Pushing BackPosted: May 5, 2017
May 5, 2017
One key skill among competitive and strategic intelligence specialists is mastering the art of the “push back”, also known as drilling down. That describes the vital interchange between the end-user (AKA customer) and the analyst (AKA provider) of the intelligence at the beginning. The goal is to make sure that the analyst provides actionable intelligence to the end-user.
So how does this relate to the DIYer? In many cases, you are both the analyst and the end-user. No, I do not expect that you will talk to yourself – although we have all been there, haven’t we? What I do believe is that there are lessons to be learned from the push back process to help you sharpen your own research and analysis processes.
Let me be a little more specific. In the push back process, here are a few, almost predictable, exchanges, which I will briefly dissect here. Now view them from you own perspective, when you are starting a research and analysis project. Are you at the beginning, the middle, or the end of this dialog?
An intelligence task is being presented in very general terms: “We need some current information on the Competitor”. [Bah!]
First push back: “What kind of intelligence – sales, new products, investments, new hires?” [Note the switch from “information” to “intelligence”.]
“We are concerned about a rumor that they may be acquiring one of our distributors.”
Next stage, push back a little more: “Do you know which one?’
“Yes, well, we think so.”
Press a little more: “What did that rumor come from? How did you hear it?”
“In a sales field report last month.” [Warning! Why so long to have the question come up? Is this going to be an unnecessary super rush job?]
Again: “Why do we need to know this” [What this means is “What will we do with the intelligence that we cannot do right now?” but you cannot usually speak that bluntly.]
“We may have to buy another distributor, or bring some of the logistics in-house.” [Now, we are getting somewhere.]
Closing it up: “Is there a meeting scheduled to consider this? If so, when?” [Setting a likely deadline]
“Yes – in 3 weeks.”
Now wind it up: “So we need to confirm the possible purchase of this distributor? Anything else?”
“Yes. Also, it would be nice to know [Warning! Keep vagueness from creeping in at the end.] what they are paying in case we want to make an offer as well.”
“Is that important?”
“Oh, yes, very.”
Bingo! Now we have a clear direction, with the goal of getting actionable intelligence to support identifiable action, and, not surprisingly to those of us who have been through this, which is well off on a tangent from the original, vague, directions.