Market landscapes have become exponentially more competitive. Organizations now operate in a state of hyper-competition–a landscape in which no competitive advantage can be sustained in the long run. Instead, advantages are won and lost almost overnight, forcing marketers and sales reps to continuously seek new trump cards.
These advantages come down to how your product’s evolving features, functions, and benefits stack up to your competitors’. To identify new advantages, sales and marketing organizations need ongoing access to fresh—and actionable—intel about competitors.
A Tale of Two Sales Reps
When a business lacks competitive battlecards continuously updated with new intelligence, sales reps can be easily blindsided by the competition. For example: while meeting with a prospect, a prospect will probably ask, “How does your specific capability compare with this competitor’s? Do you do this?” Without good intel, your rep might respond, “The competition actually doesn’t have that capability, but we do, and that’s because we focus more on enabling you to solve business challenge X, and they focus more on business challenge Y.”
The rep will think he/she is right until the prospect informs them that the competitor added the capability in question and showed it to them. Now your rep loses credibility, and the company’s reputation takes a hit.
In contrast, when your organization is armed with an agile system for intelligence gathering, your teams are able to quickly adjust their strategies, tactics, and messaging to exploit any holes in the competition. Using an interactive resource that the intel feeds into (at Allego, we use Crayon’s Battlecards product for this) gives you persistently relevant and fresh tools with which to equip your sales force.
Not long ago, for example, I received an email alert from Crayon about one of our primary competitors. After crawling the FAQ section of the rival’s website, Crayon helped me discover that a key piece of their product’s functionality had been turned off. My response was, “Whoa! This is a huge competitive advantage, and they just shut it off.” Jumping into action, I updated my battlecard for that competitor, and then opened Allego’s sales readiness platform and recorded a three-minute point-of-view video to contextualize and socialize the news. “Hey everyone, our competitor turned off this specific functionality in their app. Here’s what it means for us: a huge selling point for them is now gone.”
I distributed the video, and virtually everyone in the company watched it. Needless to say, our sales reps were excited. One rep immediately contacted a buyer with the news, and within a couple of days, the competitor was knocked out of the running and we won the contract. We hyperlinked this video from the battlecard for that competitor, so reps could access it on a just-in-time basis to refresh their knowledge, and have seen lots of repeat visits.
There are three ingredients in enabling these types of competitive wins:
1. Speed in Capturing Competitive Intelligence
In the past, I would have needed at least two employees to monitor competitors’ websites and manually add any intel into our competitive intelligence (CI) matrices. From there, I would have composed lengthy emails contextualizing any new intel (which would have taken me twice as long to write--and half the sales force would have ignored), and manually made updates to all our old static battlecards. The obvious problem with this “analog” approach to the CI operation is the amount of care and feeding required. Not only is the approach labor-intensive and prone to human error, but it also can’t keep up with today’s rapid pace of change.
2. Faster Intel Dissemination
In addition to more agile approaches to CI gathering and strategy building that we’ve adopted, this agile approach to contextualize and socialize emerging intel has given us a leg up on competitors. Using our own platform to quickly create and disseminate mobile videos when new competitive news drops has given Allego’s product marketing team much greater influence over sales conversations happening in the field. In the case above, Crayon’s solution uncovered a big competitive advantage – one that my sales reps could instantly exploit - but without additional color for the team, they might not have known how to use it.
3. Feedback Loops from the Field
In addition to facilitating the rapid centralized dissemination of new knowledge to the field, you should also facilitate the rapid capture and processing of new knowledge from the field. Establish an ongoing feedback loop from the reps who are out there interacting—and often experimenting—with various prospects and customers.
Managers don’t have a monopoly on new knowledge. As you probably know, some of your sales reps have better product knowledge than the product marketing people, and they continually experiment with new competitive positioning and new talking points until they strike gold. They’ll keep trying something new until—boom!—they discover an approach that really works.
When that happens, your job is to scoop that information out of the sales rep’s head and share it with the rest of the team. But how do you incorporate brilliant new ideas into your battlecards? And how do you disseminate them quickly and effectively? Empower your reps to make regular “selfie” videos documenting their competitive encounters and the lessons they learned. Then pull those insights back into central strategy by summarizing key points in your battlecards, and hyperlinking out from the battlecard as an access point for that new organizational knowledge.
A Tip from Napoleon Bonaparte
In a hyper-competitive business environment, where advantages suddenly appear and just as suddenly vanish, it’s futile to try to plan for every contingency. As Napoleon said, “Unhappy the general who comes on the field of battle with a system.”
In a world where this morning’s brilliant strategy is this afternoon’s obsolete plan, agility is the key to developing and maintaining a competitive advantage—agility powered by tools that continuously capture, process, and disseminate new knowledge.
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