The Spy Who Outsold Me… How do You Get Your Competitive Intelligence?

Win / Loss analysis notesEveryone loves a good spy story. But unless you’re at the movies or picking up a book, it’s hard to transport yourself into the world of espionage. That was, until competitive intelligence became a key component in the realm of business.

Some corporations go to great lengths to obtain competitive intelligence about rival firms. In a recent article on CNBC, Eamon Javers detailed some practices which he coined “corporate espionage.”

The article centered around one story (really an “operation”) which included undercover employees collecting data on a competitor. The employees collected intelligence by attending a rival’s conference and eavesdropping on key personnel at the bar or hiding out in the bathroom waiting to overhear any conversations.  After they identified a key meeting of rival senior directors, the competitive intelligence team snuck into the conference room after the meeting to gather leftover notes and materials.

If this seems like something straight out of a spy thriller, it may be because the company was using ex-CIA operatives who had actually written spy novels to manage their corporate espionage missions. While it is not uncommon for corporations to have competitive intelligence activities, the lengths that some companies go through to collect information on the firms they compete against can be eye-opening.

But it doesn’t always have to read like a Tom Clancy novel. Competitive Intelligence (CI) can be gathered a number of different ways, and CI is a key component of Anova’s research programs. In Win Loss analysis (also mentioned in the article as a CI practice), using a third party to learn how the competition behaved during a sales situation and how they compared to your own sales effort is a major objective of the research. Departed Client analysis similarly aims to understand why your clients left for a competitor. Intermediary Perception studies gather competitive data as advisors, consultants and resellers often times have more holistic market perspectives and can evaluate one offering against a number of firms.

A lot of the best competitive intelligence can come just from talking to who it matters most: your prospects and customers. Using a third-party to get unfiltered feedback and insights about your offering compared to the competitive landscape is critical in today’s sales and service environments. Whether you play the theme song to James Bond while you read the results is entirely up to you.