are. Communication between the organization and sales is key.
3. Intelligence availability
Intelligence that is available to competitors is less valuable than intelligence that is exclusive to the firm or salesperson. When gathering information, that which is publicly available is inferior to that which is collected by the company for OCI purposes, or by the salesperson for SCI purposes.
4. Time orientation of the intelligence
Time orientation is a dimension representing how actionable the intelligence is, that is, how soon it can be used to help whatever effort the salesman or organization is pursuing. Actionable data is far more valuable than data which will take time to put into action, as circumstances may very well change, rendering it useless.
What does this mean for you?
Keeping with our own principles, we need to bring this back to the original task of creating the perfect storm in order to make it actionable. So what does this all mean for the selection and integration of a technology to help your salesforce? First, focus on commonly available data will not produce returns on the investment of a salesperson’s time. Getting mundane details on customers and entering them into databases is less likely to help your efforts than a targeted effort to find out their specific needs and interests.
Going back to the potential of data tracking we explored in our last post, a system that can track what data a customer is pursuing can provide a window into what their interests are.
Finally, in order to make the information useful, it must be timely. Sales information has less longevity and real time updating is an essential part of any useful technology to be implemented in the pursuit of customer intelligence.
Rapp, Adam; Agnihotri, Raj; Baker, Thomas L.. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, Spring2011, Vol. 31 Issue 2, p141-156