Redefining Sales-Ready Battle Cards

Dean Davison

A theme that frequently shows up in survey data and during interviews with purchasing executives is that customers care more about how tech vendors sell than what they sell. Tech customers now put more emphasis on the behavior and skill of your sales reps than on your products or prices (see “Do Your Value Propositions ‘Go To Eleven’?”). What does this change mean for your CMI team?

Since customers are changing, how are your competitors selling differently? What intelligence do reps need from battle cards to anticipate and respond to new tactics from competitors?

As you frame your CMI team’s analysis within the customer’s problem, you see competitors from a different point of view – you first determine the merits in the competitor’s approach, then contrast your company’s solution, and, finally, build out a point-counterpoint discussion that will help reps anticipate topics that are likely to come up during customer conversations.

As CMI leaders, many of you tell me you are frustrated that the company measures your value by the number of clicks or downloads on sales portal, but that you don’t have a better way to show the volume or quality of work that you produce.

The only relevant gauge for battle cards is whether they advance the selling goals of sales reps.

The challenge is that sales reps have unique conversations with many stakeholders across a number of accounts. Your CMI team, obviously, cannot build battle cards for individual customer conversations. To break this impasse, Forrester will not provide a simple formula to quantify the value of your battle cards, but we will outline a methodology allowing your CMI team to define and measure how battle cards line up with selling situations.

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What's The Value Of Battle Cards?

Dean Davison

During the past few months, our sales enablement team has researched and written about battle cards. We've spoken with more than 40 companies, including CMI leaders and sales professionals, to understand how sales reps use battle cards, what role a battle card plays in fueling customer conversations, and what CMI organizations can do to build more value into their battle cards.

During our interviews, sales reps told us that they need battle cards for effective selling today. Reps spend their time identifying a customer’s problems and building a shared vision to solve them. Competitors also engage in a similar journey, and sales reps told us that battle cards help them to:

Anticipate traps. Sales reps need to be aware of ideas that competitors will suggest to the customer early in the sales cycle, but that the customer won’t bring up until the final stages of a purchase. One rep told us of a situation: “A competitor’s rep told the customer that we have a lot of hidden costs – that we don’t include them in our early proposals, but that we will ‘change our tune’ later.” How do you prepare your sales reps for competitive traps?

Respond to questions. Sales reps must be able to answer their customer’s questions and recognize the more subtle issue behind the question – especially those issues that originate with statements from a competitor. A simple dialog shown in the graphic illustrates how a competitor will influence the questions that customers ask. How do you anticipate competitor’s questions and equip sales reps to respond?

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Social Media Best Practices: Don’t Take A Bite Out Of The Apple

Peter O'Neill

This is Peter O’Neill and I had a very busy Forrester Marketing Forum last week in San Francisco: two presentations (well, two halves, I suppose, because I was the co-presenter) plus dozens of one-on-ones with Forrester clients. While I would have preferred to talk about differentiation in the customer lifecycle, the theme of my first Forum presentation and my most recent report, the incorporation of social media into the marketing mix continues to be the hottest topic for most tech marketers. It was exciting to be able to share our brand new Tech Buyer Social Technographics data which has just come in. BTW, the level of social media activity in European buyers is still ahead of American buyers – I will be presenting the European data in my planned Forrester teleconferences on May 9th: once in German for local clients, prospects and press; and once in English for other Forrester clients.  

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Methinks Tech Marketing Is Not Yet Ready For Sentiment Analysis

Peter O'Neill

As you’d expect from a Forrester analyst, this is Peter O'Neill by the way, I travel a lot— about 40% of my working days. But it is also amazing how a full week spent in the home office can still feel so busy! These days, social media keeps you in the discussion mainstream – perhaps even more so than if you are on the road because you have more time to engage. Bob Apollo, at the UK-based consultancy Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners, even tweeted me privately this week with the message, “And you a VP at Forrester, reading my stuff, an 'umble blogger... I'm not worthy...” after I told him that I enjoyed his tweets and found them useful. Well, even as a fully fledged analyst for tech marketers, I continue to be eager to learn from anybody else. And I do this without any fear of appearing to copy others — here in Germany, a popular government minister has now resigned because he plagiarized the majority of his doctorate dissertation years ago; bad enough itself, but he initially denied it when discovered.

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Why Are The ITMS Megavendors Not Addressing Empowered IT Operations Professionals?

Peter O'Neill

Why Are The ITMS Megavendors Not Addressing Empowered IT Operations Professionals?

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The Portfolio Track View From Forrester's Sales Enablement Forum 2011

Dean Davison

In addition to the sessions mentioned by Brad Holmes and Brian Lambert in their blog entries, we dedicated an entire track to sessions that discussed how the decisions made by portfolio teams relate to the efficiency (or not) of sales teams.

Participants in the portfolio track all consider themselves to be sales enablement professionals, but have job titles that include product management, sales operations, competitive intelligence, and marketing communications.

Despite this wide range of responsibilities, each person shares a common goal of improving their areas of responsibility in ways that improve sales efficiency.

Attendees who look at sales enablement through a portoflio lens expressed the following thoughts about the Forum:

  • We feel empowered by seeing and hearing so many sales enablement professional come together.
  • We need to make our company executives aware of the industry changes in sales enablement.
  • We have entrenched behaviors that we need to overcome (i.e. muscle memory).
  • We face a complex amount of change and need a way to communicate it clearly.
  • We need to understand how e can overcome organizational silos that increase complexity.
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Tech Distribution Changes In An Empowered And Cloudy Industry – Discussed At Distree XXL

Peter O'Neill

I was invited to speak at the annual Distree XXL event in Monte Carlo last week. Now in its ninth year, Distree XXL gathers together top executives from tech industry vendors and distributors plus, in recent years, retailers from around EMEA for three days that include a trade show, presentation sessions, and meetings to discuss industry-specific channel topics. The 2011 event drew 950 delegates from 127 tech vendors and over 400 distributors. One of the event highlights for everybody is a process to request and set up formal one-on-one meetings between the various players, similar to our own one-on-one sessions at the Forrester Forums (only their software is better). A total of 5,000 such sessions were scheduled: some at tables in larger rooms around the trade show, many others in private meeting rooms elsewhere in the conference center.

The keynote presentation I gave was a clone of my recent Forrester Teleconference , where I use the word “changes” both as a noun and a verb: I describe what changes we see happening in the channel due to recent industry trends, and I propose how channel resellers and distributors must also change their business model for continued success. The most common comment I heard from attendees after I presented was, “It was good to hear somebody outside our business make these points. We’ve been discussing this for a while now, but not everybody is convinced this is happening or knows what to do about it.” I must say, I have never, ever collected so many business cards after a presentation where I must follow up by sending slides as well as two relevant reports (one on channel resellers and one on distributors) by my esteemed colleague Tim Harmon and myself.

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Sales Enablement And The Future Of Selling

Scott Santucci

Highlights

  • Looking back on the past 10 years puts the changes taking place today in the technology industry in context.
  • Over this period, SGA has grown faster than revenues – a major contributor to margin erosion.
  • Buyers are stratifying their suppliers into a caste system, increasingly delineating strategic vendors from commodity providers.
  • In order to achieve profitable growth objectives, technology vendors must rethink how they go to market.
  • Forrester’s Sales Enablement Forum February 14-15 will provide sales enablement leaders the concepts and approaches to compete in the new emerging “outcome economy.”
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“What Did Marketing Ever Do For Us?” Asks Sales

Peter O'Neill

 It is January, 2015, and technology sales reps Reg, Xerxes, Francis, and Loretta have been to the movies to watch a rerun of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, probably one of the best film comedies of any time. At dinner afterward, they are reliving the scene where the commandos discuss “what did the Romans ever do for us” when one of their marketing colleagues stops by to say hello. After the marketing manager leaves, they continue their discussion.

REG:

Now there’s another point. Those people in marketing. What have they ever done for us?!

XERXES:

Well, they give us much better leads now.

REG:

What?

XERXES:

Yes. Compared to before, they’re really qualified. I can certainly close my deals much quicker than I used to. To be honest, I didn’t even look at leads five years ago  — they were a waste of my time.

REG:

Oh. Yeah, yeah. They did give us that. Uh, that's true. Yeah.

XERXES:

And those contact profiles.

LORETTA:

Oh, yeah, the contact profiles. Remember what it used to be like? We’d have no idea who we were visiting. Had to ask all those questions about family and hobbies. Now, before I see someone, marketing give me a full profile  — I see their Facebook, I know how LinkedIn they are. I even see their last 20 tweets.

REG:

Yeah. All right. I'll grant you: Leads and the contact profiles are two things that marketing has done for us.

MATTHIAS:

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An Inside Look At Forrester's Sales Enablement Conference

Scott Santucci

Quickly

  • There are a lot of forces at work driving technology industry vendors to change how they go to market. 
  • Forrester’s upcoming Technology Sales Enablement Forum is a two-day agenda targeted at addressing this.
  • You can register for a free webinar on Tuesday 1/18 to learn more about the conference.
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