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How to Combine Tactical and Educational Competitive Intelligence for Sales Success

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Tom Heys on Tue, Apr 30, 2019

Sales are often primary clients of competitive intelligence (CI) in companies and also one of the best channels to drive measurable value through battlecards. By making intel more accessible and closer in tune with the market, product marketers and analysts can help sales reps close more head-to-head deals to drive revenue. In order to maximize this channel for CI, you have to pay attention to not just the data itself but also how salespeople will consume and use the information you give them. You need to be both analyst and internal marketer if you want to move the needle.

The reality is that most salespeople are not going to read every word you write. And that means they are unlikely to dig deep into the nuances without additional dedicated training. They have calls to make, emails to write, bosses to please, and quotas to hit.

Unless you want to be ignored, you should strive to meet them where they are, and target your competitive content for the two modes in which they’ll consume it: tactical and educational. Below, you will find a description of these modes and the type of content that is best for each.

Tactical Competitive Content for Sales

The home of tactical competitive information for sales is typically the “battlecard,” a cheat sheet of sorts to help sales reps talk to prospects about the competition. Some of the names that are associated with tactical CI for sales are even more aggressive than “battlecard”: attack sheet, kill sheet, kill card. Naming conventions aside, the goal is clear – how do I knock this competitor out of my deal? – and the implicit desire for an easy victory is embedded.

Win more competitive deals with these customizable Battlecard Templates

While there are rarely any silver bullets in more complex sales, having a stable of options is powerful and comforting to reps. When they’re on a sales call, saying the right thing to the prospect could be the difference between getting the next meeting, or even winning and losing the deal. Imagine being on the phone, trying to listen to a potential customer’s needs, taking notes on the conversation, and deciding what to say next WHILE reading dense, analytical prose. Sound like fun?

Instead, tactical battlecards should have:

  • Bulleted lists of short statements
  • Punchy, emotional language
  • Familiar, easy to pronounce words
  • Ideally, scripted lines that reps can read directly

In addition to the style, you should avoid putting material on tactical battlecards that will be ineffective in a live sales conversation. Although they will vary by industry, audience, and offering type, some buckets that are useful include:

  • Key Differentiators: Synopsize what separates you from your competitor across product, company, pricing and packaging, or other worthwhile distinctions.
  • Questions to Ask: Provide the highest impact questions reps can ask that will lean into your strengths and expose your competitor's weaknesses.
  • Warning Signs: List the concepts, features, and names to listen for and get hints that a competitor is in the deal already.
  • Pricing Strategy: Quick hits on how they price, package, and discount in deals.
  • Answers We Need: Here is where you sneak in your agenda, the nagging questions that you can't answer about a competitor or their offerings.

Surprisingly, this last self-serving bucket of “Answers We Need” is not always included when it can be the most important. Not only does it allow you to fill in your competitive knowledge gaps, but it also encourages conversation and interaction between you and Sales that builds the relationship and yields more intel down the road.

Educational Competitive Content for Sales

The best sales reps are superb consumers of information, and not just as they research their prospects. They are also experts in decoding the complex array of human emotions and relationships that inform buying decisions. Much of the intelligence that you gather can aid their mission.

The distinction between tactical and educational competitive intelligence comes down to how much time the sales audience has to consume it. Educational material is homework for sales reps, prep for the test in sales calls. It pays dividends when it is consumed and informs their choices subconsciously. In fact, the fine points frequently put salespeople at risk in the moment, since they can get mired in discussions about features rather than talking about value.

Therefore, strong educational content should be:

  • Detailed but contained in length
  • As interactive and multimedia as possible
  • Well organized and self-referential
  • Ideally, as accessible and jargon-free as possible

It’s helpful to think of this educational content as the source material for the tactical material above. For example, key differentiators are shorter versions of deeper explorations of product capabilities, market positioning, strategic directions, and other evaluative analysis. Here are some types of educational content that are less appropriate in a tactical battlecard:

  • Firmographics: Record the basic facts about competitors like financial stats, employees, geographic presence, and key customers and partners. This background information does not generally help sales close deals without additional contextualization.
  • SWOT Analysis: A near-universal but difficult to master approach to business analysis, SWOT analysis is more likely to inform strategic decision-making at an executive level than help sales win specific opportunities.
  • Product/Feature Comparisons: Very detailed breakdowns of feature sets and specifications can prove relevant at a tactical level in more mature and commoditized markets. However, these are better for educational materials so that reps are encouraged to drive value- and relationship-based selling.
  • Win Stories, Competitive Proof Points, and other narrative content: These more involved approaches require more time to unpack and are not easily consumed in the moment. That said, abridged or summarized versions translate well to tactical formats.

Together or Separate?

The natural question that emerges from publishing tactical and educational competitive intelligence content is how to divide the content without dividing attention and impact. In many companies, sales reps already contend with having to live in many different systems, interrupting the rhythm that helps them stay on task. Chances are good that, if they can’t find it quickly and easily, they won’t bother with it.

Given this, you should probably publish them together in one central location. You could include both types of sales-facing CI in the same document, in which case it is best to place the tactical information at the top and the educational material at the bottom. The best solution is to publish separate, neighboring battlecards inside Salesforce or other sales enablement tools where reps spend most of their time.

Now you should have a stronger sense of how your sales team will use your battlecards and how you can match your content to their needs. If you haven’t edited them lately, it’s time to dust them off and see them through your sales reps’ eyes. You may find that splitting your tactical and educational sales enablement content is a great opportunity to relaunch or rekindle interest in your battlecards.

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Topics: Sales Enablement

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