How to use "Competitor Battle Cards" successfully?

We are back with the series about ‘Battle Cards’ - What? Why? How? And best practices and what is the future of it?


We had a chance of talking to Joanne Scouler, who is a Software Sales Enablement Consultant.



A quick intro about you?


I am Joanne Scouler, and I have been doing sales enablement for four years in technology areas, including security, IoT, and cloud. Sales skill development has been the focus of my work since it applies to selling complex software.




In your career, how have you seen the sales teams & enablement processes get structured?


When new reps get hired, they need onboarding to get the primary education to get up to speed quickly, and then they also need ongoing enablement and coaching to help them in their job. Learning is always ongoing to help Reps increase pipeline, and the close rate for sales. Training needs vary depending on the type of sales rep.  Generalists, Specialists, Inside Reps,  and Channel Reps all have some similar needs, but they also vary.




How do you define “Battle Cards” in your work & what is the importance of using them for any sales process?


I think Battle Cards are useful because they highlight key points you need to know about your competitor's strengths and weaknesses and the key points you need to know about your product to position the strengths of your product. In general, I think it is unwise to talk about the competitors, but it is wise to highlight the strengths of your solution that are relevant to the customers' problems. Trap setting questions or even comments are one way to help the customer realize the relevant product strengths. You can’t do anything about what the competitor has or does. Focus on the strengths of what you have and what you can do to win.





How do you create strong Battle Cards when the vendor space is very crowded, and all the players are neck and neck with similar features?


In a competitive landscape, it can sometimes be tough to find the differentiators, and it is pretty common too. However, that is truer when you are selling a commodity. I think if you dig deep enough and do enough research, you can find unique strengths of your product, but if you really can't, I think the relationship building skills, showing the customers love and attention, and just being there and addressing their needs is the way to get the business.





What challenges do you feel reps face with Battle Cards?


I think the challenge with Battle Cards is keeping them current because, the competition changes so frequently,  reps need the most relevant information and keeping it at their fingertips is essential. They need the information in real time in competitive situations with the customer, so they need to have those Battle Cards handy. Matching the key points that you need to know with the situation you're in is going to be different every time, so I think the challenge is just thinking on your feet and figuring out what to say and when.





Any processes/tools for maintaining Battle Cards & cadence on updating Battle Cards?


I think the cadence needs to be that the field shares the information on competition in the CRM. They get it back inside to the marketing people. Marketing needs to get updated information from the feet on the street because that is an excellent source of competitive insight. In terms of tooling that can help you keep the competitive materials up to date, I think you guys are onto something great with Strings.ai. You have the technology to automate the delivery of up-to-date enablement in real time to people. The challenge is in tracking the learned information that is being gathered and keeping that in a system where it's accessible and scalable to everybody.





Tips for getting started with “Competitor Battle Cards”?


I think you need a person solely focused on researching the competition, and updating the Battle Cards regularly. You also need to continuously assess that you're addressing the most important competitors and keeping the information up to date for the most current competitors. Moreover, you find out as you're out there which competitors you're running up against often and I think you need to track the wins and the losses and look at the lessons to be learned from the customer losses against competitors as well as the wins.





What do you think would be the next evolution of Battle Cards? Where would you want it to go?


We need to make the Battle Cards simple. Sometimes, they become too complicated. I think tooling to deliver that information in real time in situations where it's relevant is essential for the Reps because they can't remember everything and they don't even have time to dig around and look on their walls at what they've posted up there. So they're just inundated with information. Our job in sales enablement is to simplify the information and keep the most compelling points in their face and frequently reinforce those critical points with them.





What do you think sales reps do wrong in making good use of Battle Cards? Any examples you have seen and learned from your team?


I think it's more a matter of not using the Battle Cards at all.  I had a recent story with a customer loss against a competitor, and the rep wasn't talking to the right person in the account. The rep also really wasn't knowledgeable on the key strengths of our solution in that situation, so they didn't know the information from the Battle Cards. Also, that's the problem, especially when you have multiple competitors. It's hard to remember all of the key differentiators that you need to know to use at the time you're in that situation.





In enablement, how do you  balance your reps relying on Battle Cards vs. expecting them to memorize certain things?


I think you need to deliver enablement in different delivery formats to solve that problem. Let's say the onboarding program is live instructor-led training and you're helping the rep to learn by interacting with them and having them practice and do role plays.  Then you need to do reinforcement in other ways. You need to provide them with tools that they can refer to afterward, and you need to do updates and continuously drive home the key points that they need to know.





How do you incorporate your customer wins in your Battle Cards?


There is a type of win story you can use in other sales situations, where the customer is the focus, and use it to help guide other prospective customers. You can tell a story to a new prospect based on what you learned from prior customer success, focusing on customer success versus vendor success. Competition might be part of the story. Get the prospect to envision the same success as the prior customer because they have the same problem and need the same solution.

Joanne Scouler

Sales and Technical Training Instructor and Developer. She has been doing sales enablement for four years in technology areas, including security, IoT, and cloud.