The Guide to Sales Battlecards

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In an ideal world, the buying process would be simple. Customers would consider your offering and ask themselves "Should I buy it?" Unfortunately, for all but the most extreme monopolies, firms have to compete with other vendors. In these cases, customers will pose a very different question, "Which one should I buy?"

Fortunately, companies don't have to leave their fates up to the unguided whims of the marketplace. They can affect the decision-making process through the application of salesmanship.

If only there were some kind of tool that the sales team could use to prepare. Oh wait, there is: a sales battlecard.

Sales Battlecards in a Nutshell

A lot of people talk about battlecards, but few bother to explain what they are in a succinct manner.

Here are the highlights:

Why Are Battlecards Necessary?

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” -- Sun Tzu explains the power of sales battlecards in The Art of War

It's very difficult to consider all of one's competitors at once. There are just too many variables in play, and often the competing firms are too dissimilar to be aggregated into a single model. It's far simpler and more effective to cull the field and look at only two competing products at a time.

Battlecards are like the ultimate CliffsNotes for salesmen. Because they break down the necessary information so effectively and efficiently, firms can be sure that their sales teams stay on point and present their wares in the best possible light. This is especially important for firms that employ sales professionals with varying levels of marketplace knowledge, technical sophistication, and knowledge of corporate strategy.

The major benefits of using battlecards are as follows:

What Does a Battlecard Look Like?

There is no single recognized format for a battlecard, and there are some very good reasons for that fact:

That said, well-designed battlecards share a few characteristics in common:

The Process of Battlecard Creation

Although battlecards can take many forms, the ideal process for creating them is similar across all industries.

The principal steps for creating battlecards are below:

Identify Competing Products

The first step in building a set of battlecards is the selection of a roster of products to analyze and prepare.

Many overeager firms will be tempted to compile a list containing each and every competitor their staff has seen in the marketplace. This level of completeness is unnecessary. It's almost always best to limit the initial creation of battlecards to no more than three.

Why so Few?

Select Categories of Information

Many battlecard creators get hung up on this part. They worry that they'll pick the wrong categories of data to collect. This should not be a concern, because it's not just a possibility but a near certainty - especially if the staff members have not created battlecards in the past.

It's OK to have to make revisions later. The important message to remember is that perfect is the enemy of done. Imperfect, but useful, prototypes will serve as the basis for improved battlecards in the future.

The categories below will likely prove to be a good starting point, but may not represent a perfect slate for a given marketplace:

Collect Information

At this point, it's simply a matter of filling in the blanks. Remember, work can be parallelized by having different people research different categories of information. For instance, while one person is compiling business profiles, another could look for product reviews, as another seeks out pricing sheets.

Where Can Information Be Found?

Information is everywhere. Here are a few ideas to get started:

Gathered information should be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism. Random sources can prove highly fruitful, but the word can must be stressed. A few hints to keep in mind:

Update Regularly

A strong feedback cycle is absolutely critical for the creation of useful sales battlecards. As staff members gain expertise and see the results of their pitches they will be in a powerful position to go back and revise the battlecards to increase their value.

These are a few of the questions that sales staff should be asking themselves after their interactions:

Common Mistakes when Creating Battlecards

There are many mistakes that battlecard creators make time and time again. The list below covers the majority of them:


Battlecards are an excellent means for improving the close rates and de-risking the sales process. They won't change your business overnight, but they will help your bottom line over time.

Do you have questions about battlecards? Do need some assistance building them for your team? Feel free to contact me for help.