How to Build a Better Sales Playbook

How to Build a Better Sales Playbook
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What Is a Sales Playbook?
Like a playbook in sports that plans for the most frequent and most important in-game situations or like sheet music for an orchestra, a sales playbook is a unique collection of sales scenarios, strategies, plans, tactics, and tools to help a sales team consistently win when the stakes are high.  And because every sales team has a unique sales strategy, culture, solution, and definition of winning, the best sales playbooks are unique to each organization and target buyer persona.

Three Prerequisites to Creating a Better Sales Playbook
While in sales you may need to create a basic or interim playbook to keep the sales wheels spinning, a head coach would never create a game plan without knowing the sport that they were playing and their opponent; unfortunately, too many sales enablement functions create sales playbooks without getting the context right first.

Before you can define your key sales plays based upon key buyer personas, goals, problems, and needs, three foundational sales areas must be addressed.

  • Sales Strategy
    First, your sales strategy must be clear, believable, and implementable enough to set the true north for your sales plays. Our organizational alignment research found that sales strategy accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing sales teams.

    Do not make the mistake of investing heavily in sales enablement tools until you have alignment around and commitment to your target clients, value proposition, success metrics, and go-to-market sales strategies.

  • Sales Culture
    Next, your sales culture must be healthy, high performing, and aligned enough with your sales strategy for it to accelerate – not hinder – your sales force. Sales culture, the way sales work gets done across the entire organization, accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performing sales teams.

    Your sales strategy must go through your sales culture.  Do not underestimate the need for the right sales culture to meet your targets.  Otherwise your desire for a better sales playbook to drive better sales results will falter.

  • Sales Talent
    Lastly, you must assess the key sales skills (some use simulation assessments for high stakes sales leadership roles) required to execute your sales strategy and know how your current sales force stacks up against those sales skills and behaviors. Then, based upon your gap analysis, you can create a practical plan to fill the key sales skill gaps that matter most for your sales plays to be successful.

    Make sure that any corresponding solution selling training is highly customized to your unique needs and reinforced by frequent sales coaching; It is not very practical to create sales plays if your sales force does not have the knowledge, skills, and business savvy to run the plays well.

Elements of a Great Sales Playbook
Once your sales strategy and sales culture are aligned and your plan to close key sales skill gaps is clear, you have the context required to design the right business sales training and build a better sales playbook with the right sales scenarios, sales plays, and sales support tools.

  1. The Critical Few and Most Frequent Sales Scenarios
    While a sales force can be average in some areas without having a material impact, two or three sales scenarios or situations typically have a disproportionate correlation to sales success for every sales force.  The best sales playbooks focus on these top buying moments of truth — the situations that if you excelled at consistently will have the greatest impact on your key sales metrics like win rate, revenue, gross margin, portfolio mix, client satisfaction, or client renewal rate.

    For example, a recent client identified their top two moments of truth in the first and third stage of their sales process in a way that aligned with the way their target clients like to buy.

    The first scenario was the Initial Discovery Meeting where opportunities, compelling events, budgets, and competition are identified.  The second was the Presenting Options step where various solutions are articulated, validated, and presented.  Accounting for almost 50% of the weight for closing their biggest deals, these two scenarios became the initial focus of their sales playbook.

    Do not make the mistake of creating an all comprehensive sales playbook that covers every aspect of every type of sale to every potential customer.  You will not get the sales behaviors or sales results that you desire.

    Do you know the most critical and most frequent sales scenarios that matter most to your success?

  2. The Critical Few Sales Plays and Verifiable Outcomes
    Once your critical few sales scenarios have been identified, it is time to define your most promising sales plays and the customer verifiable outcomes that would let you know that your plays have been successful.  We define sales plays as the combination of processes, tactics, approaches, methodologies, skills, knowledge, behaviors, and attitudes required to move the buyer to the next phase of the buying process in a way that makes sense — for them and for you.

    To break down internal silos and to create a more customer-centric culture, the most successful sales plays are typically created by cross-functional teams from sales, marketing, product development, finance, legal, and procurement.  This allows sales teams to create more realistic sales plays to combat the emergence of not only more professional buyers and more lengthy sales cycles but increased pricing, commoditization, and concession pressures.

    For example, for the Presenting Options step where various solutions are articulated, validated, and presented, our client created specific sales plays for running demos, confirming technical fit, validating business processes, and aligning solutions.    They identified the top 5 most frequent and important plays by buyer persona and situation.  Then they identified the top 3 audibles most likely to happen when things do not go according to plan.

    We like to include customer verifiable outcomes as part of every sales play.  We define customer verifiable outcomes as the desired and measurable actions that we want buyers take for each sales play.  They are typically a combination of leading and lagging sales indicators.

    For example, the major lagging customer verifiable outcome from the Demonstration Step was for the client to agree to scheduling a technical fit meeting.

  3. Sales Support Tools
    Once your sales scenarios, plays, and verifiable outcomes are defined, it is time to build your sales support tools. While high performing sales teams have easy access to high quality sales and marketing content and tools that are easy to use at each stage of the sales process, too many sales enablement functions start here before completing the above steps.

    To build the right sales support tools, start by auditing what currently exists, mapping current tools and collateral to sales and buying stages of your key scenarios, and list the key gaps.

    Once your gaps have been identified, use your same cross-function team to create the internal sales support tools and the external client-facing collateral required to more effectively move through each stage of the sales process.

The Bottom Line
Does your sales team know how to market, sell, and serve for your moments of truth?  When you create a sales playbook based upon the needs of your target clients, your unique value proposition, and what matters most, you set your sales team up for success.

To learn more about creating high sales performance, download 30 Effective Sales Questions More Important than Budget

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