I had an interesting conversation today with a peer from another IT company. The topic of CI came up and I was pretty frank and outlined how one of the things I’m not so crash hot at is “ultra-positive” CI reporting. This got me thinking about the reasons why I’m not comfortable with ultra-positive CI and even more so on what makes a good CI professional – particularly if you work with the sales force.
For my mind, you can create a scale on which most CI analysis and recommendations tend to be delivered upon. Ranging from negative tendencies all the way through to positive.
Personally, I’ve always found it comfortable leaning slightly left of centre, within the dark realms of negativity and pragmatism. Being in this state of mind has been more of a function of working as a lone CI practitioner, rather than a personal leaning as, to be honest, I love a good bit of cool-aid as much as the next person. Being negative has helped in the following ways:
- Risk mitigation is high, and your results tend to err on the side of caution, giving a more prudent positioning to your research. Tip for novice CI practitioners. This is a good place to be. Building a solid reputation for identifying risks and being “over paranoid” is a trait that is seen as positive by senior management, generally speaking.
- Being pragmatic means you can pick and choose you competitors much more effectively. If you’re in a fast moving market, you’ll often get requests for information around a host of companies that a just sending up smoke signals or small flash-in-the-pan organisations that get a lot of press buzz. Being pragmatic means you can often shy away from having to continuously chase these smaller players by focusing on one one or two large competitors you currently have. That shouldn’t stop you from reassessing your competition on a regular basis (as I’ve mentioned in my previous post), but it can help you to weed out those additional requests that add very little value.
- You tend to overstate competitive threats – this can be a bad thing – but from my experience a good bit of fear can often sell an unpopular nugget of truth within you analysis. If there is a trend, show your audience what the full, ugly impact is and they are likely to do something about it.
The positive end of the spectrum, it must be said, does have many valuable positioning benefits – particularly if you’re producing CI for a sales audience. These may include competitive cheat-sheets, objection handling etc. The sales force wants to be enthused, as well as confident they do have the best product in the market.
If you’re role balances between creating sales documents, and in some cases bordering on marketing activities – a more positive inclination may be beneficial.
Overall though, you do need a blend of these two factors when looking to progress a career within competitive intelligence. The “Trusted Advisor” model is one that strikes that balance. Respected enough to bring the bad news (and have recommendations on how to process mitigating that risk or steps to quantify potential damage further), passionate enough to spot competitor weaknesses and rally the troops to go in for the kill.
The trusted advisor model is one I’ve been giving a lot of thought and will return to later to add more detail. I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on what personality traits make for a good CI professional.