Sales and customers will be your most vital partners for this task. They will have likely have had multiple run-ins with your competitors. As a result, they will give you an excellent high-level understanding of competitive pitches, pricing, what attracted customers to them, and how the market, in general, perceives them. When you want to go deeper on a technical level, SEs, TMEs, and other PMs will be able to assist you with a feature-to-feature comparison, but keep in mind to approach the problem from multiple angles to get a better picture.
The definition of "Extensive competitive product research" may be different for different people. I suggest asking the CEO and Product / Engineering teams the kind of questions they are looking to answer. Sometimes the high level market research you can get from a 3rd party will not be enough, and you will need to get creative to get the information needed via surveys, primary research or other methods. My best advise here is to define the task in more detail to undertand what people are expecting.
Not sure what mark you're missing. But your CEO and product/eng team are probably looking for (1) an overview of the space, where everyone is going (2) highlighting a few players and going deep dive into why they're building it and who they are building for. [I would hire a secret shopper for the second part]
The best competitive research I've seen goes beyond the competitor's website, press releases and YouTube videos. They might include competitor customer interviews and tailored sales demos. I've personally worked with great small businesses and consultants who are experts in doing this analysis and research. If you have a little budget, I'd recommend that path.
Great question! I think it all starts with how you approach the conversation with that internal group. Building out a "walking deck" that explains my goals, intentions and the potential program is a great way to lower the fear of other teams. It also helps to bring those stakeholders along the journey as you build out that deck - ask them questions - what do they wish they knew about their customers, what could be improved across product, marketing, sales, etc. Once you can identify the stakeholder group's goals, you can build that into your plan and show an opportunity.
Your pricing inherently reflects the value of your products, and since competitive comparisons will inevitably come up in deals, you have to translate all your competitive research and market understanding into a compelling set of content and enablement for your Sales team so they can sell the "value"/better position your priducts throughout the life of your deal. If this happens primarily when pricing is being discussed, I'd argue that it's a much harder to successfully navigate.
Positioning (which by definition is competitive positioning since it carves out a place in the market where you are the clear winner) is your strategy. It defines who you're for and how you'll win. As a result, not only pricing and packaging but your marketing strategy, product roadmap, partnership strategy, etc are designed to deliver on that position.
Your best bet is always "talk to customers." You'll learn more in 10 conversations with prospects and customers than you will with $10K or $20K in market analysis.
To keep it fresh, participate in weekly customer calls and prospecting. You'll hear where the threats are coming from immediately, and you'll know when the conversation changes.