In addition to the issues discussed above, there are a variety of conventional tools and techniques “to estimate the [competitor’s] situation correctly and to concentrate your strength.” The following list itemizes the primary techniques. Select the ones based on the time and resources available to you. In any case, make every effort to use as many techniques as possible.

Sales Force

If you can, work with a sales force, either your own or a distributor’s reps, to gather relevant data from those front-line individuals. Talk with them. Travel with them. They are in continuing contact with customers and are prime sources of real-time intelligence.

To maximize their output, instruct them on what to observe and brief them on the reasons for doing so, which may involve sharing some information about your business plans. Also show them why competitor intelligence is the critical underpinning of all business strategy and a prime source of fresh opportunities.

A highly useful approach is to require call reports after all customer visits. While product usage, future sales prospects, and similar information are the usual topics reported, get them involved in adding specific facts about potential market opportunities.

Especially emphasize—to the point of requiring them—reports on strengths and weaknesses of competitors, any significant changes in their strategies, and all other relevant activities. Be certain you read and react to their reports. The last thing sales reps want to hear is that their information is not being read or even acknowledged.

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