How to avoid common mistakes with competitive battle cards
- 07.05.2015 –
World Class Market Intelligence
To sell well, your sales team needs reliable intelligence about the competition, and competitive battle cards are a great way to equip them. Battle cards that provide insight into your competitors’ product strengths and weaknesses, marketing messages, sales tactics and business strategies can be great in helping your sales team know how to position your business offerings and win new customer contracts.
There are many forms of competitive battle cards. In our Intelligence Best Practices workshops, we find that clients have many questions regarding how to develop them. Here are some examples:
How do we build an optimal structure for a competitive battle card?
How can we collect the competitive data that we need?
How do we create competitive counter arguments in a way that closes the deal for us?
Can we link the intelligence to wargames?
What are the legal and ethical aspects to beware?
What are some key automation principles?
What alternatives to battle cards are there?
In addition to such questions on how to build great battle cards, companies must also learn to avoid five common types of mistakes, which are:
Neglecting the strategic “big picture” business goals
Providing too much information, creating a battle “book” instead of a quick reference card
Providing only competitive information without providing a response
Allowing battle cards to “live a life of their own” and get into the hands of unauthorized personnel
Not updating battle cards frequently enough.
In order to avoid these frequently made mistakes, we believe companies should ask themselves the following questions:
1. How can we ensure our battle cards are aligned with our overall strategy?
Battle cards are tactical sales tools that are essentially short term focused. Before battle cards are developed, a company’s competitive intelligence manager has to work with senior management to decide on the company’s positioning and product value proposition. Will the pillars of the company be based on operational excellence, customer intimacy or product leadership? Will be product be positioned on the strength of its price, features, packaged solutions or advisory services? Deciding on these will help make a company’s battle cards more relevant and to the point. (Companies may consider using the longer term Four Corners model or the more mid-term TOWS Matrix to help them with the broader strategic framework)
2. How can we make our battle cards concise?
The purpose of any battle card is to provide an overview of what your sales people need to know about a competitor, but in a crisp and condensed format. That however, is much easier said than done. The trick is to select the data that really helps a salesperson i.e. the relevant information that will help close the business deal over the competitor, and not every detail.
The best battle cards are singe page documents on each competitor ““ or two pages at most. Unfortunately, most battle cards end up being four to six pages long.
3. How can we provide the right shortlist of responses?
The focus of each battle card is really the sales response to a competitor. So for each piece of information that is on a battle card, regarding the company, its key people, pricing, products or press coverage for example, there should an understanding of what this means, followed by a corresponding answer, counter argument, correction or better proposal. The best battle cards provide compelling responses to each area of interest to the client regarding your competitors, not just responses regarding your products.
4. How can we set up strong confidentiality controls?
No one should hold on to hard or soft copies of your battle cards. You don’t want it landing in the hands of your customers and most of all, your competitors. So be sure that no one can download your battle cards and store them on their personal devices, without specific permission. One other benefit of this is that you can ensure that the battle cards your sales team access are the most current, up to that very minute. The best battle cards can be accessed through password-protected portals via smartphones or tablets just before any customer meeting.
5. How can we build an effective feedback loop?
Battle cards need to be regularly updated and most companies fail to provide a mechanism to add key information that they get from the field to the battle cards. Sometimes, such information is even more useful that what intelligence professional can get on their own. The best battle cards are online and are updated in real time, by the people who use them most frequently.