“If you know your [competitors] and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred [engagements].” That was Sun Tzu, a Chinese General and author of the oft quote, “The Art of War”.

There are lots of “intelligences” being trumpeted on various best seller lists, academic halls, and the business press.
Social Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence
Business Intelligence

They’re all important, to be sure, but what about the market [competitive] intelligence to which Sun Tzu refers? To remain relevant, we must stay informed about out competitors, prospects, customers, and industry trends. However, the volume of data available might seem overwhelming.

Fortunately, there are also tools to parse out what sales teams need to stay on top of things.

Google Alerts is one of easiest ways to keep abreast. Simply enter the names of your competitors, prospects, or clients and anytime one of these constituencies is in the news, issues a press release, or does something newsworthy, Google Alerts will send an emailed update. Demonstrate care of the client by being the first to congratulate them on an award or new contract or provide them an answer to a vexing problem. In this way, you can also keep tabs on your competitors‘ actions and work to respond.

Twitter is terrific because it allows one-way, real time inbound communication. People tend to tweet out where they're going, and what they're doing oftentimes without much forethought. Following the tweets of competitors and/or their sales team members gives you a look as to what they are up to and respond accordingly. By the way, making sure OUR sales teams are not tweeting out competitive data is just as important!

Many industry experts and government officials also tweet out their opinions and prognostications. Following them keeps one abreast of trends and potential opportunities or threats.

www.iftt.com - this is one of the better things to come along in a while. It is a complete connection to social networks, email, even your telephone. The domain stands for “if this then that” and it allows the user to set up conditional news alerts on most social medias. For example, “If my competitor blogs about [this subject] then have an e-mail sent to me immediately.” Here’s another, “If my competitor adds content to their YouTube channel then send me a text message.”

These are just some of the dozens of wonderful tools sales teams can use to stay current with little investment of time. It keeps them informed but focused on selling.

I wonder what Sun Tzu could have done with all this!

Author's Bio: 

Patrick Morin is the president and COO of BrightHammer, a team of experts that work directly with company leaders nationwide to develop and implement sales strategy, deliver targeted sales training and effect sales-oriented culture changes. Email him here, or follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.