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5 Best Practices for Using Competitive Intelligence in Sales Enablement

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To be successful, organizations have to have good product-market fit, customer trust, and a fantastic customer experience throughout the entire customer lifecycle. As such, much of sales and marketing’s focus is external to attract customers, and rightly so.

However, to truly delight potential customers and stay ahead of your competition, the flow of information internally needs to be timely and seamless.

The key to this internal success is sales enablement and quality, competitive intelligence. If done right, these two powerful tools provide benefits across your entire organization, including:

  • A better understanding of the target customer
  • Improved communication between sales, marketing, and product
  • Reduced confusion about messaging and execution
  • Increased engagement among employees
  • Improved ability to monitor and track the utilization of content

In this article, I’m going to show you the best practices for sales enablement and how to get the most out of your competitive intelligence so you can increase alignment and stay ahead of your competitors.

Building the Sales Enablement Function

Enabling sales teams — whether through a formal sales enablement function, channel, or informal process — is critical to any business. It not only enables salespeople to sell more, but it also helps them win competitive deals more consistently.

According to CSO Insights’ Research Director, Tamara Schenk, “The second most debilitating hurdle to sales success is ineffective sales process/methodology.”

A formal sales enablement function ensures that your teams have the tools and insights they need to be successful in the field.

In the same report, 96% of sales leaders agree that they need sales management, operations, and enablement aligned effectively to drive results, but “only 21% of organizations had effective ongoing enablement (beyond onboarding).”

These numbers are validated by a common complaint from sales teams, namely that they feel like they’re on an island and have to figure things out on their own.

Investing in sales enablement tells your sales team that you’re invested in their success.

But as a leader, be prepared. Determining the right steps to take and the best practices to implement can take time — though, I promise it’s worth it.

Once worked into the organizational structure of your business, these changes can bring a cascading effect of success throughout your entire organization.

So let’s get started: 5 best practices for improving sales enablement with competitive intelligence.

  1. Complete regular win-loss analysis
  2. Build strong competitive habits
  3. Provide relevant and timely insights
  4. Create alignment to fuel feedback loops
  5. Implement regular training

1. Complete Regular Win-Loss Analysis

Most sales reps don’t know why they’ve won or lost a deal.

According to Clozd, a leading provider of services and technology for win-loss analysis, “Unfortunately sales reps are wrong about 60% of the time.”

Even worse, “Many companies rely on the inaccurate feedback from their sales teams to draw conclusions about their products, competitors, and market — leading to suboptimal outcomes such as lower win rates, poor product development decisions, and longer ramp times for new sales employees.”

A proper win-loss analysis can be very impactful. Having a thorough understanding of what worked and what went wrong can help you identify gaps and opportunities for success.

The right data can make the difference for how effective a new tool is or how much your competitive intelligence helps your reps.

To make your win-loss analysis meaningful, though, you need to collect as much data as possible — through interviews with customers, tracking notes in CRM systems, and monitoring usage of sales enablement content.

Once you’ve collected this information, it has to be analyzed. But before you begin, come up with a hypothesis for why you’re winning or losing the deals that you’re analyzing. Starting from a hypothesis will improve your ability to quickly identify trends and dive into things that need further analysis.

2. Build Strong Competitive Habits

Competitive intelligence isn’t a one time piece of information. Providing that information is a constant process. It must be a habit.

Not all information is equal, though. Be sure to have a system in place that monitors and assesses the weight of that information. Ask yourself, “If this information was shared right this minute, would it impact a deal, or would it just create noise?”

Creating good habits is just as important as preventing bad ones from forming. Take, for example, the sharing of competitive intel. If you share every new piece of information with little to no context for the sake of keeping everyone up-to-date, there’s a chance that sales teams will begin to see those updates as noise and ignore them.

When sharing relevant and timely information, providing the context of why the information is useful is just as important as the information itself.

For example, say the marketing team notices a competitor has changed its messaging and product information on their website. If the product marketers update the battle cards with no context, most salespeople would do one of three things.

  1. Ignore it because they’ve been conditioned to think updates are noise.
  2. See it, but because they’re not selling that product to their current opportunities, they mentally mark it as something they’ll come back to — but don’t.
  3. Not know where they could use the information because of the lack of context and miss out on a key differentiator to seal the deal.

Creating good habits around sales enablement, engagement, and competitive intelligence will reduce the amount of friction between teams and ultimately impact the win-loss ratio.

3. Provide Relevant and Timely Insights

When looking for a competitive edge, sometimes, the timing of insights can be as important as the intel itself.

One of salespeople’s chief complaints is they don’t have the right information when they need it. You need to create and maintain an open hub for communication from person to person and team to team.

Clear, open communication like this is key to helping you create agile sales and marketing teams.

Creating a system for ranking insights and creating regular update notifications can reduce friction and build a habit within your team for consuming and providing insights.

4. Create Alignment to Fuel Feedback Loops

Traditionally, the relationship between marketing, sales, and customer success has been difficult (to say the least). However, unlike other business functions, they share a common goal — creating customer value and driving company revenue.

Alignment between the different teams in your company is a necessity. There’s no getting around that. Two of your best tools in this fight are open, transparent communication and feedback loops.

Feedback loops are both created and fueled by alignment. Better alignment will lead to better feedback loops, and feedback loops will lead to better alignment.

One way to create these feedback loops is in the way you share competitive intelligence and provide feedback on it.

Competitive intelligence is a tool that benefits both sales and marketing, but howdo you know it’s working? If you share competitive intel that gets used in a marketing campaign, how do you know if the message stuck outside of the performance of the campaign?

Once insights are collected and shared, you need a system to provide feedback on what’s working and what’s not. You can use the information hub you set up in the previous step, or you can use a more formal system. However you do it, you need to ensure that providing feedback is part of the process for your teams.

By allowing feedback to flow back through the sales team, you will improve the performance of marketing programs and empower your sellers to share insights that basic competitive research can’t find. It’s important to note that these feedback loops are necessary for all the information you share, not just competitive intelligence.

5. Implement Regular Training

Sales coaching and ongoing sales training impact your business’s bottom line. In CSO Insights’ 4th Annual Sales Enablement Study, they found that when sales coaching is done properly, it can lead to a 16.6% increase in win rates for forecasted deals.

This training needs to include every tool in the salesperson’s toolbelt. Battle cards, for instance, are a key asset. Like other resources, training the user how to use them, when to use them, or what types of insights to leverage is a big piece of competitive intel success.

Giving a seller a battle card filled with information but no training is a lot like giving a kid a bike and then walking away without teaching them how to ride it or what safety precautions to take.

Training can come in multiple shapes and formats, but the best way to start is by building a business case, getting executive buy-in, and then running tests to find out what works best for your team.

Selling With Competitive Intelligence

This may seem like a lot but start with small wins. Those small wins, no matter how small they seem, build on each other, and set progress in motion.

And remember, you don’t need to boil the ocean when implementing these best practices. Don’t try to do everything at once.

With any organization, it’s essential to have a clear list of best practices to build on. Use this list as a starting point. Just keep in mind, there are many internal organizations that influence success beyond just Sales and Marketing.

Pulling in the appropriate teams is a big part of overall success and gaining or maintaining a competitive advantage.

By implementing these changes, you’ll change the way your sales organization looks at the problems they face in the field. Your organization will run more smoothly, and your competition will be scratching their head, wondering why they’re always a step behind you.

How do you use competitive intelligence in sales enablement?

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    • Profile picture of Shruti Kapoor
      @wingwoman
      ( 420 POINTS )
      1 month, 2 weeks ago

      You make some great points @Gabriella. One thing I have found super helpful in this is to ensure that sales reps know the ‘secret-code’ for each competitor. This could be some ‘marketing language’ they use or the name of a feature that helps you know who the customer is talking to without them mentioning the name.
      In our case, we ensure that when that code word gets mentioned the salesrep automatically gets a cue-card that shows them the talking points.

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