Salespeople and CI

Copernic kicked up this link on the attitudes of salespeople toward the task of gathering competitive intelligence. Having dealt with a few reluctant sales folks in the past I was pretty glad to find the link because I think the relationship between CI and sales is very important.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like academic research as much as the next guy. This paper, though, is, well…like double-extra-academic. What I must remember is that this paper was meant for the university, probably not the public at large. So I recommend reading the paper, but don’t get to hung up on understanding it all – particularly the tables in the back – I surely don’t.

Anyway, sales people and CI. The reason I was glad to see the paper is that I find sales people and CI to be a love-hate kind of thing, but itâ??s not very cool to tell anyone you think a particular department is being uncooperative. Take trade shows, for instance. Sales is almost by definition talking to everyone who sets foot on the booth â?? in fact the booth is there largely for them to do that very thing. Given that, youâ??d think they would have great opportunity to exercise some of their elicitation skills (aka â??relationship selling skillsâ??) to collect some info in the process of qualifying leads. They actually do. The problem is they want to use it for selling, not anything else.

When I look at lead qualification, and the rest of the selling process used at trade shows, I canâ??t help but see how much of it duplicates the CI gathering process â?? even many of the techniques are the same. But, one is â??salesâ?? and one is â??not my jobâ??. And this goes back to the attitude the two authors were writing about. Part of this is comes from the pep-talks and other encouragement sales people get â?? after all, they donâ??t get much recognition from their leadership for helping another function. They get the perks and kudos for selling. Ironically, the very same info that they donâ??t want to collect could make the difference for them when making the sale.

Sales really needs and expects accurate info on competitors. They also collect a great deal of that same info. The challenge is to get them to see the benefit of this synergy. At least, with the this paper, the challenge becomes a lot more legitimate.

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