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5 Tips for Delivery of Competitive Intelligence

As you prepare to present your competitive intelligence to your organization’s leaders, you need to spend some time working on your delivery. What you say and how you say it are equally important in improving the chances of having your intel put into action.

As momentum builds, change spreads more easily through the rest of the organization. By the time you have 10 to 25 percent buy-in, your intel is almost assured of eventually achieving full acceptance. Your briefings should clearly be focused on building those numbers; in other words, your briefings need to be convincing.

Focusing on the positive

If the chief issue of your briefing is a threat that the organization must take action to avoid, you certainly need to describe the threat in order to talk about it. But don’t dwell on it. Focus most of your presentation on possible ways that your organization can respond to the threat and the positive outcomes that are likely to result.

If your initiative instead calls for pursuing a newly discovered opportunity, avoid any mention of past mistakes or failing products. Instead, talk about the opportunity you discovered and the potential revenue gains and other potential benefits.

How to avoid imperatives and ultimatums

As you transition from collecting and analyzing intel to convincing decision makers to take action, your role as analyst transitions into the role of diplomat. In this role, avoid using imperatives, such as must and should, as well as ultimatums, which convey arrogance and tend to put people on the defensive.

If you start feeling the need to be more forceful, ask a question instead. That person may have a very good reason for his lack of enthusiasm over your intel and what it entails related to his own position and interests. You might say something like, “I’m getting a sense that you’re hesitating here. May I ask what your concerns are?” Be humble. Others may know something you haven’t considered.

How to offer alternatives, prioritize issues, and remain detached

One of the best ways to lessen resistance among decision makers is to do most of their work for them. Here are some suggestions for developing a presentation that preemptively addresses any concerns or objections and is likely to make your audience more receptive to your intel and its ramifications:

  • Anticipate and address any objections. By addressing possible objections upfront, you demonstrate that you thought carefully about the issue and the ramifications of possible responses.

  • Offer alternatives. If alternatives exist, present those alternatives so the decision makers have a choice other than a simple “yes” or “no.”

  • Prioritize issues. When prioritizing issues, try to align your priorities with those of the decision makers — or at least recognize their priorities so you can establish some common ground.

  • Remain detached. Don’t engage in emotional or political battles. Focus on the facts and what’s best for the organization. Opposition is usually driven by emotion. The best way to overcome opposition is through logic, so keep the dialogue focused on facts and figures.

How to clear the pitch with your competitive intelligence cluster

Before you deliver your pitch to a decision maker who can shut it down, rehearse with your CI cluster and make sure everyone approves. Your cluster can not only help you polish your presentation but also engage key executives prior to the presentation for the purpose of gauging and anticipating resistance.

You have to win over your CI cluster in order to have any hope of winning over the rest of your organization, so work on convincing your cluster first. New ideas get shot down roughly 80 percent of the time. Great intelligence may be useless if you fail to manage the process of convincing key decision makers. Your organization only wins when you’re able to conquer internal resistance.

How to communicate critical information in change-resistant environments

If you ever get the feeling that senior management just isn’t listening, it’s probably because it’s not. Senior managers have been known to treat CI with a certain degree of passive aggressiveness, letting the CI team gather and analyze data but ignoring the resulting intelligence. To alleviate this problem, try the following approaches:

  • When submitting your intelligence briefing, mark the urgent status in red to call attention to the high level of urgency. Just be sure to use the urgent status sparingly, only for truly urgent matters, so it maintains its impact.

    When submitting urgent items, marked in red, explain why those items are marked in red — because the information appears very accurate and the impact may be significant. In this way, you’re signaling the urgency of taking action without telling a superior what to do.

  • After submitting an urgent competitive intelligence briefing or memo, send a separate e-mail message to reinforce the urgency of the situation. You may even want to call leaders on the phone or stop by their offices.

  • If you can arrange it, give the briefing at a meeting of senior management and your internal sponsors (especially the senior executives who are part of your CI team) or internal customers.

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