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How to Maintain Competitive Intelligence Visibility through Communication

Great companies that walk the talk understand the value of symbolism and storytelling. They don’t just say that they value competitive intelligence; they demonstrate it in a meaningful way. If your organization views CI as a key factor in its future success, leadership must have a clear plan for using symbolism and storytelling to ingrain CI’s value in the DNA of the company.

How to use your sponsors to elevate your competitive intelligence communication

The first rule in credibility is that you never publicize your own accomplishments. Instead, you let others to do it. That’s where your internal sponsors come in. Here are the keys to making sure those folks do what you need them to do:

  • Serve your sponsors. Provide exceptional service and information.

  • Orient your sponsors. During your periodic visits with your sponsors, make sure they understand the importance of their role in publicizing some of the CI wins that you helped them achieve.

  • Return the favor. Make sure you publicize your sponsors for their role in helping you capture and analyze intelligence.

  • Always focus on team. In CI, sustainable success is the result of a team approach. For example, your sales people are invaluable resources for gathering CI. Publicly saluting individuals for their contributions reinforces their commitment to your mission.

How to expand the competitive intelligence communication circle

As the CI team becomes firmly established in an organization, it often becomes the point “person” for issues that involve more than one department or function in the organization. In some cases, a department manager may not know that someone in another department has the skills or knowledge that can help her solve a problem or deal with a particular issue.

By establishing close relationships with everyone in the organization, you may find yourself uniquely qualified to refer people to one another and expand the communication circle. Just make sure you don’t step on any toes in the process. Here’s an approach that’s safe:

  1. If someone needs help and you know of someone inside (or outside) the organization who’s uniquely qualified to provide assistance, ask the person who needs help if you can have the person you know contact her. If she says no, end of story. If she says yes, proceed to Step 2.

  2. Ask the person who’s uniquely qualified to help if she would be willing and able to provide assistance. If the answer is no, let the person who needs help know that the person you thought could help is unable to. If the answer is yes, then proceed to Step 3.

  3. Provide contact information to the person who’s uniquely qualified to help (or serve in some other way to bring the two people together).

In some cases, expanding the communication circle simply means looping another person — perhaps the CEO or other higher-level sponsor — into the conversation you’re having so you have additional input. However, sharing information can sometimes involve political nuances or power struggles that you’re unaware of, so before looping someone in, make sure everyone already in the loop is okay with it.

How to jump on unforeseen opportunities or threats

The CI team is often able to increase its impact by jumping on opportunities or threats it discovered through its research but that nobody else in the organization saw coming. Giving an internal customer an impromptu heads-up lets the person know that you’re covering his back and committed to his success. Here’s a good way to approach unexpected opportunities and unforeseen threats:

  1. Schedule a short meeting with your internal customers who hold a stake in the information for a briefing about the emerging issue.

  2. Use the meeting to convey new information and gauge the level of need or deficiencies in current knowledge that require additional research.

  3. Ask questions to develop an understanding of the timeline/urgency of getting the information back to the internal customer.

  4. Follow up with your internal customers according to the agreed-upon timeline.

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