When a sales rep at a B2B SaaS company gets on the phone with a prospect, it’s a safe bet that they’ll hear the name of at least one competitor. If it’s only their first or second call with a prospect, they may even hear the name of two or three competitors.
At the drop of a hat, software sales reps need to be ready to adjust their messaging depending on which specific competitor(s) they’re going up against.
That’s why competitive battlecards are essential to the success of your sales team.
A competitive battlecard is a piece of sales collateral that arms your reps with everything they need to know in the event that a certain competitor comes up in conversation.
Ready to create a killer competitive battlecard? Follow these six steps and you’ll do just that:
1. Determine What Your Sales Reps Need
Different niches present different challenges. Selling email marketing software to small businesses is not the same as selling cybersecurity software to Fortune 500 firms. As such, the ideal battlecard for someone in the former position doesn’t closely resemble the ideal battlecard for someone in the latter position.
So, take the time to talk with your sales reps and figure out who they consider to be top-tier competitors and what kinds of insights they need to see when they open up your competitive battlecard.
Top-tier competitors are rival companies that come up in practically every sales conversation. Each of your initial battlecards should focus on a top-tier competitor.
Once you’ve selected a top-tier competitor to be the focus of your first battlecard, here’s a non-exhaustive list of common insights that your reps may want to have at their fingertips:
- Tactics for handling objections: When your reps go head-to-head with this particular competitor, which objections do they tend to hear from prospects? Your battlecard should include tactics that can help your reps address these effectively.
- Key differentiators: In the past when you’ve won deals over this competitor, what was it that convinced buyers to choose your product over theirs? These key differentiators should be front and center.
- Pricing information: How does this competitor price their solution, and how does their pricing structure differ from yours? Because pricing is often a major factor in competitive deals, your reps should have this information at the ready.
2. Formulate Your Plan of Action
Because battlecards are meant to be concise, you may be tempted to think that they can be created on the fly. It’s an understandable assumption, but in reality, an effective competitive battlecard is the end result of a thoughtful, collaborative process.
Once you’ve determined what your sales reps need, it’s time to formulate your plan of action.
First things first: Who needs to be involved in this process? The answer to this question depends, in part, on the size and structure of your company. Someone reading this article might be the sole product marketer at a small company who’s responsible for anything and everything related to competitive intelligence; another person reading this article may be part of a dedicated competitive strategy department within a large enterprise. The respective battlecard teams assembled by these two readers won’t look very similar. Regardless, everyone should aim to keep their battlecard team as tight as possible — the last thing you want is too many cooks in the kitchen.
The next component of your plan is a timeline. Once you’ve set a goal as to when you’ll publish your battlecard, outline the action items you need to complete in order to get there (analyze competitor’s website, talk to customers, etc.). For each action item, set a deadline and determine whose help, if anyone’s, you’ll need to get it done.
3. Gather Your Competitive Intel
Now that you’ve established your team members, action items and deadlines, it’s time to gather the information that will serve as the basis for your competitive battlecard.
Good news: By the time you get to this step, you’ll have already started it! When you initially speak with your reps to determine what they need, they’ll probably share some insights that they’ve (intentionally or unintentionally) committed to memory. For example, one of your reps may say something along the lines of this: “It would be awesome if you could include some key differentiators in the battlecard. I’ve won deals purely because we offer [insert functionality] and the other guys don’t.” Be sure to review your notes from these initial conversations.
Although each of your reps is a wealth of competitive information, they don’t know everything. Thankfully, you can supplement their contributions with intel from each of the following sources:
- Your competitor’s website
- Your customers
- Your colleagues who don’t work in sales
- Your competitor’s social media accounts
- News and PR outlets
- Third-party review sites
- Online discussion forums
Some of these sources of intel (e.g., third-party review sites) will be more or less valuable depending on the maturity of your niche and the behavior of your target audience. In general, you can’t go wrong with an analysis of your competitor’s website and social media presence alongside interviews with your customers and colleagues.
4. Segment and Share Your Insights
The effectiveness of your battlecard is not only a function of the insights you gather — it’s also a function of how you present those insights. If your battlecard is nothing more than a list of bullet points, your sales reps won’t be able to leverage its content on the fly to the best of their ability.
So, once you’ve gathered the insights you want to include in your battlecard, take the time to segment them into different categories — categories that you should already have in mind following those initial conversations with your reps. Examples include:
- Basic information (competitor’s annual revenue, employee headcount, etc.)
- Common objections from prospects and tactics for handling them
- FAQs from prospects and tactics for addressing them
- Key differentiators
- Competitor’s pricing information
- Competitor’s perceived strengths
As soon as your insights are categorized and arranged in a way that’s easy to understand, it’s time to share your work with your colleagues. They’ll probably have constructive feedback, and that’s a good thing; collaboration is part of the process of creating a killer battlecard. Make adjustments as needed, and then schedule some time to formally train your reps. Battlecards are fairly intuitive, but it’s worthwhile to walk your reps through the structure of your battlecard as well as the various places they can access it (Salesforce, HubSpot, Highspot, etc.).
5. Measure Impact Over Time
Your competitive battlecard is not a static asset; optimization is key if you want to help your reps achieve their full potential.
In order to optimize your battlecard, you need to know how well it’s working. And in order to know how well it’s working, you need to measure its impact with a handful of KPIs. Again, depending on the characteristics of your company and competitive landscape, certain KPIs will be more or less valuable for purposes of measuring impact. Examples include:
- Battlecard views: the number of times your reps have viewed your battlecard
- Competitive win rate: the rate at which your reps win deals against the competitor
- Total influenced revenue: the total amount of revenue your reps have won with the help of your battlecard
Using KPIs like these to regularly measure the impact of your battlecard sets the foundation for effective optimization.
6. Optimize and Iterate
Although a new battlecard will make an impact soon after its publication, it’s unlikely that you’ll hit a home run with your first swing. If you want to maximize the value of your battlecards, you need to optimize regularly. (Note that regularly does not necessarily mean frequently.)
Use your KPIs in addition to conversations with your sales team as your optimization guide. If your reps aren’t viewing your battlecard as much as you’d like them to, investigate whether a redesign could make it easier and/or more pleasant to use.
If your competitive win rate has only marginally improved, take another look at those objection-handling tactics; rethinking these might be the key to better results. Alternatively, if your overall competitive win rate has substantially improved, but a handful of sales reps appear to be lagging behind, you may want to schedule additional training sessions.
Regardless of your goals and KPIs, it’s universally true that you need to run experiments in order to maximize battlecard impact. Make observations, formulate hypotheses and figure out what works. Your thoroughness will be rewarded!
B2B software sales is a challenging gig. Day in and day out, each of your reps needs to mentally juggle buyer personas, pain points, value propositions, objections — the list goes on.
Navigating competitive deals is one of the most difficult parts of the job, and it will only get more and more important as time goes on and competition levels continue to rise.
You can’t make your market less competitive — nor should you want to — but you can create collateral to help your sales team perform at a consistently high level in spite of the intensifying competition.
The battlecard is an essential form of that collateral. Follow the six steps we’ve outlined here today and you’ll be enabling your sales reps killer competitive battlecards in no time.
Conor Bond is a Content Marketing & SEO Specialist at Crayon, the competitive intelligence platform that enables you to track, analyze, and act on everything happening outside the four walls of your business. If, for whatever reason, you were to rip his headphones off his head, you’d probably hear Charli XCX.