Friday, January 29, 2010

Dear CI Vendor - How to Sell

When I held the purse strings and vendors would knock on my door, I was reluctant to book time to see their slides or webinars. I found it more productive to get a brief description of the data, the kinds of things they thought it could be used for, the general pricing regimen and then I'd ask them to demo a value-added solution.

Specifically I'd pick one or more actual projects I was then working on and ask them to demonstrate their product's value by answering a specific question requiring a specific usually formatted presentable output and compare it to the ones I was generating already using other approaches or sources. I'd also ask them to compare their product to its competitors in terms of methodology, timeliness, qualifications and continuity of the compilers, etc. If that went well enough, then I'd see the webinar and make a final determination. Most didn't know their competitors. Words rarely matched performance.

The selling process has to be about first deeply understanding the clients' specific needs, decision process and industry dynamics. Don't sell to clients who don't know that information. They have to be close to the pain and the action. If the product works well in solving real problems and making them a more viable competitor in their industry, it sells itself. The budget will be found.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bill Gates & CI in the not-for-profit sector

There is reason to believe that the demand for CI skills will grow in the not-for-profit, social enterprise, NGO space as people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet dedicate their considerable resources and talents to innovative and choiceful solutions to major world problems of poverty, hunger, pre-mature death/poor QOL, access to education, etc. See Bill Gates 2nd Annual Letter re his foundation.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

CI literacy in remote corners

When CI isn't mainstream but you know it's worth it...

This is from a description of how literacy developed in mid 1500's England as the result of the first English Bible becoming available in print following the martyrdom of William Tyndale who was responsible for much of this. CI will perhaps always be led and practiced by passionate people in remote corners who grasp its value as an article of faith. Also interesting metaphor for CI literacy and how it grows when people see the light for themselves.

“It was a wonderful thing to see. Whoever possessed the means, bought the book and read it or had it read to him by others. Aged persons learnt their letters in order to study the...scriptures. In many places there were meetings for reading; poor people dubbed their savings together and purchased a (copy), and then in some remote corner of the church, they formed a modest circle, and read (it) between them. A crowd of men, women, and young folks, disgusted with the barren pomp of the altars, and with the worship of dumb images, would gather round them to taste the precious promises...God himself spoke under the arched roofs of those old chapels or time-worn cathedrals, where for generations nothing had been heard but masses and litanies.” (History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin, pub 1880 by J. H. Merle D’Aubigne)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lessons from National Enquirer

Interesting recap today in WSJ about how National Enquirer nailed the truth about Senator John Edwards.

Sometimes as CI professionals you get in this "I told you so" situation. Your customer doesn't believe you and perhaps even publically eviscerates the argument you present. Been there?

My advice:

1) If it's material to the success of your organization, remind that you are of a different opinion and go about your business. Continue to probe and gain additional confirmations using all available means. If it's not material move on. You won't be right all the time and everyone knows that.

2) Identify, engage, equip allies in your organization and network to help find the truth. Be at the right events, follow the right news nodes/forums, call on the right customers, ask provocative/ballparking questions to people closest to the action. Your real investigative team is probably still pumped...just like at the Enquirer.
One time I needed pictures of the newly produced item being loaded into a truck to nail the case. (no, no trespassing was involved)

3) Build part of your intelligence effort around addressing the biggest objections of the naysayers. Compare those closely to the assumptions vs. data which will condition you being correct. Work quietly until you have it nailed. Stick to the facts and most plausible scenarios cognizant always of competition's financial & marketing models & relationships.

4) Use overwhelming force to make the case a final definitive time. This could be a critical meeting where the decison will go one way or the other depending on your information. It could be use of SM and the rumor mill of your organization. It could be jumping ranks over the normal chain of command to the person most at risk/reward if/when you are right.

Hope you win your "confession".

Friday, January 22, 2010

Making the tough CI and life

My wife says honey attracts more flies than vinegar. This elaborates on that: Predicting who will make the pitch, raise donations, preach the most influential sermon, make the sale. Some of this can be learned. Some probably not.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Carrier pigeons and CI management

From the Rothschild stories:Carefully train & develop your courier pigeons (for e.g. field sales) to gain first mover advantage; use misinformation wisely to throw competition off track(e.g. manipulate CEO travel schedule during M&A) and play your cards closer to the chest (e.g. keep it in a small circle of associates in a world of no secrets). Hedge your bets by benefiting from multiple outcomes (sequence, segment, know your markets). Lend to governments...they can usually raise taxes to pay you back!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Are you ready to decipher voiced info

As more and more communications transition to voice from text with improvements in voice recognition software and improved connectivity with other devices, it will likely become necessary for CI professionals to improve skills in "capturing" data in this new voice environment: Everyone on Bluetooth equivalent, talking up a storm complete with use of code words for security enhancement. Could be another opportunity, as when cold war melted in the 80's, for intel/national security types to migrate into private sector in a new wave.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Passion over perfection

Passion/persistence >> perfection even in BI & CI. Fishermen know this too. See metaphor of ratty flies:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Robustness in putting the pieces together

You may not be a nerd, but you are a node and node creator/operator if you are a good CI, BI professional. NYTimes profiles US intel failures re X-mas day attempt by Nigerian to blow up airliner flying to the US. Sounds strangely familiar with what I have experienced in the corporate intel world. Especially in big complex companies.

First and foremost as a CI, BI you must create and operate the vision of all critical information flowing through a CI, BI node. That is probably you. It's endlessly time consuming to keep this vision fresh as people come and go but what are the options. You don't want 20/20 vision to be only in hindsight.

Those field sales people, those logistics experts, those visionary marketers and product developers, those number crunchers, those deal doers, etc. They all have a contribution to make to your understanding of the market, the competition, the invention space. Lead them.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Recent research on BI and social media, 2010 trends for BI professionals

From new info on how bus intel professionals see recent trends in their space including importance of SM. 63% undecided about value of SM sites. Many feel pressure for showing more rapid results to justify their pay checks. As needed data bus model expected to continue to grow. 49% say BI is becoming more appreciated.
Original research done globally (n>125) by Kognito and Baseline Consulting.

Be interesting to cross-tab output with degree of expertise by BI professionals in SM and related and emerging tools like Twendly for locating SMEs.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Diversity and CI

As diversity extends beyond demographics, one can envision a day where everyone is a minority and the cycle starts all over. As the www/SM fosters more and more affinity groups and micro-segmentation, probably need to get SCIP to lobby defining CI as a minority deserving recognition within corporate/societal diversity programs :-)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Business & competitive intel as a gadfly

Don't kill the gadflies.

Intel - It is… a matter of experience, intellect, initiative and judgment, nurtured within institutions that welcome gadflies in their midst.

From Wikipeida on "gadfly": "During his defense when on trial for his life, Socrates, according to Plato's writings, pointed out that dissent, like the tiny (relative to the size of a horse) gadfly, was easy to swat, but the cost to society of silencing individuals who were irritating could be very high. "If you kill a man like me, you will injure yourselves more than you will injure me," because his role was that of a gadfly, "to sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth."