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The idea of a battle card is to provide a salesperson with information that might help them beat a rival for a prospective client’s business. Many of these battle cards provide a company overview and identify the stakeholders involved in the purchase, the target customers, industry opportunities, product features, competitor analysis, responses to common objections, and success stories. Many of these battle card elements may be helpful when selling, while others offer little or no benefit.

Battle Card Challenges

  1. They discourage research. Some salespeople will believe the battle card contains all the research they need to succeed at winning a competitive deal. In truth, without doing research on their own, they may lack a real understanding of the client and their needs. Salespeople looking to displace a competitor may lose to someone who does the reading and research instead of relying on what their organization provides.
  2. They support a transactional approach. Battle cards can create a transactional approach to competition by reducing important considerations to an average. For example, not many people have ever seen a person who exactly matches an ideal client profile walking around in real life. If you haven’t learned what your client needs and why they want certain things, a battle card will not help you very much.
  3. They focus on solutions. One of the main problems with battle cards is that they suggest that the sales contest is between two companies and their solutions, when the real contest is between two salespeople vying for the client’s business. Relying on battle cards may lead to a conversation that focuses on product features instead of topics that are more valuable for the client.
  4. They misuse competitive intelligence. When battle cards oversimplify competitive intelligence, salespeople will use important information poorly. Knowing things like a competitor’s pricing or unique selling can lead to a clunky conversation about the competitor and their faults. In this context, salespeople wind up comparing their solutions with those offered by the competition. A potential outcome is that the salesperson talks too much about the competition, which may make the client feel they need to defend a competitor.
  5. They treat real concerns like objections. A focus on overcoming objections indicates a legacy approach. In the third decade in the 21st century, a modern sales approach looks at an objection and sees a real client concern. Treating the source of the concern is better than trying to address what you might consider to be an objection.

Value Creation Cards

It’s an attractive idea that a sales organization could organize a set of ideas that might provide their salespeople with an advantage in contested deals. But battle cards seem to be most prevalent when selling a product with a great number of look-alike competitors. Instead of building a sales battle card, consider creating a value creation card. This would focus on information that would allow the salesperson to run up the score on their competitor by continually creating the appropriate value at the right time.

In Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition you will find a concept called Level 4 Value Creation, which is a laser focus on the strategic outcomes your clients need. This book on competition starts with how to capture mindshare by using an executive briefing.

You can start to build a value creation card by identifying the strategic outcome your clients need. By starting the conversation with the client’s reasons for buying rather than the solution you are selling, you sound different than your competitors in the most positive way. By doing this work in the first meeting, you are better prepared for a contest because your competitor will be talking about features while you are talking about the outcomes your client needs.

Your value creation card might provide a set of insights that positions you as an expert and an authority on the problems your client is facing. Long-time readers will know a more consultative approach begins when you already know your client’s problems and the reasons for them. This level of understanding allows you to create more value in the sales conversation.

Instead of a card with an ICP of the main decision maker, a consultative salesperson begins by building consensus with the client’s team. You would do better to identify key stakeholder roles, titles, and responsibilities and what each needs from the battle cards in sales conversation. This helps you provide the level of value you will need to earn their business.

As a consultative salesperson, you recognize when your client’s buyer’s journey is off track, and you intervene with counsel and advice about what they should do next, why it’s important to them, and how it will ensure their success. A value creation card should provide guidance on how to recognize the decision maker and their team are off track and what advice to provide.

The final element of your value creation card is a bit more complicated. Rather than a conversation about whose solution is a better fit for the client, you triangulate your competitors by saying the most positive thing about the approach each one uses, while also explaining the concessions that are part of their model. You do the same with your company, including how your model ensures the client’s success, and what concession comes with your approach. You can find more on this strategy in Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative.

Battle Cards or Value Creation Cards

You will not beat your competitor by going toe to toe with a rival and their solution. Nor will you find success in a competitive pursuit by trying to eviscerate your competitor. You would do better to create value from the first meeting all the way to the end of the pursuit, as you score points by creating value your competitor doesn’t have the strategies and tactics to create the value in the sales conversation.

If you provide a card to help the salesperson, make sure it contains ideas that will help them score points. While their competitors use a transactional approach, your team will counter with consultative strategies. You win the client by creating value, and you lose by trying to denigrate or disparage your competitor.


Post by Anthony Iannarino on September 8, 2023

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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