Research a Competitor... in 5 Minutes

Last Updated Dec 16, 2009 3:04 PM EST

SCENARIO: You're at a customer site and you've just found out that they're also talking to a competitor. Unfortunately, you've barely heard of them, so you've got... to know how to position your offering competitively pronto. You're waiting for a key customer meeting; you've got five minutes, your laptop, and a solid WiFi connection. Here's what you do:
  • Step 1: Find the competitor's website. You don't have time to search up analyst reports or other material. You've only got a few minutes, so you need to move quickly. Time: spend 30 seconds to find the right site.
  • Step 2: Scan the products section. Read the top-level descriptions. That's what the competition is going to be pitching. Look for any holes (like missing capabilities) that you might be able to exploit. Time: spend 2 minutes.
  • Step 3: Scan the management biographies. Look for companies where customer executives may also have worked. You can assume that any customer executive who's done so is an ally of the competitor. Time: spend 30 seconds.
  • Step 4: Scan the job opportunities. Look for aras where the competitor currently lacks manpower or capabilities. You can use that to generate questions that plant doubts about the competitor's ability to perform. Time: spend 1 minute.
  • Step 5: Scan the latest press releases. Look for reference accounts at which the competitor is likely to use as proof-points. Quickly figure out a reason why those accounts might not be appropriate as models for this customer. Time: spend 1 minute.
Voila! In five minutes, you've got at least some idea of what you're up against. Needless to say, you should revisit all that information later and do some more research in detail. But you're armed with enough information that you can lay the groundwork for competitive infighting later in the engagement.