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Competitive Enablement

10 Internal and External Sources of Competitive Intelligence

You can split sources of competitive intelligence into two giant buckets: internal and external.

As the names would suggest, external intel relies on sourcing data from publicly available forums.

Conversely, internal sources of competitive intelligence emanate from and within your organization’s four walls.

Turning that intel into insights takes a different set of tools altogether. But finding the right sources of competitive intelligence is a crucial step in conducting competitive intelligence research.

So here are nine of the most valuable sources of competitive intelligence you should know about.

battlecard laws

Internal Sources of Competitive Intelligence

internal sources of competitive intelligence

Stakeholder interviews

Whether your competitive enablement program is in its humble beginnings or fully fleshed out, interviewing and surveying your internal partners will always be a primary source of competitive intelligence.

The time you spend conducting interviews and analyzing the results will help you:

  • Prioritize competitors
  • Uncover gaps in your current compete program
  • Find talk tracks and learn how your team currently depositions the competition
  • Build relationships with your stakeholders

These stakeholder interviews are so important that Tracy Berry, Director of Competitive Intelligence and Communication at Freshworks, makes them as an essential part of any compete program she builds.

“I use interviews to help me understand, to get my fingers on the pulse of competitive in the company. And that helps me really set the priorities I need to.”

Regular interviews with your stakeholders and the data you draw from them will always be one of the most important sources of competitive intelligence.

Internal messaging platforms

If your company doesn’t have a dedicated competitive intel channel, you need to stop everything and create one.

According to virtually every compete professional we talk to, internal messages are an absolute goldmine when it comes to sources of competitive intelligence.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Klue’s Competitive Enablement Manager Brandon Bedford is a proponent of leveraging internal messages for intel.

internal sources of competitive intelligence

Companies with a culture of compete, in which reps are readily sharing competitive intelligence, have a leg up on those that don’t.

Create a #competitiveintel channel in your internal messaging platform and start building that culture today.

Win-loss interviews

Despite our great love of internal stakeholder interviews, gathering competitive intelligence via this method has its limitations.

Namely because third-party objective data almost always trumps subjective hunches.

Whether you’re using an agency, contractor, or have a sophisticated in-house program, win-loss interviews help uncover valuable insights about why or why not a prospect decided to pick your solution.

As DoubleCheck CEO Ryan Sorley writes, “Win-loss interviews offer an unparalleled opportunity to get honest, straightforward feedback from people who have been immersed in studying up on the similarities between you and your competitors.”

You can also be highly targeted with the competitive intelligence sources you uncover with an organized win-loss program in place. For example, your program data may flag that 75%+ of deals are dropping at a specific stage in the sales cycle, let’s say after the initial demo call. With this data, you can target win-loss interviews on the accounts that dropped off after that first demo and dig into the what, why, and how.

This allows you to provide even more direct and informed insights that can help your go-to-market teams fill in the cracks of what’s missing.

And that my friends, is a highly valuable source of competitive intelligence.

CRM data

At the very least, CRM data should help your guide and validate the priorities of your compete program.

Your reps have a good handle on which competitors they face off against most. But they may not always have the most accurate view of changes in the competitive landscape.

If the CRM data matches up with what you’re hearing from your reps, then you can confidently decide which competitors to prioritize.

If not, this could be a sign you need to look deeper into this discrepancy in perception.

What’s more, keeping a tally of the frequency in which new competitors are coming up in deals should inform your strategic competitive intelligence strategy.

This is the kind of competitive intelligence that lets you earn and keep a strategic seat at the table.

“One thing I’ve learned is that leadership love really easy to consume matrix or landscape views of your position in the market.” – Fiona Finn.

Call recordings

The gold standard of battlecard content is real, proven talk tracks your reps are already using.

As such, call recordings are excellent sources of competitive intelligence because they give you direct insight into how your messaging is landing.

These insights then allow you to shift and adjust your messaging and positioning as necessary.

And as a compete pro, analyzing call recording sets you up to enable your reps better since you’ll begin to understand what’s resonating and what isn’t.

If you’re using conversational intelligence software, collecting this source of competitive intelligence can be as simple as setting an alert every time your competitor is mentioned on a call. If you’ve got competitive intelligence software, then all of those mentions can sit in one central place for you to sink your teeth into!

Taking intel from call recordings, drawing insights from them, and enabling your team to win more deals is the true essence of competitive enablement.

External sources of competitive intelligence

external sources of competitive intelligence

PR and News

One of the most accessible sources of competitive intelligence to build a full profile on your competitors is through their news, events, and press releases.

These timestamped pieces of content can help piece together the story of where they’re headed, and what they value.

What intel is important? 

  • Press releases regarding product releases, partnership, merger or acquisition announcements
  • Third-party news coverage
  • Patterns in the timing of their announcements. 
  • Events they are sponsoring and awards they may have won. 
  • Trends in their messaging

A company’s press release page is a strong indicator of what they want current and potential customers to care about.

Did your competitor only mention enterprise customers during their funding announcement? That might be fishy if they’ve typically been a competitor within smaller deals.

These announcements are a tool for competitors to position themselves. Tools that might introduce new funding and partnerships, product advancements, or suggest that a business is scaling up.

Web content and social media

Competitor blog articles, social posts, podcasts, videos, e-books, case studies and white papers (oh my!), are all sources of competitive intelligence your company should be monitoring.

Now more than ever, companies produce content for branding and industry positioning purposes.

Thus, frequently checking a competitor’s content production will help you build out your own strategy.

How regularly are they posting blogs? What are the main topics they’re trying to ‘own’? What calls-to-action are they embedding in their content?

Most importantly, how can you take advantage of the knowledge gaps in your competitor’s content by filling them yourself?

According to Dave Barker, when combined with PR and news monitoring, messaging in competitor web and social media content “really tells you they think and what they want the market to think of them.”

Ultimately, understanding how your competitor wants to be seen by the market helps you position against them more effectively.

Product, packaging and pricing

A competitor’s products and offerings are essential — if not obvious — sources of competitive intelligence.

At the end of the day, you need to know how you stack up.

And knowing everything about your competitors arms your reps with the actionable information needed to close a competitive deal. 

But, it isn’t just the sales team that benefits from this. Every department across the organization can leverage information on competitor solutions, and how their pricing changes over time. 

What intel is important? 

  • Analyst reports that collect data from the marketplace and evaluate groups of products within a particular category. 
  • Advanced searches that uncover details and release reports that aren’t prominent on a competitor’s website. 
  • Changes in the pricing and positioning of a competitor’s product found on websites. 
  • FAQs and support threads for products. 

Finding a competitor’s most common FAQs and support threads sheds light on their user experience (UX). More, they aggregate the main issues affecting those using the product.

Beyond that, analyst reports by Forrester, Gartner, and IDC can help you understand your competitors in a variety of ways.

They analyze strategy, market presence, and other criteria for groups of products within a particular category.

Pro-tip: Using Google’s advanced search is a sneaky trick to find details that a competitor doesn’t highlight prominently on their website.

Here you may find product and user guides that are intended for sales reps or customers; they are far more detailed than public-facing feature lists and offer insight into a product’s roadmap and positioning.

Personnel & Hiring Practices 

Becoming familiar with your competitor’s personnel strategy reveals their current needs and where they might be headed.

For example, looking at a competitor’s hiring trends is a great way to forecast their next move.

Make sure to scratch beneath the surface of these job postings:

  • Where are they located?
  • How many openings are there?
  • What are the roles?
  • How long have the postings been online for?

These insights don’t just indicate a competitor’s growth, but also provide a glimpse into their strategic plan. 

Personnel changes at the C-suite level are also strong indicators of a strategic shift.

A new member of the executive team with a background that differs from their core business may portend a change in strategy.

P.S. looking for a cheeky way to use this source of competitive intel? Nick Larson, Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Staffbase, mentioned during his appearance on the Competitive Enablement Show that he loves including awful Glassdoor reviews on their competitors within his competitive intelligence newsletter.

Customers and review websites

Customer reviews dominate the internet. For better or worse, customers’ opinions left on review websites is the most essential way to establish your company’s credibility.

Conversely, they’re a great resource for getting the inside scoop on a competitor.

For instance, tracking negative user feedback is a great method to enable your sales team for future deals. With a thorough understanding of a competitor’s weaknesses, you can deposition them by ‘laying a landmine’ or using a quick dismiss.

When you have a handle on customers’ most common pain points, you can start sowing the seeds of doubt early on in the deal cycle.

And beyond product review sites, consider employer reviews like Glassdoor as an additional source of intel.

Better insights; not more intel

Even the best intel in the world won’t help you win more deals.

The data you get from these sources of competitive intelligence can’t be activated unless you enable your team with it.

You need to take that intel and turn it into insights. Insights that direct your company’s overarching strategy and reach your reps in the exact moments they need them.

The way companies compete today is broken — and we’re here to fix it.

We call it competitive enablement.

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