How to Deal with a Negative Competitive Intelligence Response

If you’ve been in the competitive intelligence business for a while, you’ve heard the “We already knew that” response many times. Sometimes it’s even true; the person really did already know what you told him. Other times, that response is merely a defensive maneuver; the person doesn’t want to appear ignorant.

Either way, you need to get past the natural tendency that most people have when they encounter new information or old information with new calls for change. The best approach is preemptive. Here are a few options:

  • If you expect a negative response, try a pre-briefing to explain to key attendees (ideally including the CEO) why you think the information is important. Doing so helps remove ego from the equation.

  • Include a “We Already Knew That” slide and explain why this information is different or why the situation is now a matter of urgency.

  • Ask one of your internal customers who “gets it” to spell out the potential impact of the issue on your organization. Another voice reinforces the urgency of taking action.

  • Seek out people who’ve already tried to communicate the same information. Find out what they’ve tried and how you may help their cause (and yours) in moving the issue forward.

  • Make your issue new. Focus on a specific outcome that hasn’t been considered in the past; for example, if the concern previously was on how the issue could affect sales, present it anew in terms of its possible impact on market share or competitor success.

  • Take a “just the facts” approach to shift the focus from emotional opinion to look at the issue objectively and in terms of its potential impact. Moving the discussion to numbers is one way to focus on facts.

  • Anticipate emotional reactions. Dissonant information (that is, material that’s new, novel, or different) threatens a person’s power. Most people see change as a threat to their position as an expert in some area.

    The simplest illustration of this perceived threat is software conversions. People who become adept at using a specific software almost always oppose the migration to a new version or a different software package altogether.

    Remembering that you’re dealing with emotional factors rather than facts tends to make you more successful in dealing with the emotional resistance upfront, which then simplifies the task of eliciting the desired action from others.

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