In the high tech world—and increasingly throughout other industries—joint sales teams must drive alliance success and deliver revenues. According to Nancy Breiman, CSAP, manager of industry solutions and business development for IBM Global Solutions and Alliances, this is where “the rubber meets the road”—when the ability for joint sales forces to focus on the right targets and work together to grow the bottom line can and make or break your alliance. Competitive intelligence, according to Breiman, can give joint sales teams the traction they need to win the race. But it takes significant investment.
“It’s a rigorous process,” Breiman explained in her August 13, 2014 ASAP Netcast Webinar presentation, “Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Leveraging Competitive Intelligence to Drive Joint Sales and Alliance Results,” when she shared some of the ways she and colleagues at IBM use competitive and market intelligence in their joint sales efforts with Cisco and other partners. “It can take a month to do properly. And it’s not just data, but having the right people surrounding the process to think it through.”
Breiman, whose three decades at IBM has included extensive work both in alliances and in competitive intelligence, said that there are many similarities in the thinking of alliance management and competitive intelligence professionals. However, she emphasized that “sales teams like simple processes—‘KISS, or Keep It Simple, Stupid’”—therefore alliance professionals must provide the appropriate context to guide competitive intelligence and market intelligence. Otherwise, “competitive intelligence and market intelligence—which needs even more context—can put out analysis that’s ahead of you and the partnership.”
Breiman encouraged upfront investment in learning and relationship-building. “You have to have frank conversations at the beginning.” She described IBM’s “Alliance to Win” process that takes about a month to find synergies and alignment among stakeholders who have diverse goals. “The Alliance to Win process helps to prioritize efforts based on the resources available,” she said, but emphasized that “there is no silver bullet. You have to find commonalities between your [key performance indicators] and your partners’ KPIs. Peer-to-peer mapping is very labor intensive, but you have to know the right people, because none of us are organized and aligned in the same way. You have to take the time to engage all stakeholders.”
When the rubber does meet the road—when joint sales teams begin executing—“we do a lot of competitor targeting, and try to figure out what differentiation will make it easier to sell,” Breiman explained. Sales are tracked, clients and partners are surveyed, and win/loss analyses are performed at the account level (sometimes employing a third party).
Breiman noted that sharing a common alliance management language helps partners leverage competitive intelligence to drive wins: “You must spend time working through alliance semantics.” For this reason, she is a big fan of ASAP’s professional certification program. “If you speak the same language and use the same processes—for example, lifecycle management—it makes a tremendous difference.”
ASAP Members can access Breiman’s webinar and numerous other archived ASAP Netcast Webinars within the member resource library by logging in and going to Resources/Member Resource Library and selecting ‘Webinars’