Competitive & marketing intelligence (CMI) leaders are currently being torn between two points of view.  But, these two views cannot be reconciled, and CMI leaders cannot sit on the fence! I know because I tried!

As a CMI leader, I participated on a team to restructure the company's approach to pricing. On one side of the table sat the "corporate" team who wanted to simplify the product catalog, making it easier to manage.  On the other side sat the "field" team, who wanted to simplify pricing when talking with customers. I wanted to find an "elegant negotiable" that would achieve both objectives.

A talented sales engineer put me in my right mind! One day, she came into my office, closed the door, and proceeded to "school" me. She rightly pointed out that there could not be two different design points – we needed to decide whether the company would design around back-office operations or frontline conversations with customers. 

CMI leaders across the tech industry face a similar choice, albeit with less drama! 

Earlier today, the CEO of a sales-tool provider made this point: "In the past, salespeople for tech vendors had to educate customers on what a product could do, how it worked, and process orders. In today's Internet economy, customers already know what your products do from your web site, have already compared it to your competitors, and probably spoken to some of your existing customers through social media links. What is the role of a salesperson?"

CMI leaders need to reposition their organizations back to the place where competition matters – the frontline.

So, if sales teams are not talking about products, features, providing demos, or picking up purchase orders (we wish!), what do they talk about with customers? Salespeople talk with customers about what customers are trying to solve – problems. But instead of solving technology problems, customers are increasingly purchasing technology only when it solves business problems.

Salespeople talk to customers about their problems – and customer problems need to be the new design point for CMI.

  1. What problems do your customers have?
  2. How are customers thinking about solving their problems?
  3. What have other companies done to solve these same problems?
  4. How has your company solved these problems elsewhere?
  5. What stakeholders are usually interested in these problems?
  6. Who are the stakeholders looking at these problems in your target accounts?
  7. What do your competitors say about these problems?
  8. How do competitors change conversations to their view of these problems?
  9. What kind of financial benefit do competitors claim in solving these problems?
  10. How do competitors discuss price in the context of problems?

From this list of questions, you can see that the style of analysis is similar to what CMI has always done, but the focal point shifts away from what your company sells and examines the problem the customer is trying to solve! 

Will you choose to design around back-office operations or frontline conversations with customers?

Reorienting your CMI team to look at customer problems is very difficult. It goes against everything that that we've been trained to think during our careers. You will need to lay the groundwork by creating a newly structured set of CMI deliverables, put analysts through training, and reinforce the new point of view by adjusting the metrics you use to track the quality and quantity of CMI analysis. 

We will discuss these topics and how to put this CMI transition into effect during our teleconference next Tuesday:

    Topic: Customer And Market Intelligence (CMI) For Sales Enablement Success
    Date: Tuesday, November 9
    Time: 11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. Eastern time (50 minute presentation, 10 minute Q&A)
    Registration: Free to clients; nonclients, contact your Forrester representative for a complimentary pass

Information on the teleconference