3 Steps to ensure your competitive intel is put to good use by sales reps
J.K. Rowling didn’t write seven Harry Potter books for no one to read them.
Just like you didn’t put in the time to research and source competitive intel for no one to use it.
There’s nothing more frustrating than having the competitive battlecards you’ve created collect dust on the sidelines while sales reps are going rogue in the field concocting their own messaging against the competition.
And hey, sometimes it will work for them! But that’s not the point. It’s not scalable for your business to have individual reps making different talk tracks on competitors on a case-by-case basis.
Plus, all it takes is one game of telephone between buyers who have heard different things from different members of your sales team to erode the credibility that you’ve built.
Since sales are the most important consumer of competitive intel, what can you do as the person in charge of competitive enablement to get them to use the information that you’ve vetted and approved?
1. Start by Getting Top-Down Support
Now, this may seem counterintuitive. Don’t we want to have long-term, organic usage from our sales reps that are in deals and talking with prospects daily?
Why, yes, yes we do. However, getting early support from leadership teams is like a jolt of caffeine that will perk up your sales reps’ initial interest.
Sales leadership and members of the exec team set the table for the importance of your competitive program. They can enforce reps’ behaviours, carve out time for you to share relevant insights during sales meetings, and ensure that competitive intel doesn’t fall to the wayside.
Ultimately, they’re the most influential voices in the company. Their support will spearhead the business adopting a competitive culture.
How do you get executive support for your program?
Execs aren’t blindly buying into your competitive program. They support a program that presents a strong business case rooted in data, research, and internal feedback.
One of the most successful ways that Alex has seen programs generate support is by getting in front of leadership early and outlining who presents the biggest threat to your business.
“I encourage running threats to pipeline analysis, which is based on your CRM data. It will immediately allow you to identify who are the key competitors that are coming up in deals most frequently.
“Show to senior stakeholders — these are the competitors that are coming up and that we’re losing to most frequently in deals, so these are who we’re going to address first. It is very infrequent that we see a sales leader not want to be involved in that as you’re showing that you want to help increase revenue.”
2. Explain Why Competitive Enablement Will Help Sales in Their Role
During a recent call with an exec at an enterprise company he shared with me a succinct, but insightful one-liner.
‘Sales are the best B.S. detectors in the company.’
This line should dictate how you explain the ‘why’ of your competitive program to sales.
Don’t sugarcoat it. Tell reps why it matters to them and how it will help them in their role, Alex explains.
“If you think of yourself as a sales rep, they’re really busy. They’re trying to reach quota, a pipeline to follow-up with, and prospecting to do. If you present this program without any reason for them to want to use it, or any benefit to them, it’s going to be a real challenge.”
And a great way to explain this ‘why’ starts by internally surveying your reps.
Why will the program help sales win more competitive deals?
Get reps to provide initial feedback on how confident they feel against different competitors and where they feel least equipped to battle them.
You can even conduct regular sales confidence surveys using our competitive confidence survey guide.
The most common responses from the survey can be the roadmap that then dictates what answers you need to uncover first. Your competitive intel is there to support the users, after all.
Plus, if you can solve these common problems that they’re facing, then you’re naturally presenting why your program will help them in their role.
(If you conduct this internal survey regularly, the feedback will also work as a reporting metric that measures how well your team’s knowledge and confidence of a competitor has improved over time. This is how Saviynt have been able to report on the KPIs they established.)
If your program is more established, then you can also use data to cement why your intel will help sales.
Showcase the individual reps that have used your competitive battlecards and then won bigger deals, faster. Measuring each reps’ competitive win rate by content usage presents a quantitative case — proof that the reps that are using your content are closing better than those that aren’t.
It’s a clear call-to-action that triggers reps' competitive instinct.
How will the program make sales more efficient?
During Alex’s time overseeing many competitive program roll-outs, there’s been another common result that she’s seen from these internal surveys.
Sales reps are spending a lot of time making their own competitive content.
“During these surveys, we often see that each sales rep is making a whole bunch of competitive collateral themselves to respond to when a prospect asks questions about a competitor. They’re spending a lot of time creating that in the background.
“Maybe they’ll share it with another rep, maybe they’ll store it on a drive, maybe they’ll send it in an email. But most times, it never gets reused or resurfaced and it goes out of date very quickly.”
Sales reps across the company are diverting too much of their time towards answering the same competitive questions. Explain to them that your program is providing the intel that they need so that they don’t have to research themselves.
“Show reps that by leveraging a competitive program they’re not going to have to create any of their own competitive content. It’s all been done for them.”
3. Start Small, And Then Scale
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
I didn’t fully appreciate that quote until I saw competitive leaders at enterprise companies having to present their insights to hundreds of sales reps across the globe. Yeah, it can seem a little daunting at first.
But, those in charge of competitive enablement that have been most successful targeted their initial efforts towards a smaller group of selected reps first to generate early champions. Consider this the bottom-up approach to accompany your top-down executive support.
Strategically bringing in a select few seasoned reps that have the deepest institutional knowledge and giving them early access or piloting your program is a strong foundation for success, Alex said.
“Get some experienced reps involved in a pilot early so that they can actually invest, give feedback, and contribute intel. Then it’s in their own interest to get other people using this as well given that their time and effort has gone into it.”
Seasoned reps will likely provide you with the most intel from the field, and are a credible voice amongst their peers. When other salespeople see a veteran using your competitive intel it will naturally spark them to follow suit.
Sales Are The Lifeblood of Your Competitive Program
Regardless of if you’re just starting out your research on competitors or are a veteran in the industry, sales are the most important team that determines the success of your program.
As a competitive leader, there’s no greater validation than having sales pounding the table for you. So, get them on board early and make it clear that your goal is to support them to win more competitive deals.
Author: Adam McQueen