Overhauling Battle Cards (And Transforming Other Sales Tools)

Dean Davison

As part of Forrester’s research into sales enablement, I recently took a journey to “plumb the depths” of sales battle cards. Why?

Sales reps at technology companies tell Forrester that they must understand their competitors if so that they can outmaneuver them during the sales cycle; but, these same sales professionals tell Forrester that, despite the best efforts of product managers, competitive teams, and sales operations, current battle cards are not consistent, instrumental tools that help win more deals.

And thus, my journey into battle cards begins.

During my career, I’ve worked in competitive intelligence at two technology companies, so I already had some strong opinions about battle cards. I tried to set my own views aside, though, and adopted Forrester’s methods of developing a hypothesis and interviewing professionals in the industry.

My initial research looked at the “thing” called a battle card – the layout, structure, and content with the goal of building battle cards that helped sales reps address competitive issues during customer conversations. While testing some really good ideas that came out of the interviews, I could see that the improved battle cards still weren’t enough to meet our objective – routinely helping reps win more deals. 

I turned my attention to the “process” of building battle cards – specifically, how sales enablement professionals identify the competitive issues that merit battle cards, how they work with product managers and marketing teams to create the content for battle cards, and how they deliver battle cards to sales reps. While testing some really good process ideas that came out of the interviews, I could see that even when the groups creating battle cards actively work with sales, their points of view and professional skills are so different, that they miss important details.

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Why Standards For Battle Cards Are A Good Idea

Dean Davison

During the first week in August, Forrester launched the Battle Card Standards Group to address head on the challenges and opportunities that they face in creating competitive battle cards for sales teams. This group is meeting weekly to outline industry standards to help sales enablement professionals bridge the gap between what a myriad of groups create and what sales reps actually need to win in competitive deals.

Some challenges mentioned by participants include:

“Sales reps often ask for negative information about competitors - FUD (fear, uncertainty, or doubt) – but, customers usually react negatively when reps say derogatory things about competitors.”

 “We struggle to map our battle cards to (1) different selling situations or engagement models (transactional vs. consultative) and (2) the levels of stakeholders that we are addressing (influencers, decision-makers, or purchasing professionals).”

“We structure battle cards in a way that reps can use directly in their conversations with customers.”

As a next step, on August 9, 2011, I will be hosting a Forrester teleconference to address how:

1. Organizational silos result in battle cards that are mashups of product and competitive intelligence rather than assets that help improve win rates in competitive deals.

2. Gaps between battle card users (sales reps) and creators (corporate groups) are too wide to remedy by having sales “tell corporate what they need.”

3. Industry standards for battle cards become a common ground for creators and users of battle cards to line up their expectations and delivery.

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