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Competitive Battlecards 101: Your Comprehensive Guide to Building, Optimizing, & Distributing Battlecards

Picture of Conor Bond
Conor Bond on Wed, Jun 2, 2021

Competitive battlecards (also known as competitor battlecards, or more simply as battlecards) can add a tremendous amount of value to your suite of sales enablement collateral.

In fact, the value of competitive battlecards becomes clearer with each passing year: According to the latest edition of our State of Competitive Intelligence Report, 53% of businesses say the majority of their sales deals are competitive—an 8% increase over the previous year’s figure. As industry competition intensifies, so, too, does the need for reliable, actionable intel.

Once we’ve more formally defined competitive battlecards, we’ll discuss each of the following:

  • Getting started with battlecards
  • Basic elements to include in your battlecards
  • Best practices when building battlecards
  • Tips for measuring & optimizing your battlecards
  • Tips for driving adoption of your battlecards

Let’s jump in!

Get started with our Guide to Competitive Battlecards

What is a competitive battlecard?

A competitive battlecard is a sales enablement asset that delivers succinct, digestible insights—insights that your reps can leverage in order to win deals against a specific competitor. 

With intel spanning strengths, weaknesses, product information, pricing information, key talking points, and more, competitor battlecards enable your reps to identify and combat objections as they arise. When it comes to sales enablement and competitive intelligence deliverables, a battlecard is often the secret weapon in a sales rep’s arsenal.

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Getting started building your competitive battlecards

You’re probably excited to get started with your competitive battlecards—as you should be! Before you dive in, however, it behooves you to make a plan. Towards that end, make sure to ask yourself the following questions.

Which competitors warrant the most attention?

To answer this question, you’ll need to connect with your sales team. Determine which competitors they encounter more or less often, and segment your competitive landscape by direct competitors, indirect competitors, aspirational competitors, and perceived competitors. A great way to kick off your battlecards initiative is to focus on the direct competitor against which your reps compete most often.

Who else needs to be involved in this process?

While many people likely want to be involved in the process, you need to be selective when building your battlecards team. Your battlecards don’t need to be built overnight, and in order to keep the process as smooth as possible, it’s important to proactively reduce the number of bottlenecks that could pop up along the way.

What is my timeline?

Establishing a timeline for your initiative is an excellent way to hold everyone—including yourself—accountable. Although there’s nothing wrong with setting ambitious targets, try your best to be realistic. Because competitor battlecards are often products of cross-functional collaboration, it’s inevitable that individual contributors will have quite a bit on their plates.

Where should my sales team consume battlecards?

It’s obvious, and yet it warrants emphasis: Your sales reps will not use battlecards if they don’t know where they’re housed. If your battlecards are scattered across seemingly random channels—or if they’re distributed exclusively through email—they’re easy to lose track of. So, choose the best location for your reps—whether that be your CRM, competitive intelligence platform, somewhere else, or all of the above.

Basic elements of a competitive battlecard

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all battlecard; you can organize competitive insights in myriad ways. What’s important is that the most critical information is presented clearly, front and center. And because there’s no shortage of content that can be reasonably included in a battlecard, it’s helpful to walk through the basic elements—types of intel that practically any sales team can use to their advantage.

Company profile

First and foremost, you don’t want to overlook your competitors’ high-level characteristics. Start with a company profile, taking care to include websites, financial information, office locations, partners, and key takeaways that your reps can internalize.

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Quick dismisses

Sometimes called kill points or silver bullets, quick dismisses are succinct statements that enable reps to disqualify competitors in the early stages of prospective deals. Note that quick dismisses are best employed early on in the sales cycle, as it pays dividends to nip each competitor in the bud before they get the opportunity to make impressions on your prospects.

Win/loss stories

Stories are valuable to reps: Each one provides an opportunity to learn and improve. Loading up your competitive battlecards with win/loss data—both qualitative and quantitative—is a great way to deliver those opportunities to your reps. Note that you should include both win stories and loss stories, as the latter are equally as instructive as the former. Distilling each story down to the major reason(s) why the deal in question was won or lost enables your reps to stay on their toes throughout the entirety of the sales cycle.

Landmines

Landmines are topics or questions that cast doubt on your competitors’ capabilities. Crucially, these can be effectively employed at any stage of the sales cycle. Make sure each landmine is accompanied by conversational tactics that your reps can use to steer things in their favor.

Objection-handling tactics

Speaking of staying on one’s toes, your reps must always be prepared to handle competitive objections—i.e., respond effectively whenever a prospect makes a claim regarding an alternative product or service. By dedicating part of your battlecard to (1) listing common objections and (2) detailing tactics that can be used to counter common objections, you set your reps up for success. Make sure to work with them to determine which objections are most worthy of attention.

Pricing information

If possible, include your competitors’ pricing information on your battlecards. From buyers’ perspectives, pricing plays a major role in the process of making a final purchase decision. An effective way to present pricing information is in the form of a side-by-side comparison, as this enables your reps to get a quick sense of how your model compares to others.

Current news & events

In most cases, your competitors will land in the news because they want to be in the news—probably because they launched a new product or service, inked a partnership with another organization, or won some kind of award. Believe it or not, you can draw conclusions from these announcements and arm your reps accordingly. If, for example, a competitor launches a new product focused primarily on Use Case X, and your reps often speak with prospects who are concerned primarily with Use Case Y, you can leverage the announcement to make the case that your competitor is failing to focus on what matters to these prospects.

3 best practices when building your battlecards

Even with the basics covered, success is not guaranteed. As you’re building your competitive battlecards, keep the following best practices in mind.

1. Keep your content short & sweet

You’ve probably gathered ample intel on each of your competitors. Although much of it is valuable to your organization at large, you need to keep things short and sweet when delivering insights to your sales team. If your battlecards are overloaded with content, your reps may be less likely to consult them. Keep in mind that, when your reps are consuming battlecards, there’s a good chance they’re either preparing for a call or fact-checking a competitive objection on the fly. Insights need to be easy to find, easy to understand, and easy to leverage.

2. Make your battlecards dynamic

A competitor battlecard is a living document—i.e., it should be continuously updated in real time as new intel comes to light. Those who manage their battlecards manually risk arming their reps with outdated information, losing the trust of their prospects, and damaging their firms’ reputations. It’s not an exaggeration to say no intel is better than bad intel. Only by making your battlecards dynamic can you guarantee that your reps go into prospect-facing conversations with the highest possible quality of competitive intelligence.

3. Meet your sales team where they are

As we mentioned earlier, your reps need to have easy access to battlecards; if they don’t, the fruits of your labor will go to waste and your competitive win rates will suffer. In the eyes of your sales team, access is easiest when battlecards are hosted wherever they spend a considerable amount of time—CRM, competitive intelligence platform, etc. 

According to the latest edition of our State of Competitive Intelligence Report, 60% of businesses use a centralized CI platform. Amongst those that do not, 50% plan to in the near future. 26% of businesses distribute intel via sales enablement platform, 25% do so via intranet, and 22% do so via CRM. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different battlecard distribution channels in order to determine which ones are most effective.

3 tips for measuring & optimizing your battlecards

No matter how diligent you are in your planning and your adherence to best practices, it’s unlikely that you’ll hit a grand slam with your initial battlecards. This has nothing to do with you or your colleagues—it’s just the nature of the job. Different folks have different preferences when it comes to the use of sales collateral and, more generally, the activation of competitive intelligence. To completely satisfy everyone’s battlecard preferences on your first try would be a monumental achievement.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to satisfy everyone’s preferences; it just means you need to be prepared to measure battlecard performance and optimize accordingly. Towards that end, here are three tips to help you make your battlecards better and better with each iteration.

1. Monitor usage & impact metrics

In the context of competitive battlecards, usage metrics indicate how (in)frequently they’re used and impact metrics indicate how (in)effective they are.

Examples of usage metrics include:

  • How often your battlecards are viewed
  • How often each specific battlecard is viewed
  • How often each individual rep views battlecards

Examples of impact metrics include:

  • How often your reps win deals against competitors
  • How often your reps win deals against each specific competitor
  • How often each individual rep wins deals against competitors

When measuring battlecard performance, it’s critical to resist the urge to look strictly at impact metrics; usage metrics must also be taken into account. Why? Because usage metrics help to contextualize impact metrics.

An example is useful here. Let’s say you notice that your reps seldom win deals against Competitor X. Without any additional context, you may conclude that you need to optimize the contents of your Competitor X battlecard. Could this be the correct course of action? Certainly. But the only way to know for sure is to look at usage metrics.

If you find that your Competitor X battlecard is used frequently, then by all means—shake up the content. But if you find that it’s used infrequently, the subpar performance against Competitor X may be an issue not of content, but rather of adoption. We’ll discuss battlecard adoption in greater detail in the final section of this guide, but for now, keep this in mind: In order to determine the best course of action for your battlecards initiative, you need to monitor both usage and impact metrics.

2. Provide additional context around each datapoint

Because the final section of this guide is dedicated to improving battlecard adoption, the remainder of this section will be dedicated to improving battlecard content. In other words, our next two pieces of advice are applicable in those situations where usage metrics are strong and impact metrics are poor.

One time-tested way to improve battlecard content is to provide additional context around each datapoint. The whole purpose of creating these assets is to arm your reps with pieces of intel that they can strategically leverage in their conversations with prospects; if it is difficult for your reps to leverage a given piece of intel, it may as well not be included in the battlecard at all.

Typically, the datapoints that reps struggle to effectively leverage are the ones that lack sufficient context. Again, an example is useful here. Let’s say your Competitor X battlecard includes the following piece of intel: “They outsource customer support to a third party.” This is good to know, but in the absence of context, your reps may be unsure as to when and/or how this is best leveraged in conversation. An optimized version of this datapoint might look something like this: “They outsource customer support to a third party, which is particularly frustrating for customers who need a hands-on partner. Make sure to bring this up whenever a prospect mentions the importance of personalized guidance and support.”

Note that you can provide game-changing context while still managing to be succinct.

3. Experiment with different types of intel

If you’re seeing strong usage metrics and poor impact metrics, insufficient context is not the only potential explanation. Indeed, the problem could be attributable to the types of intel you’re including in your battlecards.

Different types of intel can be more or less valuable depending on a number of variables. A sales rep in the insurance industry and a sales rep in the martech industry will not necessarily see the same value in a given data set. A sales rep at a market-leading company and a sales rep at an emerging company will not necessarily see the same value in a given data set.

A little experimentation can go a long way. So, if you’re unhappy with the impact metrics for a particular battlecard and you think it’s a consequence of suboptimal intel, the first step is to speak with your reps. Figure out which parts of the battlecard they find helpful, which parts they tend to ignore, and why they consider some parts more valuable than others. From there, see what happens when you shake things up.

It’s important to be thorough in your approach to this process. Don’t make several major edits at the same time—doing so will make it impossible to determine the impact (or lack thereof) of each individual edit. If you choose to substitute one type of intel for another, set aside a substantial amount of time to see if anything comes of it.

3 tips for driving adoption of your battlecards

If you’re adhering to best practices, battlecard usage and battlecard impact should be positively correlated. The more often your reps put these competitive assets to use, the greater the impact they’ll have on your organization. Unfortunately, 100% adoption across your sales team is not a guarantee. That’s why we’re wrapping up today’s guide with three tips for increasing the rate at which your reps leverage battlecards.

1. Run a pilot

There’s a reason many different types of companies choose to release beta versions of their newest products: Because doing so enables them to identify and work out the kinks before fully going to market. As a result, these companies’ product launches tend to go over smoothly, which helps to drive strong adoption right out of the gate.

The same is true of your battlecards initiative. By running a pilot—ideally with a group of senior sales reps who can provide stellar feedback—you improve your chances of a successful launch and, therefore, reduce the risk of driving weak adoption.

A senior sales rep may tell you, for example, that some of your landmines are out of sync with what she’s heard from the field. It’s best to learn this before your official launch, as the last thing you want to do is lose the trust of your reps.

2. Conduct training sessions

To reiterate an earlier point: The whole purpose of creating competitor battlecards is to arm your reps with intel that they can strategically leverage. Leveraging intel—just like making cold calls, writing cold emails, running demos, etc.—is a skill. And as is the case with any other skill, training is a prerequisite for success.

Crucially, a battlecard training session can initiate a positive feedback loop. The session makes your reps feel more comfortable and confident with the collateral, which improves adoption. Greater adoption yields greater impact, which makes your reps feel even more comfortable and confident with the collateral. Adoption improves, and on and on we go.

3. Gather feedback regularly

Sales reps can do more than simply consume battlecards—they can also contribute to them. Your reps are in constant communication with prospective customers, which means they’re often privy to field intelligence—i.e., competitive information that you can’t necessarily find through traditional research.

Field intelligence is unique in that it’s not only a mechanism for gathering information, but also a mechanism for debunking information. On any given day, one of your reps could come across a piece of field intel that renders part of your battlecard obsolete.

By regularly gathering feedback from your reps, you can ensure that your battlecard content is as up-to-date—and as in sync with the field—as possible. This goes a long way towards building trust with your reps, which, as we mentioned earlier, puts upward pressure on adoption.

Create your best battlecards yet with Crayon

If you feel daunted by the prospect of manually building, optimizing, and distributing competitive battlecards, you’re not alone. Between updating intel in real time, measuring usage and impact metrics, integrating with your reps’ workflows, and everything else we’ve discussed here today, succeeding with battlecards is no easy task.

Crayon can help. By syncing your battlecards with our continuous feed of software-driven competitive intelligence, you can keep content up-to-date with ease. Native analytics make measurement and optimization painless, and integrations with various CRMs and sales enablement platforms ensure that workflows are uninterrupted. Request a demo of our competitive intelligence platform and learn more today!

guide to competitive battlecards crayon

Topics: Sales Enablement

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