How to create competitive sales battle cards using social proof

The competitive battle card is a staple of most sales teams. And it serves just one purpose: To help sales reps convince prospects to pick you over the competition.

The competitive battle card is a popular resource that sales reps use to show prospects how and where your product wins. And sales battle cards have become increasingly important as sales cycles have grown more complicated and features have become easier to replicate.

In fact, we know that B2B buyers struggle to see clear differences when comparing similar products. A recent study from CEB and Google found that only 14 % of B2B buyers see any real difference between vendors and value that difference enough to pay for it.

An effective sales battle card arms your sales team with information they can leverage to persuade prospects to make that leap. When done properly, battle cards enable sales reps to guide prospects toward seeing the personal value in your product that prospects need to go from inertia to purchase.

In this post, we explain how to create a sales battle card from scratch and how to leverage social proof in your battle cards to expertly position your product.

What should you include in your sales battle cards?

Sales battle cards summarize the most important differences between your product and your competitors’ products. They outline the business problem your product solves, the benefits of switching or picking your product, and the key differentiators that sales reps need to convey to prospects.

Before we dive in, let’s take a look at one of the better examples of sales battle cards. Here’s the battle card created by enterprise software company CloudLinux:

Sales Battle Cards Template CloudLinux

In their battle card, CloudLinux provides a concise but comprehensive overview of their product’s position in the market. They include important specifics on target market and customer, business benefits, key features, and more in an easily digestible and scannable format. 

The example from CloudLinux aligns closely with the model for battle cards developed by Forte Consultancy Group. Now the gold standard for battle cards, their model has helped us create our own battle cards at DocSend and helped many others along the way.

As you read through the specifics of their model (outlined below), reference CloudLinux’s sales battle card to see how they implemented the model.  Here’s what Forte Consultancy Group recommends including in your sales battle cards:

The Forte Consultancy Group Model

  1. Marketplace conditions: All the basic information reps need about a market or market segment in order to sell to it effectively.
  2. Target customer segments and opportunities: Information about the ideal customer profile and the pain points that will lead them to purchase your solution.
  3. Product features and promotions: A breakdown of feature specs as they relate to the value provided by your product.
  4. Competitive analysis: An honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your competitor’s product in relation to your product.
  5. Customer segment-specific propositions: The unique selling proposition that persuades your ideal customer profile to purchase your offering.
  6. Possible customer issues with the product: A breakdown of all potential issues that a prospect might ask about during the sales process. You should also include the answers to those issues.
  7. Golden questions: These are the most important questions that your reps ask prospects. They are designed to help prospects self-identify as the ideal fit for your product.
  8. Sample benefits and success stories: Testimonials from current customers. There should be testimonials for every use case and vertical that you are targeting.
  9. Additional information: Any pieces of intel that might help reps to close more deals.

What makes sales battle cards effective?

Comparing your product to a competitor’s can often be tricky. It requires tact and expertise and, most importantly, a solid grasp of your market positioning. And that’s where sales battle cards become an essential resource in any reps’ toolbox.

Effective sales battle cards equip reps with sales-ready responses to the most important questions a prospect might ask. The best ones help reps convey the unique value of your product using consistent, proven marketing messages.

The most important differentiator between a decent battle card and a strong one is social proof. Social proof provides prospects with evidence from their peers that what you’re saying has been verified as true. It helps prospects parse the product leaders and innovators from the laggards and followers.

In the next section, we explain how to leverage social proof from Glassdoor to level up your sales battle cards. Glassdoor’s free company reviews often contain detailed competitive intelligence that, when used strategically, can help turn doubtful prospects into committed buyers.

How do you use the social proof provided by Glassdoor?

Glassdoor makes it easy to find employee reviews on just about every private and public company. Given that your competitors’ companies are large enough (30+ employees), you should find at least a handful of reviews.

Let’s pretend that we work for Acme Corp and Acme Corp sells infrastructure software. One of our products is an infrastructure security solution, and we want to understand how our competitors’ products are performing when it comes to security.

When we search for our biggest competitor Infrastructure Corp, here’s one of the reviews we find:  

Infrastructure company glassdor review for battlecard post

Note: This is real employee review from an infrastructure software company that sells security as a solution. We’ve blurred out any identifying information. 

Since this review was written by a Security Administrator, we can give extra weight to the information he or she provides. Here’s what we learn:

  • Security department has been outsourced to a third party.
  • Customer support has been deprioritized.
  • Many support tickets are mishandled, “sometimes disastrously.”
  • Prices have been raised while the quality of support has been lowered.

As you read through your competitors’ reviews, take the time to capture your competitive intel. We find it helpful to organize competitive intel by selling proposition. In this example, the categories we would create are customer support, pricing, and security.

Carefully cataloging your findings makes it easier to distill them into one-page battle cards that your reps can reference. It also helps your reps understand how your product stacks up against your competitors’ with regard to value.

How can reps use sales battle cards in practice?

You’ve successfully armed your reps with critical competitive intelligence. Now they need to know how to leverage that intel in conversations with prospects.

Let’s pretend that one your reps receives an email from her prospect with questions about Infrastructure Corp. The prospect’s manager wants to go with Infrastructure Corp, but the prospect wants to know how your company Acme Corp stacks up before deciding.

Your rep knows that her prospect cares most about security. Armed with information from the review on Glassdoor, your rep calls her prospect to say:

Seller: Hey, I just read your last email. I know you’re thinking of going with Infrastructure Corp, and I wanted to reach out with some information you might find useful. Even if you decide to go with another vendor, I wanted to make sure you have all the information you need to make the best choice.

Prospect: Great, what did you want to tell me?

Seller: You mentioned on our first call that security was your first priority when choosing infrastructure software. In the last year, Infrastructure Corp has started outsourcing security administration to a third-party firm and laying off their internal security team. I wanted to make sure you were aware of the changes.

Prospect: Oh wow. I had no clue. Where did you hear this?

Seller: The information’s available right on their Glassdoor. It looks like the changes may have ruffled some feathers there. Let me send you a few links that you can take back to discuss with your manager and other decision makers.

Prospect: Yes, definitely. I’ll look out for your email.

Want to find Glassdoor reviews by keyword or topic?

Sometimes, it’s helpful to surface only the Glassdoor reviews that address a specific topic of feature. You can search for keywords in specific Glassdoor reviews by using specific search operators in your Google query.

You can do a site search on Google, by entering the following into the search field: “site:www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Employee-Review-[Companyname] [keyword].” If you want to search for an exact phrase, just add quotation marks around your keyword.

Let’s use a fictional example from the hit HBO show Silicon Valley to show how this works. One of the companies from the show Hooli has a notoriously bad reputation for its product issues. 

If we wanted to look up Glassdoor reviews for Hooli and search for product issues, we would enter: “site:www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Employee-Review-Hooli product issues.” Here’s what that search would return:

Reviews of Hooli on Glassdoor

You can do more advanced searches by taking advantage of Google’s many search operators. Here’s a full list you can reference as you do your competitive research.

What industries or companies can benefit from this tactic?

We think this tactic works most effectively when researching companies with just a single product. That said, you can apply this strategy for building sales battle cards across many different industries, as long as they have a presence on Glassdoor.

A quick disclaimer: Glassdoor can sometimes invite embellished stories or rants from disgruntled former employees. Be critical when examining the reviews to find competitive intelligence that has merit. Current employees can often be just as honest as former employees in their reviews.

Below, you’ll find examples of Glassdoor reviews from several different software markets. We point out what information you can glean from each review. Again, we’ve blurred out all identifying information.

Business operations software

What the review says:

What you learn:

  • Product updates are rushed resulting in incomplete and buggy software.
  • Support staff lacks training on product updates leading to poor customer experience.
  • Internal communication suffers from mismanaged implementation.

Presentation software

What the review says:

customer success does not respond

What you learn:

  • Sales team lacks training and support.
  • Customer support suffers from slow response times.
  • Implementation process is oversold and under delivers on expectations.

What the review says:

product features not getting rolled outWhat you learn:

  • Product development suffers from slow implementation.
  • Product development struggles with feature prioritization.
  • Poorly executed updates are prioritized over High-impact features.

Point of sale system software

What the review says:

issues with enterprise roll outs

What you learn:

  • Product works best for SMB customers.
  • Product under delivers for enterprise customers.

What the review says:

mom and pop vs enterprise issues

What you learn:

  • Company suffers from high customer churn.
  • Enterprise customers are prioritized over SMB customers.
  • Pricing suffers from frequent fluctuations and updates.

A quick word of caution

A strong sales battle card is designed to shift prospects’ perspective, not tear down and trash talk. If you plan on using social proof in your sales battle cards, it’s crucial that you use your best judgment in deciding which reviews provide a fair assessment of your competitors’ products.

Some tips for selecting reviews:

  • Stick to reviews published within the last six months. Referencing older reviews risks presenting outdated or incomplete information prospects.
  • Avoid reviews with inflammatory or crude language. Disgruntled current and employees may exaggerate or overstate challenges with the product or management.
  • Use reviews from current employees when possible. Current employees tend to have more neck in the game and are more likely to provide a nuanced, balanced perspective.

Remember, what you include your sales battle cards may end up in front of prospects or even your competitors. While battle cards are best used as internal tools, it’s always wise to only include what you can reasonably defend or know to be true.

Do you have any tried and true tactics for creating sales battle cards?

This post was originally published on December 10, 2015. It was last updated on September 27, 2017.