19 Aug 13 Market Intelligence – Why the sales force isn’t enough
“If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete!” – Jack Welch
When a company is able to accurately assess the competition by gathering competitive information, it is in a better position to build differentiation for their company, thereby accelerating its growth in the market.
One of the biggest challenges for companies is to create a way of collecting, analyzing and archiving market intelligence.
A sales team has long been recognized as one of the key sources of acquiring this kind of knowledge. They can help you put the pieces of the puzzle together as they talk to customers every day. Their customers, who work in different levels and positions, can provide various perspectives on the current market trends. However, this often works only on paper – not in actual and relevant market scenarios.
Gathering market information requires a certain skill set. The information collected and disseminated has to be in tune with the company’s strategy. There is often a huge gap between the intelligence required and the intelligence provided. Sales people may also have an incomplete perception of the market they observe. They are often unable to filter and classify the information.
While collecting and passing on information helps the long-term sales plan, this activity does not help the sales force achieve their quarterly sales quota. Therein lies a fundamental problem – sales people are typically incentive-driven and tend to close deals which support a short-term outlook.
Collection and collation of market intelligence marketing is not an easy task for the sales force. They need to build strong relationships with customers in order to get proper and relevant information from them. Information transmitted can be biased because sales people receive only the information their customers wish to share. It is imperative to adequately estimate customers’ expectations and overall market understanding in order to validate the information. It is important to note that this information is to be collected without disturbing the selling process.
From a theoretical standpoint, the Vroom’s expectancy theory suggests that a sales person will be motivated to look for information in the field, if he or she feels that he or she will gather good information about competitors or about customers (expectancy) and thereby receive a reward associated with the information transmitted (instrumentality), which he or she really wants to obtain (valence for reward).
Intelligence activities largely rely on the willingness of the sales person to pass on information. This requires a well thought out market intelligence framework that aligns key intelligence questions with the information collected. The framework should define the data needed, how it is archived, analyzed and disseminated.