How does your product management team distill information into a competitive sales tool for Sales?

We’ve worked with companies who try a variety of creative techniques to know the unknowable, find the unfindable: the competitive silver bullet.

Some send incognito newbies to trade shows undercover and have them walk from booth to booth collecting intel. Of course, any information gathered there, anyone in the known universe would find out the next day.

One business, lacking product management, bought a database-driven collection tool that promised to revolutionize competitive analysis. But alas, form fields don’t fill themselves. Setup was a beastly and administrative drudgery. The people who learned new information (Sales, from customer conversations) didn’t have time to capture it. The database company went out of business and the company didn’t even notice it was gone.

Back to best practices

That’s why the most popular (and effective) tools are reliable, long-time standards. They include SWOT analyses against other manufacturers, and competitor-by-competitor battle cards.

Tools like these, developed by product management, provide an insightful, deep and actionable understanding of the competitive landscape.

They make account executives comfortable with facing tough customers, handling technical objections, and preparing for negotiation challenges.

But consider the other reps, the people a couple of steps removed from the closers. ISRs, call centers, and hubs, for example. You may not need to arm them for all-out battle. But you do need to give them the ability to do recon.

Too much information

This is the level that many companies we work with (complex, high-consideration B2B technology businesses) want to equip.

The fact is, people in these positions are not expected to win the deal before they hang up. They lay the groundwork for account managers. They conduct initial discovery conversations with buyers, while qualifying them as prospects.

Often, it’s their job to gracefully maneuver the discussion AE-ward before they get too far into the minutiae.

Higher-level knowledge

For early-funnel sales reps like these, and new hires the company’s onboarding, we call on the competitive flash card.

competitive sales tool thumbnail

We keep this high-level and simplified to make it easy to understand a competitor at a glance.

It includes just the key points—not every point—as a baseball trading card would.

Additionally, the information level we recommend keeps reps conversant in the competition, but above the fray. Because inevitably, these get into the hands of customers. And competitors. (Right?)

Anatomy of a flash card

Competitor name and positioning statement.

This shouldn’t be the corporate brand or slogan, but rather the specific one-liner that describes the directly competitive product. The reason to include this isn’t to show “marketing speak” but to show quickly identifiable key points. Terms and phrases in their words that indicate what makes the product stand out.

Our one-sentence differentiator.

A one-liner that finishes the phrase, “If I had to tell you in one sentence how we’re different, it’s that…” This format forces you to keep it fairly conversational, so a rep can actually say it with a straight face.

Valued, intended and known-fors.

A few bullets that highlight the competitors’ differentiators from the external perspective (customers’, the market’s, yours).

“Valued for” include advantages. Yes, competitors have advantages, too.

“Intended for” helps reps steer clear of (or into) the markets the competitor dominates.

“Known for” may include your own field’s impressions and those you’ve gleaned from unofficial but not nasty sources. They’re the less-than-flattering views the competitor already knows about anyway.

Saids and unsaids.

This is one of our favorite parts—we’ve nicknamed this the Saids and Unsaids. This is where you repeat the competitor’s own claims, and reposition them so they’re no longer advantages. Here’s how it works.

  1. What they say – state the claim they make that your product can’t make.
  2. What they leave out – reveal a finding related to the claim, but a twist on it.
  3. Our counterpoint – state a claim based on that finding that makes your own product superior to the competitor’s claim.

For illustration, here’s the example from our made-up flash card competitor.

 

WHAT THEY SAY

National Super Gizmo touts their ‘unparalleled service and support’ as the main reason customers choose their product.

WHAT THEY LEAVE OUT

60% of their current customers have had to escalate to the most expensive option, the last resort “Call the boss” hotline.

OUR COUNTERPOINT

All of our SDS models include a built-in interactive troubleshooting application, ensuring that in any situation, even your entry-level SDS operators can get you fully operational quickly—with a backdoor pass-through to keep the system heartbeat uninterrupted.

Myth busters.

Capture one or two usual rumors you hear about yourself when compared to the competitor. These could come from the competitor’s website itself, prospects who have considered your competitor, or resellers who sell both.

Then rationally dispel the myth with evidence and stats.

Objection Handlers.

Include the most common objection you’d expect ISRs to hear on a call with a prospect. This should be a reason the customer would not choose you. Objections aren’t “no’s” — they are “not yets” — so provide a rebuttal that eliminates it so the conversation can continue.

Customer Pain Point Anecdote (optional)

You can add another objection or two here if you anticipate them. But we love the idea of including an actual customer’s experience. If you have a customer that tried the competitor’s solution or even went with it, ask them about the experience. They don’t have to be catty or even negative, and you don’t have to identify them by name. Just focus on an element of the solution that contrasts with yours and document the customer’s relevant insight.

Opportunity panel.

Every qualifying situation won’t be a win, but if there are specific and immediate signals, capture them here.

When to see opportunity focuses on listening for customer triggers that your solution can address.

When to walk away is permission to put the truck in reverse, or at least park, if the customer is adamant about a requirement that is just not part of your solution.

And finally, weight class helps the rep understand just what kind of competitor he’s dealing with here. From threat level 0 to red alert.

competitive sales tool at a glance

Competitive info in a flash

We like competitive flash cards because they’re not based on he-said-she-said, financial speculation, or fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Instead, they’re based on the promises both companies make, and whether those align with the solution the customer is considering.

Also because it uses non-provocative business language, giving reps credibility without gossiping or getting in over their heads.

And finally we love them because they’re not feature-and-spec dependent. The rep won’t appear foolishly out of touch by invoking a dated claim, capability, or shortcoming. And the rival card won’t have to be modified exhaustively every time there’s a new version of the product. What’s not to love?