Presenting your findings derived from an intelligence analysis is not the same as simply showing market research data. You are dealing with the most critical and sensitive part of the business: competitors and clients. So that when management calls you to see what you have to say, they will be listening carefully.
But top-tier management executives can be a tough crowd: they may be impatient, and will not apologize for that; they have important decisions to take and little time. So they may keep on interrupting you before you get to the point that you worked so hard on and wanted to deliver.
To help you deal with this, here are some guidelines.
C-level managers often have a solid view of the competitive landscape. In many cases you are about to present data points and recommendations that may contradict their current viewpoints. Make sure you have solid data to back-up every single bullet in your session. In addition, if you suspect that you are about to contradict a specific management team member’s view, make sure you get his or her feedback prior to the meeting. If you are not 100 percent certain as to a specific data point, make sure you qualify this by conveying it in the form of: “Competitor X might be…”, or “Rumours suggest competitor Y is about to…”.
You obviously have many important things to say. But you must be focused: otherwise, management will not see the wood for the trees. Dividing your presentation into three parts that support each other seamlessly will do that. But first prepare.
Part 1: Start by summarizing, since this is what they came for.
Management meetings related to the competition tend to be intense. In some cases, the discussion may get stuck on the first slide… therefore, make sure you cover the most important points you need to present and recommend up front. Add links to the relevant slides to support your insights and recommendations. Make sure to cover the main topics: the latest news on the competition, sales-related insights, and product-related information.
As for Sales – you can recommend later how to go about improving the win-rate. But first show the main weaknesses of the other vendors that are out there. You want to present competitors’ FUDs (Fears, Uncertainties, and Doubts) that will dissuade customers from buying their products and solutions. On the demand side, show the top considerations of either buyers or users that can make or break their decision to use a particular solution.
As for Products – you can make recommendations later how to improve the offer. But first show the primary deficiencies of alternative solutions by pointing out features that are missing or only partially-delivered. On the demand side, show what the top prioritized modules of the clients’ end-users are, and what functionalities they wish they could have.
Part 2: Reason it; validate it; stand behind it
Nowadays, everyone tries to be a storyteller, but how do you take data sets and detailed features and turn them into a story? By presenting facts: instead of data, show trends. However you choose to deliver your intelligence, remember this guideline: validate what you summarized in your opening remarks. Explain how you reached each conclusion by providing evidence, and more evidence, and then, yes, still more. But if you have important data that isn’t one hundred percent validated, don't hesitate to mention that. Remember, intelligence is all about verification.
Part 3: Take a bold step forward and provide actionable recommendations.
One of the things we have learned at LINX Market Intelligence is that clients should get actionable insight, and not merely reports, from their consultants. The same goes for your bosses. You need to give them something they can use tomorrow morning. Many Competitive Intelligence executives are afraid to take responsibility for what they think should be the next required steps, and this is the wrong way to manage a Competitive Intelligence process. The traditional “Circle of Intelligence” concept suffered from separation and unilateralism, while the new approach favors integration and the development of shared knowledge. As an executive who manages the entire process, it is impossible for you not to indicate what arises clearly from your findings.
But bear in mind that, as you may not be fully in the loop, or have the big picture, your actionable insights should be meaningful findings resulting from what you have analyzed. Validated and evidence-based recommendations will be easier to deliver than those that are not.
And here are some tips that can make the difference.
Rehearse. By yourself. And not once, but several times, as you will surely find new things to emphasize each time. Write down notes, not because you’ll necessarily make use of them, but by writing them down, you’ll remember them better.
Relax. Smile even. You’re in business, not in military intelligence.
Keep the presentation lean. If you are in any doubt whether a particular piece of information should go in or not, leave it out. You’ll remember it if needed.
Don’t surprise C-level managers with critical information. If you have information that is critical for your head-of-sales, or head of R&D, make sure they are aware of it prior to the meeting.
Be bold. Your role is to provide the hard facts, even if this is not what management wants to hear. If win-rates against a specific competitor have dropped – management must be made aware of this.
Make sure that all the Action Items arising from the meeting are clear, and actionable. The Competitive Intelligence team needs to be one that helps drive the business to improve.