Questions From Forrester’s Sales Enablement Teleconference, May 17, 2011

Earlier this week, our Sales Enablement team hosted a teleconference about building battle cards that better line up with sales reps’ needs. If you missed the teleconference, you can download the slides and recording; we wrapped up with the following questions asked by CMI professionals:

Question No. 1: What's the best way of collecting intelligence from within our company?

CMI leaders often want to discuss how they can harvest the expertise that lies within the heads of sales reps. We at Forrester haven’t seen any silver bullets, but we are documenting common experiences and planning research on the process of gathering insights and building them into compelling battle cards.

A few methods that we see across the industry include: 1) A CMI leader facilitates calls for reps to discuss issues with sales peers; 2) structured sessions with reps who recently encountered the competitor; and 3) retaining a “panel” of sales managers who meet quarterly to reassess a competitor’s tactics.

Question No. 2: Is the Forrester battle card a competitive document, selling points document, both, or more?

Our recommendations do not outline a specific length, whether the battle card is integrated with product messages or customer pain points (i.e., selling-points document), or what kind of software you use to deliver battle cards to sales reps.

Forrester’s recommendations look at the content to see if it is specific to the selling situation, uses a conversational tone that reps can use with customers, and supports statements or claims with demonstrable facts. We also look to see if the content will pass a credibility test with sales reps by looking for evidence that you vetted it with sales professionals. Lastly, we look at how easily reps will be able to use the battle card, including layout and readability.

Question No. 3: How do we know what sales reps really need? We get such mixed feedback internally and wonder what method Forrester uses to define an industry-wide view.

Defining a standard for all sales reps in your company is impossible, even if you are providing stellar battle cards already. You can reduce feedback from sales by following the guidelines discussed in today’s presentation — build competitive selling scenarios as a talking point with sales leaders. As you define a group of scenarios with sales leaders, you will hear fewer rogue voices that ask for something different.

Question No. 4: How can a CMI team create battle cards for every possible scenario that you ouline on slide 9? That list of variables could result in dozens of battle cards for every competitor. 

The graphic from slide 9 lists five attributes, each with subcomponents that could multiply into a large number of battle cards. Does Forrester expect this number to mushroom? We do not. We expect your battle card inventory to change into a portfolio that addresses a more focused list of competitive selling scenarios. For one competitor, you might have battle cards that focus more on the business case and closing a deal; for another, your battle cards need to help reps overcome the obstacles to get in the door of a competitor’s key customer. Creating focus for the CMI team is one driving objective for competitive selling scenarios.

Question No. 5: We have a portal that is not widely used by the sales reps to pull down battle cards. Do you see other forms of technology that reps embrace more?

Sales automation tools are changing, and you should definitely be evaluating the potential impact on your company. Looking at this question from another point of view, sales reps who are resourceful find or pull together whatever they need from corporate resources. If your sales reps are not accessing your battle cards, you are most likely creating content that doesn’t give sales consistent value. I believe that if sales reps found your battle cards “priceless,” you would not be able to keep them away from the current sales port.