The Competitive Intelligence Summit has officially drawn to a close, and wow, did it deliver! We're still buzzing from the wealth of insight. 🎉

While we can't package all that greatness into one article, we're about to dish up a tantalizing taster menu of the top takeaways. Get ready for a recap of the juicy bits you might've missed or just need to relive! 🚀

Takeaway #1: Perception is everything

Nate Bagley, Head of Content at Clozd

Perception truly is everything. It's not your perception of your company’s strengths and weaknesses that matters; what matters is your buyers’ perspective on how you stack up in the marketplace.

Let's take one of our clients, Acquia, as an example. We recently spoke with one of their leaders, Deanna, who shared a story about the typical infighting that occurs in a technology company. The sales team was frustrated, claiming they were losing deals because the product wasn't up to par. The product team, on the other hand, was adamant that their product was fine, suggesting the sales team just wasn't good at selling.

This difference of opinions led them to hire us to conduct win-loss analysis interviews with their buyers. What we found is that the number one reason they were losing deals was a perceived lack of key integrations in their product.

Deanna was taken aback. They had a lot of these integrations, so why was there a perception that they didn't? Turns out the problem was multi-faceted, implicating not only sales and product, but potentially marketing as well in the failure to close deals.

In response, the organization took a unified approach. Deanna worked with the product team to build out the missing integrations. The marketing team started highlighting these integrations more prominently on their website, so their buyers knew they existed. Lastly, the sales team enhanced the sales process, ensuring these integrations were mentioned earlier.

Within a year, integrations went from being the number one reason they were losing deals to the number one reason they were winning them. Essentially, all they did was work to change their buyers’ perceptions. But they couldn't have made these changes without first understanding how they were originally perceived.

They could have continued the endless finger-pointing: "It's the sales team's fault," "No, it's the product team's fault," "No, it's marketing's fault," like that famous Spider-Man meme. Instead, they went and found the truth and changed their approach accordingly.

Takeaway #2: The four archetypes of differentiation

Alex McDonnell, Market and Competitive Intelligence Lead at Airtable

When we’re serving up CI to product teams, we're looking for opportunities to differentiate and critical gaps to close. Those opportunities to differentiate come in many shapes and sizes, but they typically match one of these archetypes:

  • The specialist: Let’s say your target persona needs four capabilities to complete their workflow, and maybe there are some products out there that do all four, but they don't do any of them particularly well. The specialist would take one of those capabilities and refine that experience to the point where it's worth paying for. It’s about being the best-of-breed tool on top of – or even instead of – the one that tries to do it all.
  • The aggregator: Perhaps you’re part of a fragmented market landscape where customers have to piece together their workflows with a bunch of different tools. The aggregator spots the opportunity to put all of those workflows into one tool or platform.
  • The innovator: Let’s continue with the idea of those four capabilities that your target customer needs. The innovator takes one of those capabilities and does it in a fundamentally different way to make it their signature differentiator. They’re part of the same market category, but they highlight this star capability.
  • The simplifier: This last one is a really underrated approach to differentiation. It’s about having the confidence to acknowledge that you have the same or even fewer capabilities than the other tools out there. But you've created such a simplified user experience that your tool is much easier to use.

I’d recommend thinking about these archetypes for differentiation in any competitive analysis you do for your product team or even for your executive team. They’re great ways to differentiate and stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Takeaway #3: A battlecard is not a confessional

Jay Nakagawa, Director of Competitive Intelligence at Dell

For most companies, sales enablement means battlecards. The problem with many battlecards is they try to convey too much information. This unfortunate phenomenon has been repeatedly documented and attested to by CI professionals and sales-makers alike.

As CI practitioners, we often feel compelled to give the poor salesperson a dissertation on War and Peace on an eight-and-a-half by 11-inch piece of paper. We also put the information in a sub-microscopic font that requires a huge magnifying glass to read. Clearly, this is not helpful.

Keep in mind that a battlecard is not a confessional. The poor salesperson does not want to know everything you know about the competitor. What they're looking for is an answer to these questions:

  • What do I need to know about the competitor and their product, services, or offerings to move the sales process forward?
  • What are their weaknesses? (So I can emphasize my product services or portfolio strengths).
  • What are the frequently asked questions?
  • What are the product differentiations and customer references, etc?
  • How competitive is their pricing?

Keep in mind the KISS principle: “Keep it simple, stupid!” This means giving sales advice they can consume easily, making sure they’re able to convey this information to customers in a manner that is easily understood. This is one of the keys to success.

Takeaway #4: The incredible value of competitive intel from customer-facing employees

Tammy Savage, CEO of Groopit

The 2023 State of Competitive Intelligence Report, found that a staggering 63% of people believe that competitive intelligence from employees is extremely valuable; another 29% deemed it valuable.

Let that sink in for a second.

Our own employees are ranked as the number one most valuable source of competitive intelligence. That's right – the people who work alongside us every day hold the key to unlocking competitive advantage.

But here's the catch: gathering this intelligence has always been a challenge. It's hard for employees because they're busy, they forget, or they simply resist sharing their knowledge. Meanwhile, for CI professionals, it's a laborious manual effort. Piecing together these fragments of information from surveys, conversations, channels, and emails to form a coherent picture of the competitive landscape is a lot of work.

Scaling this process is an uphill battle. Let's be real: it's almost impossible. It would take an army of competitive intelligence professionals. And companies? They keep their investments very lean.

So, where does that leave us? Companies without a strategy for tapping into this competitive intel from employees are falling behind – often without even realizing it. Behind closed doors, they struggle with longer sales cycles, lost deals, and lower win rates. And that gap – the gap between companies that harness employee-driven competitive intel and those that don't – is widening, and it's impacting the bottom line of corporations.

But fear not! There is a solution. Let's take a peek into seven strategies that will remove friction for employees and competitive intel professionals alike:

  1. Define it: Lay out the types of intel you need employees to share.
  2. Score it: Turn anecdotes into quantifiable data.
  3. Time it: Streamline sharing to a few taps that take less than a minute.
  4. Connect it: Integrate systems so employees can share intel from the platforms they use every day.
  5. Share it: Make sharing automatic and data easily consumable so everyone can use it in real time.
  6. Recognize it: Celebrate wins and highlight the competitive advantage you’re all building together.
  7. Model it: Enlist competitive intelligence champions to engage their teams and model quality contributions.

Takeaway #5: Don’t rely on your CRM for win-loss data

Andrew Peterson, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of Clozd

Win-loss analysis is the process of analyzing the outcomes of each of your sales opportunities to explain why that outcome happened. You then aggregate that feedback over time to paint an overarching picture of why you're winning and losing deals, giving direction to your company as to what you can change to win more deals in the future.

To find out why a deal was won or lost, a common strategy is to ask sales reps to report the reason for the outcome in the CRM. On the surface, this seems like a sensible approach – until you realize how unreliable it is.

We know how unreliable CRM data can be because we've had the opportunity to scrutinize it firsthand. With the platform we offer and the services we provide, we can access our customers' pipeline and CRM data. We're then able to compare this information with direct feedback from buyers, post-decision, about why they made the decision they made.

Incredibly, when we’ve done this type of analysis, the results have been more skewed than we anticipated. A staggering 85% of the time, sales reps are wrong about the reason a deal is won or lost. We’ve compared the single reason provided by a sales rep to four or five reasons given by a buyer about what drove their decision, and they didn’t map. 85% of the time, not a single one of the reasons given by reps matched those provided by the customer.

In short, you can't fully rely on your CRM to tell you why you're winning and losing deals.

Takeaway #6: The benefits of presenting competitive intelligence to your stakeholders

Susan Sutherland-Wilmshurst, Director of Competitive Intelligence at JLL Technologies

Presenting research and competitive intelligence well has multiple benefits for the competitive intelligence function, the organization, and your stakeholders:

  1. It builds your skills and makes your job more fun: Rather than churning through the research, you're thinking about how to convey information. You're thinking about creative ways to visualize data and concepts. This is more interesting than just cranking through the work.
  2. Greater retention and engagement from your audience: Your CEO or stakeholder, is going to remember a well-structured presentation better than a simple document. They're going to engage more, they're going to retain the information more, and that information is going to have more impact.
  3. It enables faster decision-making: Taking in clear, concise insights will enable better and faster decision-making for your organization.
  4. It enhances your value-add and the perception of CI in your organization: Communicating clearly and succinctly goes a long way towards how people view you. They'll see that you're adding a lot to what they're doing, allowing you to play a bigger role in the organization. And in this day and age, when all of us are a bit vulnerable because of the external environment, showing your value is all the more important.

Takeaway #7: The advantages of strategic alignment

Sam Rinaldo, Senior Competitive Intelligence Analyst at Lucid Software

Competitive and corporate strategy really should be the same thing. And so, competitive strategy should be driven by the same individual that’s driving corporate strategy, and no corporate strategy should be created without the input of competitive intelligence.

Singularly aligning on a strategy has a lot of benefits, but there are a few I especially want to highlight here:

  1. Avoiding messaging whiplash: Messaging whiplash happens when you, as the analyst, seize on some available advantage, and incorporate it into your competitive approach without considering the long-term sustainability of that value proposition in your company strategy.

If the business moves away from that advantage – for example, you start charging premiums for features that were once included in bundled packages – you can end up making dramatic pivots from one value prop to the next, with no clear connection between them. This results in more work as well as a lot of confusion for your stakeholders and the market.

  1. Reduce internal friction: If the corporate strategy simply ignores competitive disadvantages or misses them during the planning process, there's only so much you can do to talk your way out of it on the sales and marketing side of the house. You're putting them into a bad situation with no long-term value props.
  2. Measure twice, cut once: Perhaps the biggest impact of aligning on strategy is the positive impact on productivity that comes from not having to go back and revise things all the time. You won't have to go back and fix things that are no longer working if you're able to address the root cause at the strategic level from the get-go.

That’s a wrap, folks! The curtains may have closed on this Competitive Intelligence Summit, but there’s sure to be an encore. To hear about all of our upcoming events and rub virtual shoulders with your fellow CI pros, sign up for our Slack community today!