As with native agents, inside agents work for competitors. In many cases, they may have been bypassed for promotion, feel underpaid and underappreciated, relegated to an insignificant job, or generally pushed aside in a variety of political or power struggles within the organization. They feel abused and see their careers languishing unless they make some bold move. They may also find themselves surrendering to financial pressures to keep family and self whole. And their attitude may be now-or-never. You need to assess such individuals carefully for their stability and determine how to use them judiciously. Obviously, you want their information, within the bounds of ethical and legal guidelines.
Beyond personal observations, you would employ inside agents for their expertise to sort out meaningful information from scientific and professional journals, industry studies, or from innovative projects described in articles and professional papers written by the competitors’ employees. Product literature and product specification sheets readily available at trade shows and meetings are packed with tremendous detail. Your agents should be able to interpret the data for meaningful intelligence.
In-house company newsletters and news releases contain a fountain of information about individuals who have left a competitor’s employment and may have moved to the consulting circuit. If approached, these former employees may be willing to reveal information—unless specific contractual restrictions apply.
Press releases may include new employee announcements along with job descriptions, contracts and awards received, training programs available, office or factory openings or closures. You may also find specific news items that reveal competitor’s current plans. Here, again, inside agents could handily provide useful analyses.
Beyond the above listing, there is the continuing flow of rumors from customers and suppliers that your agents can sort out and verify. Additionally, there are local sources worth tapping, such as banks, local trucking companies, and real estate offices.
Knowledge must come from the double agents, and therefore it is mandatory that they be treated with the utmost liberality.