How to Garner Executive Buy-in for Competitive Intelligence

The biggest obstacle to implementing competitive intelligence in an organization is the internal resistance to it. In certain cases, an organization’s leadership simply fails to appreciate the value of CI; they see it as a cost center rather than as a profit center.

Some managers may perceive CI as a threat or just another source of reports they already have in excess. Likewise, employees may view their involvement in CI and any additional work that CI initiatives call for as more busywork they’re not getting compensated for. A few people in your organization may view CI as unethical.

One of the first and biggest challenges to overcome is to convince your organization’s executives and managers that CI is valuable — that it’s essential for your organization’s survival and will boost future profits and growth.

One of the most consistent realities that organizations face is the 80 percent failure rate of change initiatives and new ideas. CI often falls victim to this reality.

How to create competitive intelligence value out of things that keep CEOs awake at night

Fear sells. One way to sell CI to your organization’s leadership is to find out what they fear most and offer CI as a solution.

  1. Create and maintain a list of the issues that keep your executive team awake at night.

    Ask executives and managers to describe key issues that they perceive as threats. Ask them, “What internal or external issues related to the success of our organization keep you awake at night?”

  2. Explore ways that CI can be used to identify potential threats and address existing challenges.

  3. Keep your organization’s leadership posted about perceived threats and opportunities and provide written reports that include recommended changes to give your organization a competitive edge.

    Prove your value by serving the needs of others.

  4. Continue to provide support as others in the organization formulate and implement strategic initiatives based on the intel you provided.

    CI needs to prove that it’s a team player, serving the needs of others in the organization for the greater good of everyone involved.

Hot to communicate actionable competitive intelligence convincingly

For CI to have impact, it must convince everyone in the company to embrace the changes necessary to capitalize on momentary advantages. Often, nothing is more convincing than a story.

When preparing a report that recommends a certain course of action, choose a point in the future and then use CI to tell the story of what that future holds for your organization: “If we take advantage of this particular momentary advantage, here’s how our company will benefit. . . .” As you compose your story, stick to the following guidelines:

  • Establish a realistic timeline for future events. For example, you may include timelines for your own and your competitor’s product-development cycles or a timeline showing changes in government regulations or policies.

    Stay future focused. If you’re looking at the past or present, you’re already several steps behind your competitors.

  • Present different scenarios, including best- and worst-case scenarios and what you expect will happen. Consider possible contingency plans if events fail to unfold as expected.

How to get everyone involved in competitive intelligence

You can get support from reluctant employees in your organization by involving them and by explaining how CI can benefit them. Everyone in your organization is a potential intelligence source. Whether they work in marketing, sales, customer service, manufacturing, or distribution, they have eyes and ears and are engaged in tasks that generate profits and growth.

Get everyone involved in CI to tap their brains for information and ideas and motivate them when the time comes to implement changes. Let them know how vital CI is to the very existence of your organization and to their jobs. Reward employees who contribute quality intelligence and those who use it to develop new products, services, and processes.

A fun way to get employees involved and highlight the benefits of CI is to engage in war games to simulate competition. Split employees or a select group of them into two teams, one representing your organization and the other representing the competition. Instruct each team to develop strategies to gain a competitive edge and see which team comes out on top. War games produce several benefits, including the following:

  • Participants have fun while learning to think more analytically.

  • Engaging in simulated competition often promotes innovative thinking.

  • Simulated competition often reveals miscalculations in thinking and assumptions.

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