Understanding your competitors thoroughly is crucial in the fast-paced and intensely competitive world of B2B sales. For sales professionals looking for a competitive edge, the practice of obtaining, analyzing, and utilizing information about your competitors is known as competitive account intelligence.
Sales teams may make wise decisions, hone their strategy, and improve their chances of closing lucrative deals by applying competitive account intelligence well. Here we will examine the specifics of competitive account intelligence in B2B sales, including the most effective strategies and practices that enable salespeople to remain competitive. We will also discuss about the ethical considerations around competitive account intelligence which is essential for balancing the data privacy and business objectives.
Sales teams can create appealing value propositions, skillfully handle objections, and ultimately prevail in the constantly changing B2B sales environment by conducting thorough research, performing incisive analysis, and strategically using findings.
The extensive collection of data about your competitors forms the basis of competitive account intelligence. Various methods and resources are used during this stage to gather useful data. Let’s delve deeper into the main methods:
Company Websites and Publications:
Visit the websites of your competitors and investigate their online presence as a key first step. To learn more about their advantages and special selling points, examine their services, product offers, and client reviews.
Pay close attention to any recent news or press releases because they may contain insightful information about their tactics, alliances, or future intentions. You can start to learn useful information about them by becoming fully immersed in their online presence.
1. Social Media and Online Presence:
It’s useful to follow your competitors on social media networks to keep track of their activity and gain insights. Examine their approach to content creation, levels of user engagement, and customer interactions.
Platforms for social media can show trends, product changes, and customer sentiment. Monitoring the internet activity of your competitors might give you up-to-date knowledge about their marketing plans and client engagement techniques.
2. Industry Analyst Reports:
Numerous organizations release thorough reports on market information, competitive analyses, and industry trends. These reports frequently offer in-depth details about the market share, financial performance, strengths, and future plans of your competitors. Understanding your position in the market and the competitive environment can be improved by studying industry analyst reports.
3. Trade Shows and Conferences:
Attending trade events and conferences in your sector where your competitors will be present can be quite advantageous. These occasions provide you the chance to see up close how your competitors present their products, make sales presentations, and deal with customers.
You can learn a lot about their messaging, sales techniques, and competitive strategies by attending their presentations and interacting with their booth staff. Additionally, networking with industry experts at these events can give you important insights on your competitors.
4. Customer Interviews and Case Studies:
Customers who have tested or used the goods of your competitors are one of the most effective sources of competitive intelligence. To learn more about your current and potential customers’ experiences, pain spots, and preferences, conduct interviews or surveys with them.
You can uncover areas where you can beat your competition and adjust your sales methods by learning about their advantages and disadvantages from actual customers. Studying case studies from your competitors ‘ successful deployments or migrations can also reveal useful information about their strengths and client satisfaction levels.
By using these methods of information gathering, you may create a thorough picture of your competitors, their products, and where they stand in the market. This data serves as the basis for the competitive account intelligence analysis and application stages that follow.
Analyzing the Data
The following stage is to analyze and interpret the data after you have obtained the relevant information. Finding patterns, trends, and important insights that might guide your sales efforts is part of this process. Here are some analysis methods to take into account:
1. SWOT Analysis:
Sales professionals can evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) posed by their competitors using the SWOT analysis, which is a strong technique. Sales teams can find the competitive advantages and weaknesses of their competitors by doing a thorough SWOT analysis. This report offers insightful tips on how to properly market their own goods and emphasize their main differentiators.
Additionally, the SWOT analysis aids sales professionals in identifying potential risks that may hinder their success as well as chances for growth and development. With this information, sales teams may improve their tactics, modify their messaging, and gain the upper hand in the market.
2. Pricing and Packaging:
Competitive account intelligence is greatly influenced by pricing and packaging. Understanding your competitors’ price policies, promotions, and packaging choices will help you better understand their positioning and pricing strategies.
You may fine-tune your own pricing strategy to remain competitive and appealing to clients by learning how your competitors set their prices for their goods and services in relation to the value they provide. Additionally, analyzing the packaging choices of your competitors may help you spot any distinctive or cutting-edge products that may be connecting with buyers.
With this information at hand, you may make wise choices regarding price changes, package improvements, or value-added services to distinguish your goods and increase their marketability.
3. Sales Collateral and Messaging:
It’s essential to dig deeper into the content and communication tactics of your competitors when examining their sales materials and messaging. To learn more about their messaging approach, tone, and main selling points, look over their brochures, presentations, and website content. Search for any areas where their message falls short or might be exploited.
Find out how they present their goods or services, then see if there are any places where you can set yourself apart. Understanding their messaging strategy will help you improve your own sales materials and create a captivating story that appeals to your target market and effectively communicates your unique selling propositions.
4. Customer Reviews and Feedback:
Examining customer reviews and feedback relative to your competitors is an essential component of competitive account intelligence. You can learn important information about the customer satisfaction levels of your competitors’ customers by investigating internet review platforms, customer forums, and social media discussions.
These resources frequently include first-person stories of experiences, stressing both good qualities and bad ones. You can spot similar themes, recurrent problems, and areas where your competitors might stumble by examining this feedback. With this information, you may more effectively address these issues in sales conversations and position your products as better alternatives, which will increase your chances of closing more business.
5. Win/Loss Analysis:
Conducting a thorough win/loss analysis versus particular competitors is a crucial part of competitive account intelligence. You can gain priceless insights by analyzing the causes of both victories and losses.
Find any gaps in your sales techniques, identify your competitors’ strengths and shortcomings by comparing them to your own, and search for patterns. You can improve your strategies, copy effective strategies, and address problem areas thanks to this study.
You can modify your sales strategies and raise your chances of succeeding in subsequent encounters by knowing the elements that both contribute to victories and defeats.
Utilizing the Insights
The last stage is to successfully use the insights gained to better your sales strategy after you have gathered and examined the data. Here are some strategies for using competitor account information:
1. Tailored Value Proposition:
To create a customized value proposition that shows your special capabilities and more effectively tackles customer pain areas, use your understanding of your competitors’ shortcomings and gaps. By doing this, you will set yourself apart from the competitors and improve the value of your goods.
2. Objection Handling:
Using your knowledge of the products and services offered by your rivals, prepare for potential objections that may come up during sales talks. Create plans to address these concerns and promote your products as superior alternatives.
3. Sales Enablement Materials:
Create sales support materials that address the unique problems and concerns your clients might have about your rivals. This can consist of combat plans, manuals for managing objections, and case studies of successful deployments or transfers from competitors.
4. Sales Training and Coaching:
Give your sales staff access to your competitive intelligence findings and train and advise them on how to make the most of this knowledge. Give your salespeople the knowledge and resources they need to engage in value-based interactions and outperform the competition.
Moreover, the insights gained from competitive account intelligence can inform sales enablement materials, training programs, and coaching sessions, equipping the sales force with the knowledge and tools necessary to engage in value-based conversations and win against the competition.
5. Continuous Monitoring:
The process of competitive account intelligence never ends. To stay current with the changing market, keep an eye on the actions, product launches, price adjustments, and consumer feedback of your rivals. To keep your competitive advantage, adjust your methods accordingly.
Ethical Considerations Around Competitive Account Intelligence For Balancing Data Privacy And Business Objectives.
It can be difficult to strike a balance between company goals and data protection, especially when it comes to competitive account intelligence. Although obtaining information about rivals can offer insightful analysis and tactical advantages, it must be done morally and in accordance with data privacy laws and regulations. Observe the following ethical considerations:
1. Legality and Compliance:
When obtaining competitive intelligence, legality and compliance are crucial factors to take into account. It is imperative to make sure that the procedures used to gather this intelligence comply with all applicable laws, rules, and professional standards. Understanding and upholding the data protection and privacy regulations that apply to your jurisdiction as well as the jurisdictions of the parties involved entails doing this.
For instance, the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a comprehensive data protection law that lays out stringent guidelines for the gathering, storing, and processing of personal data. You must become familiar with the GDPR and make sure your procedures adhere to its requirements if you conduct business in the EU or deal with the personal data of EU individuals.
Several essential components must be present for data protection rules to be complied with. These may include getting the individuals whose data you are collecting their informed consent, being transparent about the reason and extent of the data collection, putting in place the necessary security measures to safeguard the data, and respecting people’s rights in relation to their personal information.
Businesses can make sure that their competitive intelligence techniques are ethical and in compliance with the law by educating themselves with the pertinent laws and regulations, particularly those related to data protection and privacy. This not only helps to avoid potential legal repercussions but also indicates a dedication to respecting people’s right to privacy and maintaining moral standards when acquiring competitive intelligence.
2. Transparency and informed consent
When gathering information for competitive intelligence, transparency and informed consent are essential elements. They entail asking for consent before collecting personal information from individuals and being transparent about your data collection procedures.
Transparency is the practice of telling people what information you are collecting, why you are collecting it, and how to get it. This entails being open and honest about the data’s origins, the procedures followed for gathering it, and the intended use. Individuals can use it to better understand the information being gathered on them and decide for themselves whether or not they want to participate.
Transparency and informed consent are mutually exclusive. Before collecting someone’s private or sensitive information for competitive intelligence purposes, it involves getting that person’s express consent. Information that people might consider private or personal, such as financial information or medical records, can be considered sensitive data. Individuals must express their agreement for the collection and use of their data in a transparent and unmistakable manner in order to give their explicit consent.
It is crucial to give people the information they require to make an informed decision when requesting informed consent. This could contain information on the precise data being gathered, who will have access to it, how long it will be kept, and any third parties it might be shared with.
To show respect for people’s autonomy and their right to govern their personal information, transparency and informed consent must be obtained. It promotes confidence between organizations and customers, ensuring that data collecting procedures are carried out in an honest and responsible way.
3. Fair Competition:
You contribute to a competitive environment that is built on merit, transparency, and respect for moral and legal bounds by carrying out your intelligence-gathering efforts honestly and ethically. It encourages healthy competition that benefits both firms and customers and creates trust among key industry participants.
Steer clear of immoral activities like hacking, breaking into systems without authorization, or corporate espionage. These behaviors not only go against the law and ethical principles, but they can also harm your organization’s reputation and result in legal repercussions.
Make sure that the laws and regulations that apply to your intelligence-gathering efforts, such as data protection and privacy legislation, are followed. Learn about the legal standards for data collection, storage, and processing and follow them when doing competitive intelligence.
Be mindful of any copyrights, trademarks, or patents as well as other intellectual property rights. Avoid copyrighted works being used or reproduced without the required permission or attribution. Make sure that none of your competitive intelligence efforts violate anyone else’s intellectual property rights.
4. Secure handling of data:
Secure data management is the application of strict controls and procedures to protect the information gathered for competitive intelligence (CI). To safeguard the data’s confidentiality, integrity, and availability, multiple security procedures must be used. The essential elements are broken down as follows:
Use data encryption to safeguard sensitive information at all stages of its existence. This entails codifying the data so that it can only be accessed via a valid decryption key. Even if data is intercepted or viewed without the right authorization, encryption aids in preventing unauthorized access to it.
Make sure that the CI data storage systems have the proper security measures in place. Using firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and other security measures, this may include secure servers, cloud storage, or databases. To fix any weaknesses that potential attackers could exploit, apply regular security updates and patches.
To ensure that only authorized personnel can access and manipulate the CI data, impose tight access controls. Implement user authentication tools including role-based access controls, secure passwords, and multi-factor authentication. Limit access rights according to work duties and responsibilities, only issuing authorization to those who truly need them.
To guarantee that CI data can be restored in the event of data loss, system outages, or other unforeseeable occurrences, implement regular data backups and develop reliable disaster recovery protocols. Backups ought to be kept separately from the main storage system and in a secure environment. To make sure that they are aware of and adhering to best practices for data security, teach staff members that handle CI data. This involves spreading knowledge about scams involving phishing, social engineering tactics, and other possible security threats. Promote a culture of security awareness throughout the company.
Only keep CI data as long as it’s required and in accordance with any applicable legal or regulatory obligations. When discarding data, use secure data destruction techniques to make sure it cannot be recovered or accessed.
5. Privacy Policies should be transparent:
Transparent privacy rules are essential for building relationships of trust and openness among organizations and their stakeholders, rivals, and clients. These rules provide people with a clear knowledge of their rights and how their personal information is handled by outlining how data is gathered, used, shared, and safeguarded. The breakdown of their importance is as follows:
Making your privacy policies transparent can help you inform people about how you acquire their data. People can choose to share their information in an informed manner by being made aware of the sorts of data that are gathered, the reasons for their collection, and the processing methods used.
Details concerning the usage and sharing of the gathered data should be included in privacy policies. This includes describing how the data will be used, and if so, if the data will be used for competitive intelligence reasons. It is crucial to disclose the conditions under which data may be shared with any third parties or service providers involved in the processing of personal data.
People’s rights in relation to their personal information should be highlighted in privacy rules. This may include the ability to see, update, delete, or limit how their data is processed. Individuals can better comprehend their control over their personal information and exercise their privacy rights if these rights are made clear to them.
The security precautions used to safeguard the data acquired should be addressed in privacy policies. Included in this are details of the measures taken to protect data from risks such as unauthorized access, data breaches, and other potential hazards. People’s trust in the handling of their information is increased when security measures are transparent.
An important tip:
The language used to write privacy policies should be simple to understand and free of jargon. Websites should prominently show them, or people should be able to access them through other suitable channels. People can better understand how their data is handled and transparency and trust are increased by making sure the policies are simple to grasp.
Businesses show their dedication to preserving peoples’ privacy and upholding their rights by offering thorough and open privacy policies. Transparent communication enables stakeholders to evaluate the appropriate and ethical treatment of personal information and assists people in making informed decisions about sharing their data.
The art of competitive account intelligence is a critical aspect of success in B2B sales. By diligently gathering and analyzing information about competitors, sales professionals can gain valuable insights that drive their strategies and enhance their competitive advantage. The continuous monitoring of competitors’ activities, coupled with the ability to adapt and respond accordingly, is key to maintaining a strong position in the market.
Competitive account intelligence empowers sales teams to develop tailored value propositions, effectively address objections, and provide targeted solutions that resonate with customers. It enables them to position their offerings as superior alternatives, highlighting unique strengths and addressing customer pain points more effectively.
One must also take into account the surrounding ethical standards. You must concentrate on information that is readily available to the general public, as well as information from industry reports, social media, and competitors. Prevent illegal access and unethical data collection. You must therefore become familiar with the data protection and privacy legislation that are relevant to your sector and location. To maintain compliance, keep up with laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
By embracing the art of competitive account intelligence and making it an integral part of their sales process, organizations can achieve sales excellence, outperform competitors, and drive revenue growth. In the dynamic landscape of B2B sales, those who master the art of competitive account intelligence will be well-equipped to navigate challenges, adapt to changing market conditions, and emerge as industry leaders.
***The primary author of this article is Sakshi John, a contractual writer with iTech Series