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Sales Battlecards: The Power Tool in Your Product Growth Playbook

The sales battlecard or “kill” sheet is a crucial part of your product playbook. Salespeople love these but beware, battlecards can also come back to haunt you!


Product leaders and marketing managers learn a great deal about the competition in their daily interactions with customers and salespeople. A Sales Battlecard is a digest of all you’ve learned, so your sales team is armed with the latest intel to compete and win.


A battlecard summarizes all you’ve learned about the competitor’s product. Or, put another way, it’s all the critical information you can fit on a single page.

Competitive Battle Card

Most of this is self-explanatory. Company and product name. Pricing comparison. Strengths and weaknesses. Pretty standard stuff.

Re-positioning. The key to an effective battlecard is re-positioning. Admit it: your competitor’s product has strengths! It might even be an appropriate choice for some customers. The trick is to re-position your competitor away from your ideal persona. You admit that their product is good but only for specific uses.


For example, let’s say you make health information systems. If you were targeting large hospitals, you would re-position your competitors as appropriate for small implementations such as urgent medical care and small doctor groups. On the other hand, if your product is designed for consumers, then position the competitor as best for enterprises.


You can see how your competitive re-positioning strategy is closely linked to your product and market strategy.

Weaknesses. Many product managers and salespeople like to focus on competitive weaknesses but be warned: your competitors will fix their weaknesses someday. What they won’t do is change their product strengths or their operational approach. That’s why re-positioning your competitor is a much better approach than focusing on their product weaknesses. Quick tip: Use a Sales Battlecard to explain how to qualify or disqualify a sales prospect quickly. You can also use it for critical information that doesn’t fit elsewhere.

How to win and when to walk away. Profile two kinds of customers: ideal customers and those who are not ideal. Your customer research (such as win/loss analysis) should reveal optimal conditions for your product. If you don’t know your ideal buyer profile, you won’t be able to effectively re-position your competitor. Your sales team should focus on the ideal and avoid the non-ideal customer profile.

Avoid building sales battlecards for all competitors in one document. You think it’ll save time, but it won’t. Each competitor alters the information you need to share, sometimes subtly. For example, you can’t easily compare Apple iPad, Kindle Fire, and other readers in a single document. You’ll want to profile each against your offering.


Where to find competitive information

The real challenge for those composing a battlecard is not the formatting or the template but finding the correct information to put into it. To write a battlecard, you’ll need a folder filled with competitive information.


How do you create a battlecard? Read all the product information you can get your hands on. You’ll want to investigate your competitor’s website. You can certainly build a list of the key capabilities (as the competitor’s marketing team understands them), and you’ll often find pricing information. Remember: a website shows the product in its best light but doesn’t usually show the deep details that your salespeople want.

Review your competitor’s media page to see what announcements they’ve made recently. You can often see where a product fits in the competitor’s strategic direction from what they say (or don’t say) in their announcements. If they announce recent “wins,” make a note of the companies; they’re a target for a competitive interview. Has an industry analyst, like Gartner or Forrester, written anything about them? Get your hands on that research note.

Search the world of social media too. What are people saying about your competitor? Twitter has become the venue for product complaints, and you can learn a lot from customer complaints. LinkedIn offers many business-oriented groups focused on your product discipline; you’ll find information from people using the competitor’s products. However, the information on social media is generally pretty thin. Site-scraping, social media, and analyst research notes can only tell you so much. You can use published information to familiarize yourself with the general product information shared by most companies, but what you’re really looking for is the names of people you can contact to dive deeper.


(For fun, do a quick search for your competitor’s name plus “battlecard” or “confidential.")

The best competitive intelligence tool is your phone

Pick up the phone and call someone. Call a customer—after all, they probably looked at your competitor’s product when shopping for yours. Call a lost customer.


Or set up a phone discussion with the people you’ve been watching on social media. And get on the phone with your favorite industry analyst.


Sales Battlecards are internal tools

Sales Battlecards are a great way to empower your sales teams. They summarize all you know about how to win deals against specific competitors. Salespeople love ‘em—so much that they’re likely to give a copy to their favorite clients and prospects.

For some salespeople, “company confidential” is code for “distribute immediately.” Once, our much larger competitor acquired the company I worked for. The merger plan was to unite our two sets of products into a unified family. At our first corporate get-together, I met my counterpart, who managed the product that previously competed with mine. She said, “It’s such a delight to meet you; I’ve been reading your work for years.” She then showed me a folder that contained every confidential document I had ever shared with my salespeople. She confessed that she usually received competitive information I’d published about her product the same day I distributed it to my salespeople and generally republished it with her comments and retorts before that day was over!


You and I know salespeople are inclined to share everything with clients. Keeping confidential information confidential is the biggest challenge I faced as a product manager and marketing executive. On the one hand, you want to empower your salespeople with the best competitive tools. On the other hand, you certainly don’t want much of that information shared with customers or competitors.


Quick Tip: Don’t give anything to salespeople that you don’t want your customers to see. Or your competitors. For example, don’t send a PowerPoint deck to your salespeople unless you intend for them to send it—unmodified—to your customers, complete with all the speaker notes. And the same is true of Sales Battlecards. Only you can determine how much information you can safely share with your salespeople.



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