Answer the question executives want to know: “why you win and why you lose.”

Michael Shea, Manager, Competitive Intelligence, NetApp continued Tuesday’s sessions at Aurora WDC’s CI leadership symposium with a presentation about how to get—and keep—executive attention.

Here is what success looks like, according to Shea:

  • Present at CEO staff quarterly business review
  • Participate in the company’s top 3 to 5 strategic initiatives
  • Affect the strategic direction of the company
  • Advise on company’s major acquisition decisions
  • All of the above!

The first thing an intelligence function needs to do is win at their core mission.

What is your mission?

If it is well-defined, you need to “kill it there” to get to the next step, says Shea.

How do you create credibility?

  • Focus: make something happen—well defined, strong impact to the mission
  • Perspective: Outside-In—be relentless, and “never drink the Kool-Aid”
  • Track and validate your success—the bottom line wins at higher margins
  • Advertise your success—build credibility, proof matters
  • You are in sales—it must appeal to you, everyone has value or they are gone
  • Have a service mentality—product orientation is about the producer, service orientation is about the consumer. You need specific intelligence questions.
  • Get a sponsor—you will require a door-opener who understands how to get things done

Executives really want to know “why you win and why you lose.” A market research focus will have buyer awareness and research stages; a customer satisfaction focus will be about delivery and post purchase sentiment.

The buyer/seller interaction matters—it is the most critical and least understood component in win/loss. Ask what really impacts the buyer’s decision? What impacts seller ability to close a deal? Know the inputs: field, channel, and consumer.

Shea says you can engage and stay with the executive team (in five words):

“Have a take, don’t suck.”

In other words, have a relevant perspective. Viewpoint is the position your eyes view the subject from, says Shea. Get beyond competitors; execs need answers, not interpretation, decisions are made by humans, CI professionals are the orchestrators, and relevant perspective equals credibility.

You don’t have to be right, you have to be well-thought-out.

The commandments for success are:

  • Start with the conclusion and insight—details obscure what is truly important
  • Bring value—align to company strategy—push the strategy and the agenda
  • Be actionable—“Is this smoke or fire?”
  • ‘”I don’t know” is a good answer. Don’t fake it. Ever.
  • No “watermelon charts.”
  • Don’t spill wine on the carpet—this isn’t your show, it’s their show.

Put sales in the middle of your strategic intelligence engine, says Shea. Create a competitive community that works with the sales team. Finally, consider Wardley Maps, a step up from Porters Forces: and

Be provocative, and get people thinking; spark ideas. “A successful CI team will see their fingerprints on many things,” says Shea, “even though they might not get the credit…Be a constructive irritant.”