How to Start Your First Efficient Competitive Intelligence Program

Contrary to what many believe, establishing an effective competitive intelligence (CI) program is not just a luxury, but a necessity. 

The good part — you can start right now.

In today’s tech landscape, the competition is relentless. Prospects are inundated with options, questions multiply, and sealing the deal is becoming increasingly more difficult. Everyone is fighting for that piece of market share. 

 In this environment, your departments need more than just talent and hard work to excel. They need the edge that a robust CI program can provide.

Recognize this – embarking on this journey doesn’t mean leading your departments but empowering them. Your mission? To gather valuable insights from your internal teams and your top competitors, then leverage this knowledge to ensure your offering stands out as the prime choice for your customers.

While there is a myriad of software out there to simplify this process, it’s not a prerequisite. Start low-tech if you have to. The ROI will soon come.

In this guide, we’ll share the principles and steps that we use at Grow and Scale to help our clients secure their first competitive enablement victories. Take it from us: CI is not just achievable – it’s essential. And with the right approach, it’s simpler than you might think.

While there is software that can help you make this a breeze, you can start without spending budget on tech just yet. Just do like Nike and just do it.

Leveraging Your Established Positioning and Messaging

Before you create anything in a competitive field you need to know who you are and what your organization (and products you represent).

Positioning paints a clear picture of where your product stands in the market and highlights its unique value to your audience. It’s the distinguishing factor that sets your product apart and carves out its own niche.

An essential component of positioning is messaging. This includes high-level messages, product pillars, and industry-specific verticals (Lines of Business). Messaging communicates the core benefits of your product and conveys its value in a way that resonates with your audience. When done effectively, messaging can create a strong emotional connection with your customers, making your product not just a logical choice, but an irresistible one.

If or when your messaging is already well-established, you’re halfway there. Your task now is to craft dedicated competitive messaging. This involves comparing your product’s strengths and unique features to those of your competitors, and highlighting where you outshine them. Remember, it’s not about being better in every aspect, but about being different and more suitable for your target customers. With this approach, you’re well on your way to carving out a unique position in your market.

Use your Strengths

Analyze your product’s features, benefits, and value proposition to identify what sets it apart from competitors. Consider factors like performance, ease of use, pricing, and customer support.

Leveraging Your Existing Data and Start Talking About It

You’ve already got tons of data available to you. 

But it sits in your CRM or in the heads of sales, customer success and other team members. 

Before you move on to start building a CI, make sure to bring your leadership on board. 

Begin by engaging with stakeholders to communicate the importance of competitive intelligence and gain their support. 

Set up meetings with key stakeholders, including product managers, sales leaders, marketing executives, and customer success managers. During these meetings, share your vision for the competitive intelligence program and discuss how it aligns with the company’s overall goals.

Given that competitive enablement directly fuels revenue growth, securing approval for its implementation is not just likely – it’s essential for your bottom line.

Highlight the potential benefits, such as improved win rates, more effective sales conversations, and better market positioning. Be prepared to address any concerns or questions stakeholders may have, and demonstrate your commitment to working collaboratively to ensure the program’s success.

Sales Reps and Managers

Discuss the current competitive landscape and gather insights on what their teams need, what’s working, and what could be improved. 

Sales managers have firsthand experience with customer objections and competitor tactics, making them valuable sources of information. 

Arrange one-on-one conversations or group discussions with sales managers to explore the challenges they face and the resources they currently use to handle competition. 

Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to share their perspectives, such as:

  • Which competitors do they encounter most frequently?
  • What are the most common objections they hear from prospects?
  • What competitive resources do they find most helpful, and what’s missing?
  • Are there any specific product features or aspects where they feel more support is needed?

Use their input to identify gaps in your current competitive intelligence efforts and prioritize areas to focus on as you develop your program.

Identify Your Top Competitors

Start by focusing on one or two primary competitors, allowing you to concentrate your efforts and gain actionable insights. Identifying the most relevant competitors is crucial for the success of your competitive intelligence program. 

To determine your top competitors, consider the following factors:

  • Frequent Lost Deals to Top Competitors: There’s no doubt that your sales team knows exactly which two names they appear the most during sales calls.
    The natural instinct would be to choose thow as top competitors however, if your sales teams are winning deals against most mentioned competitors – don’t pick them as a priority right now.
    Focus on those competitors that you see losing deals to. Prioritize making a plan to go against them. If you can, add a mandatory field in your CRM, where sales tag the competitor mentioned on their calls. You’ll start getting objective data from this day forward.
  • Product Offerings: Compare your product offerings with those of your competitors. Identify the companies that offer similar features, target the same customer segments, and solve the same problems as your product.
  • Customer Perception: Assess how customers perceive your competitors by reviewing customer reviews, social media mentions, and industry forums. Focus on competitors who are frequently mentioned in a positive light and have a strong reputation among your target audience.

Once you have identified your top competitors, document their market positioning, messaging, sales strategy and do a product tear down. This information will serve as the foundation for your competitive intelligence program and help you develop strategies to address competitive challenges effectively.

By focusing on one or two primary competitors initially, you can ensure that your competitive intelligence efforts are targeted and efficient. As your program matures and gains traction within your organization, you can expand the scope to include additional competitors and deepen your analysis.

Start Gathering Data

Internal

Your own data:

Your CRM is a treasure trove of information. By listening to sales recordings and sleuthing through the data, you’ll discover patterns. Your key metrics to look for are:  

  • Win/Loss comments from your sales teams
  • Win/Loss Reasons
  • Length of the closed deal
  • Competitor present in a deal
  • CI usage in a deal

If your CRM isn’t sophisticated yet, add those fields in and make them mandatory. 

Sales Team
Collect feedback from your sales team on the competitive challenges they face during deals and negotiations. Understand the objections they encounter and the unique selling points of your competitors.

Customer Success Team

 Gather insights from your customer success team on the reasons customers churn or switch to competitors. Learn about the areas where your competitors excel and identify opportunities to improve your own product offerings.

Marketing Team

Review your marketing team’s analysis of competitors’ campaigns, messaging, and content. Identify the marketing strategies that resonate with your target audience and assess the effectiveness of your competitors’ tactics.

External Sources

This is when the fun begins!

Monitor competitors’ pricing pages, social media activity, and online reviews on platforms like G2, Capterra, Reddit, and help desk/forums. 

These sources provide valuable information about your competitors’ strategies, customer sentiment, and industry trends. 

Key external sources include:

  • Pricing Pages: Analyze competitors’ pricing strategies, packages, and feature sets to understand their approach to capturing market share and attracting customers.
  • Social Media Listening and Keyword Alerts: Set up alerts for brand mentions and industry-specific keywords on social media platforms. Track your competitors’ activities, product launches, and customer engagement to identify trends and potential threats.
  • Online Reviews: Monitor customer reviews on platforms like G2, Capterra, and TrustPilot. These reviews provide insights into your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as customer preferences and pain points.
    But, take these as a grain of salt – most of those reviews are overly positive since they are being solicited from the company itself.
    That’s why it’s important to study 2 or 3-star reviews
  • Help Desk and Forums:
    Data from Help Desk or online forums like Reddit are tougher to collect but they can provide a goldmine of information.
    Reddit is unbiased and it’s to set up an alert (i.e. f8bot.com to start monitoring mentions of your and competitor names). Help Desk will uncover the challenges and issues your competitor customers are having.
    This information can help you identify gaps in their offerings and opportunities to differentiate your product.

By gathering data from both internal and external sources, you will be far ahead with information already. Now you have enough to develop a comprehensive understanding of your competitors and their strategies, enabling you to make data-driven decisions and strengthen your competitive positioning.

Build Your Compete Positioning Plan and Build Your First Battlecard

Before diving into the creation of your first battlecard, it’s crucial to establish your compete positioning. Understanding where your product or service outshines your competitors forms the bedrock of your competitive strategy. This analysis, highlighting your distinct advantages, will become the foundation of your battlecard, ensuring it’s accurately tailored and compelling. Only once you have a solid grasp on your unique selling points can you build a battlecard that truly empowers your sales team and drives competitive success.

You can do this by taking similar features and comparing them against each other. 


Now you’ll have enough information to build your first battlecard.

A battlecard is a concise, easy-to-understand resource that empowers your sales team with the information they need to effectively address competitive challenges and demonstrate the value of your product. 

Think of it like an index card or mini cheat-sheet.

Here’s how to create your first battlecard:

  • Company info and Core Positioning: Main points about your company and offering
  • Date it: Battlecards tend to become outdated every few months. Put the date on it, so you’ll know when was the last time this asset was updated.
  • Identify Key Differentiators: Pinpoint the unique selling points and advantages that set your product apart from your competitors. Focus on the features and benefits that resonate most with your target audience and address their pain points.
  • Understand Competitor Weaknesses: Analyze your competitors’ products, customer feedback, and industry reviews to identify their weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Highlight these areas in your battlecard to help your sales team position your product as a superior alternative.
  • Address Common Objections: Anticipate the objections your sales team may encounter during negotiations and provide clear, persuasive responses. Equip your team with data-driven arguments and real-world examples that demonstrate the value of your product over the competition.
  • How We Win: This section will highlight the biggest benefit you have over your competitor. Think of it as the powerful closing argument
  • Pricing: All objections usually come down to pricing. By knowing your competitor’s pricing strategy a sales person will be able to raise the perceived value of your own product against your competitor
  • Landmine Questions: List out a few questions that will raise doubt about competitor solutions. These could be around security, integrations, flexibility around customization, quality of support or anything else you’ve identified as a weakness
  • Additional Information: For supporting arguments, add statistics, relevant case studies, or anything else helpful that a salesperson can share with the prospect right away. 

This is already plenty and you can determine what to include or exclude. The key is to not overburden your sales with additional information at the moment. 

A battlecard doesn’t have to be just one slide – it could be a series of two or three pages as long as you have effective and useful info that can swing the possibility of a sale towards you.

That’s why it’s important how you format this battlecard. 

This is an example of an atomic battlecard format – one card that resolves 80% of compete problems.

There are specialized tools like Crayon or Klue that are made for CI support but if you’re just getting started, you can use Notion, Google Slides or even Google Sheets.

Present the information in a logical, easy-to-digest format, such as a simple table or chart. Use clear headings and bullet points to help your sales team quickly locate the information they need during sales calls.

Train Your Sales Team

Ensure your sales team understands the content of the battlecard and how to use it effectively during negotiations. 

Ideally you’d provide training sessions, workshops, and role-playing exercises to help them develop the skills and confidence needed to leverage the battlecard in real-world situations. But to get started a simple 5-minute pre-recorded video on Loom can do wonders. 

Regularly review and update your battlecard to ensure it remains accurate and relevant. Encourage your sales team to provide feedback on the battlecard’s effectiveness, and use their insights to optimize the content and format.

By creating a battlecard that highlights your product’s advantages over your competitors, you can equip your sales team with the knowledge and confidence they need to close deals and successfully navigate the competitive landscape.

Establish a Repository

A well-organized content repository enables your sales team to quickly access and utilize competitive intelligence materials during their interactions with prospects. 

Here’s how to establish an effective repository:

Select a centralized platform or tool that your sales team can easily access and navigate.

This could be easily done in Notion, but we’d recommend a dedicated tool like Highspot. The speed to get the information is crucial here. Easy access and time-to-information are key!

You can categorize the content by topic, competitor, or product to help your sales team find the information they need quickly. Use a consistent naming convention and folder structure to facilitate easy navigation.

Search functionality will be key here. I recommend getting started with case studies first, since these are most often requested assets from prospects and sales teams.

Don’t forget to record a tutorial for your sales team on how to use it. 

Implement a Review Process for Battlecards and Collateral

Outdated data is almost worse than no data. It’s a perfect way to lose credibility on the call where the prospect is better informed about your competition than you.

That’s why it’s important to timestamp your collateral so you’re always working with fresh intel.

With the speed of innovation, you’ll have to pick dates for content refresh.  This not only keeps your data fresh but also aligns with any shifts in the competitive landscape. 

Consider the following steps:

  • Set up a schedule: Depending on your industry’s volatility, determine a suitable frequency for reviewing your battlecards – monthly, quarterly, or biannually. Make sure this process aligns with significant industry events, product launches, or any strategic planning cycles.
  • Collaborate with relevant teams: Involve sales, marketing, and customer success teams in the review process. They have firsthand customer interactions that can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of current battlecards and areas for improvement.
  • Monitor competitors: Keep a close watch on your competitors’ activities – changes in their product offerings, pricing, marketing strategies, or market presence. Use this information to update your battlecards and ensure your sales team is equipped with the most recent and relevant information.
  • Measure and adjust: Use metrics like usage rates and sales feedback to understand the effectiveness of your battlecards. If a particular battlecard isn’t being used frequently or isn’t contributing to sales success, it’s a sign that it needs revision. At Grow and Scale, we like to measure sales confidence with surveys and interviews at the start and end of quarter as well. 
  • Incorporate feedback: Establish a feedback loop with your sales team to continuously refine your battlecards. They can provide real-world insights into what’s working and what’s not.

Competitive intelligence is a dynamic process, and regular updates are essential to maintain the usefulness and accuracy of your battlecards and other competitive collateral.

Start Small and Grow with Incremental Improvements

Enablement is not a sprint (or a finished project) – but a marathon. You will constantly improve by listening to your customers, your departments and breaking down the intelligence coming from competitors and the market. 

It may seem or sound overwhelming, but remember that you don’t have to do everything at once. The best approach is to start small, focus on what brings immediate value, and scale your efforts as you start to see results.

To summarize the process, stick to these initiatives

  • Pilot a CI Initiative: Choose a single product or service and one or two primary competitors. By narrowing your focus, you can develop a deep understanding of the competitive landscape and create a robust CI process.
  • Prioritize Immediate Needs: Listen to your sales and customer success teams. What information do they need right now to close deals or retain customers? Prioritize these areas in your initial CI efforts.
  • Build your Competitive Playbook: Playbooks is a larger document that clearly defines competitors, looks into their product teardowns, and defines positioning. It would also host internal assets like battlecards. The Competitive Playbook is your holy grail – a base where you get the information, curate them, and delegate it in different formats to other departments.
  • Create and Use Your First Battlecards: Based on the data you’ve gathered, create your first battlecards. Encourage your sales team to use them and solicit their feedback.
  • Measure Success: Establish KPIs to track the impact of your CI efforts. This could include win rates, time to close deals, or customer retention rates. Celebrate and communicate these early wins to build support for your program.
  • Optimize and Expand: Use the insights and feedback you’ve gathered to refine your CI process. Once you’re confident in the effectiveness of your CI initiative, you can begin to scale. Expand your focus to include additional products or services, and more competitors. Build new battlecards and grow your content library.
  • Keep Communicating: Regularly communicate your successes and learnings to your stakeholders. This not only builds support but also encourages a competitive mindset across the organization.

It requires patience, persistence, and a willingness to learn and adapt as you go. Start small, prove the value of your efforts, and scale with each success.

If you’re looking to pilot your first competitive enablement, or upgrade your existing one, take this 2-min Compete Program Assessment quiz which will identify your strengths and uncover gaps that you can improve upon. 

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