Competitive Intelligence

Tactical, Operational & Strategic Analysis of Markets, Competitors & Industries

Join me in creating standards for competitive sales battle cards!

Forrester’s sales enablement team is launching a collaborative effort with our clients and other experts to establish standards for competitive battle cards and I invite you to participate – send me an email to join.

If you are on the receiving end of battle cards today, you know the big challenge intimately because I hear you daily in my inquires saying things like “how can we standardize battle cards that come from dozens of different teams?” and “How do we equip our sales reps to anticipate and respond to competitive obstacles more effectively?”. For those of you on the supply side, I hear you too, saying “every sales rep asks for different things” and “we don’t have a way to measure the impact of our work, so we keep doing what we think is best”.

Stuck in the middle are the folks battle cards are supposed to be helping in the first place – sales reps – who tell me “it takes too much work to find and use our battle cards” and “I need competitive insights, but I tap other sources that are more reliable”.

Consider the size of this opportunity!  When we get this right, we will be able to connect battle cards with real business outcomes – like faster sales cycles and win rates against key competitors – and isn’t that why we build battle cards in the first place? Opportunities will advance through the pipeline more quickly when sales reps have tools to anticipate and effective respond to obstacles created by competitors.

We can fix this!

So why take this on now?

A growing number of sales enablement leaders have taken on the challenge of fixing the battle card problem and are finding that the battle cards delivered to sales pass through several sets of hands on the way. One group defines which battle cards sales needs, another contributes the competitive insights, and yet another looks at content drafts and edits that down based on their perspective on what sales reps need – all before anyone in the sales organization sees the document!

Here is just one example. During a recent conversation with a sales enablement leader at a software provider, she described the following battle card process at her company. Her challenge is that nobody takes primary ownership for battle cards – not until she called timeout anyway. And she is not an expert in competitive intelligence, but received the assignment to “fix the battle card problem.”

Her world, in reality is far more complicated still. Her team has to work with dozens of product management teams, geography leaders, and field marketing groups that span major business units.The result is that no two battle cards are alike, they have no common design point, and sales people are not getting the value intended from using them.  It’s a mess.

Put another way, she has nearly an infinite combination of contacts and relationships that she has to navigate to fix a problem that really should not be her problem at all – or anyone’s for that matter --If only there were a clear standard she could demand and reinforce.

The initiative that I am driving to create battle card standards is intended to arm sales enablement leaders with the standards they need to address situations similar to our client at this software company. Some of you are launching battle card programs for the first time; others of you have established programs that seem to be working, but don’t have any metrics to show the value of your work. The effort will help you too.

The standards that we create for battle cards will be an asset for sales enablement professionals to communicate common definitions for battle cards, give them a baseline for scope, content, and quality, and the metrics needed to gauge their impact on sales.

As someone who works with battle cards, on either the supply side or the enablement side, I invite you to join our initiative to create battle card standards. This team will kickoff on Wednesday, August 3, 2011 and meet weekly – send me an email to get involved.

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Very interesting Dean - good luck with the study and if you have some overall findings to share I'm certain others here would be as interested as I to learn from them.

Hi Dean,

 

This is very interesting, although I have not heard about this being called "competitive battle cards" before now. This is an ages old problem in that everyone is looking for "stuff" often the same or similar "stuff" from Sales, and they all ask Sales individually, which is disruptive to the Sales process, since you want them managing client relationships and selling. Answering corporate questions, especially those that are pretty similar, is a bad use of their time. When I worked in our competitive intelligence team at Bell Atlantic, way pre-Verizon, I would channel most of our staffer's questions for Sales through me. This worked well, and as the CI person I definitely had Sales' ear and respect. 

I will definitely be in touch with you individually. Also I will make a mention about your post here to our Sales & Marketing sub-group within this Ning.

 

Thanks!

I like the concept of battle cards (although called them SASgrids, SolutionAgainstSolution when developing them myself). The key points to credibility were making them credible and this means telling the good with the bad.  Of course, the problem them was how do you manage leakage to the competition (ideas please).  I also found that when you are delivering support to sales, it is as important to make sure that the format so it is low-learning as getting useful stuff into the content.  After all, if they do not read it, it does not matter what you write.  Great post Dean; thank you
Interesting idea, Dean.  Looking forward to seeing how this develop.
If you want to get a battle grid started up quickly, the easiest way is to set out your products in the way you think your customer will use them and note what features your provide.  Then match your top 3 competitor's products against yours and note what features they provide.  The differences in this 2 circle (apologies to Urbany from Notre Damn) approach shows where you are weak - they have stuff you do not - and strong - you have stuff they don't.  The challenge is then quite simple, how do you communicate this information to sales and development in a way that they will use it!  Of course this makes the heroic assumption that you are correct in your understanding of how the customer uses your products, but that is another matter.

What are the Essential Elements of Information necessary for a good battle card?  Can they be generalized for the sake of creating a standard?

My thoughts are that your 'competitive battle plan' should consist of these areas:

 

Overall Cost Scores

Advantage Scores

Company Scores

Offering Scores

Sales Scores

Perceived Value Scores

Technology Reputation Scores

Delivery Capability Scores

Scalability Scores

Industry Experience Scores

Innovation Scores

Functionality Scores

Service Reputation Scores

Implementation Ease Scores

Subject Matter Expert Scores

Understanding Requirements Scores

Ability to Customize Scores

Integration Scores

Client Focused Scores

Listening Scores

Presentation Scores

Responsiveness Scores

Ease To Work With Scores

Expectation Set Scores

Professionalism Scores

General Perception Scores

Reference Scores

 

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