The 10 Commandments for Developing Competitor Battle Cards

July 3, 2012. Successful companies such as Philips Healthcare, Tetra Pak, Fiserv and Siemens use competitor battle cards to help them sell. By providing competitive intelligence on competing offerings and detailed product comparisons, such battle cards enable companies to close more sales and gain market share. So, what do the best competitor battle cards look like?

There are many names that are used for competitor battle cards – such as competitor beat sheets, competitor silver bullets, battle cards or unique selling points. We ask Hans Hedin, Vice President of Business Development and Functional Practice Head of Market Intelligence for Sales & Marketing at M-Brain (formerly GIA) Group, how companies can use them to improve their sales vis-à-vis key competitors.

Why are competitor battle cards popular?

“By comparing the strengths and weaknesses for your product, service or company in a structured way against various competitors, competitor battle cards point your sales staff to what factors to focus on and what to avoid during their interactions with prospective customers. This ensures that everyone is singing the best tunes from the same song sheet, so to speak, and helps get news sales employees up to speed quickly.

A battle card can contain competitive intelligence that is presented as text, graphs, images or even videos, and may contain information such as:

  • product/service features
  • price
  • application area
  • service needs
  • ROI data
  • success stories
  • customer/end user benefits
  • promotional aspects
  • user training needs
  • pros and cons of the product vis-à-vis the competition
  • silver bullet statements for each competitor and for different customer segments

The best competitor battle cards however, are not merely lists of publically available information. To really pack the extra punch, you must combine that information with analysis, such as benchmarking, win/loss analysis and war gaming.”

Can you please give us some examples of how strategic analysis can make battle cards more powerful?

“It is only with deeper analysis that companies gain a deeper understanding of their key strengths and weaknesses, learn more about their competitors and increase knowledge sharing between sales teams and managers. At times, such analysis can even help generate intelligence that is useful for other departments such as R&D, product development or advertising!

Take for example a medical supplies provider that was trying to win a large contract with an important prospect that is known to be price sensitive. Their battle cards showed that their silver bullet, or unique selling point, was their high product quality while that of their competitor product’s was lower prices. They contacted their inhouse market intelligence team, who calculated that the total cost of ownership (TCO) of their own product over a five-year period would be 21% lower than the TCO of the competitor’s product, even though the initial purchase price was some 24% higher. This was because the competitor product required more servicing due to the lack of quality. The sales force used that argument and won the deal. This silver bullet was also added to the battle card.

There are many companies out there that conduct vigorous analysis to support their sales efforts.

Procter & Gamble run War Games in order to better understand how to outsmart competitor product launches.

Philips Healthcare defend their markets from competitor product launches by using information collected about the pending launches to develop pre-emptive sales training sessions and presentations for their own sales teams.

Tetra Pak map and benchmark their solutions against competitors to ensure that the appropriate sales arguments are used for different stakeholders within the customers purchasing process.

And Siemens conduct win/loss analysis through an external consultant.”

Aren’t all companies already doing this?

“Unfortunately, the answer is no!

Most companies provide marketing materials that list the benefits of their own products or services. These might be true or false to some degree, but they will lack in-depth comparisons with competitive offerings. The typical sales process is complex and we know that a deal is quickly lost if you are unable to favorably position your product against your competitors early on in the sales race.

The 10 Commandments for Competitor Battle Cards

1. Select your competitors Identify which competitors you need to develop the battle cards for.
2. Develop competitor fact packs Compile competitor briefs/profiles/fact packs related to the competitors you want to outsmart, including general business strategies, product strategies and product descriptions.
3. Conduct win/loss analysis Review your Win/loss analysis related to these competitors in order to understand a) which customer segments you are winning or losing and b) why you lose out against the different competitors. If you do not have a win/loss analysis program in place, I suggest you set one up. If not, you will need to interview product managers, sales directors and sales people to get a comprehensive understanding of the issue. Note that this approach will only provide the internal view of the situation, which may differ from external perspectives held by customers and industry experts.
4. Run a Competitor War Game Run a reality check regarding the data and assumptions you have assembled during your research and win-loss analysis, with a competitor war game. Is this the view that is also shared by the sales directors and product managers participating in the War Game?
5. Conduct benchmarking analysis Next, benchmark your competitors’ offerings against selected products and markets using the results of your research, win/loss analysis and/or war game.
How do you differ on key variables such as product features, price, service, finance, availability, global position, relationships, brand, etc. If available, you could use your own customer surveys or perhaps information from an industry association to understand this better. If not, you will have to make your own assessment.

Source: M-Brain (formerly Global Intelligence Alliance)

Can you use battle cards for other purposes too?

“Yes, indeed you can. Utilizing battle cards during your innovation process is also very powerful. You can them to analyze possible changes of your own products features so that you can increase the likelihood that your solution will beat the competition in the future.

Of course, you need to be aware that the competitors might do the same, so you need to have your competitor radar up and running continuously to identify possible product developments from the competition!”

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