What Is a Sales Playbook?
Like a playbook in sports that plans for the most frequent and most important in-game situations, 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 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 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 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 what to do on first down, second down and third down against different defenses in different types of weather?  When you create a sales playbook based upon the needs of your target clients and your unique value proposition, 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

More Organizational Change?
Leaders shouldn’t be surprised when they face skepticism and change fatigue at work.  Sure, most organizations are in a constant state of change and people must adapt to thrive, but research shows that most change efforts are more apt to fail than to succeed.  That is why acknowledging failed change efforts from the past is a critical ingredient to combatting change fatigue at work.

What is Change Fatigue?
We define change fatigue at work as when employees become exhausted from being faced with too many changes at once – regardless of whether the chances are successful or not.

How Common is Change Fatigue?
A recent study by the Katzenbach Center found about 65% of leaders, managers, and employees have experienced some form of change fatigue.  Similarly, almost 75% of our change management consulting clients report having experienced some form of change fatigue in the last year.   So from our perspective, change fatigue seems as common as organizational change itself.

What is the Impact of Change Fatigue?
All organizational changes, even positive ones, come at a mental and emotional cost.  Similar to having too many strategic priorities, when leaders ask their employees to change too much too fast, employees often hedge to determine if the change has staying power before investing in it.  And ongoing change fatigue can result in employee disengagement, decreased performance, and increased employee attrition – especially of high performers.

How to Overcome Change Fatigue at Work
Change leaders need to re-set expectations and prepare the workforce to better cope with change fatigue.  Why?  Because change is here to stay, and your workforce must sign up for and support the change for it to be successful.

  1. Acknowledge Feelings and Apologize for Past Failures
    Before you can begin to inspire your workforce with your new vision for change, you need to acknowledge the pain and appreciate the frustrations of past failures. Our experience has shown that employees value the honesty and understanding of their leaders.  When you recognize how much this cost your workforce, they are more likely to trust what you say next.

    Express your regret and apologize for past disappointments.  Take responsibility for what went wrong and pledge not to make the same mistakes.  Be specific about why things went awry.

    Was it a lack of resources? An environment of fear or aversion to risk?  Was it that the strategy was misunderstood or misaligned with performance incentives?  Were there too many changes at once resulting in fundamental disconnects and confusion?

  2. Describe in Detail How this Change Plan Differs
    Now it’s time to describe how your current plan addresses all previous reasons for failure. You need to convince employees that you have analyzed past change failures carefully and objectively and that you have learned from them.  Explain the system you will put in place to monitor the change initiative all along the way and to make course adjustments as needed to keep on track.

    Then be crystal clear about how important this new change initiative is compared to other priorities and why.

  3. Regularly Evaluate Progress
    Measure progress and team health on a regular basis. Ask them how they think the change is going, what obstacles they are facing, and what fixes they need.  You want to raise any concerns and address them before something sabotages the whole effort.

    Make sure your leaders focus on creating a change culture where people can provide candid feedback about concerns without negative repercussions.  Without a high level of psychological safety, issues are likely to fester.

The Bottom Line
Don’t expect to win your employees over to a new change initiative until you have gained their trust that this time will be different.  Show that you have learned from the past.  Then put the safeguards in place that are required to create transparency, accountability, and momentum.

To learn more about how to combat change fatigue, download 5 Science-Backed Lenses of Change Leadership

Do You Know How to Set Up Your Team for Success?
Teams of people, not individuals, most often drive results in companies these days.  Teams that fail often lack clear direction, are unable to manage conflict, and have misaligned incentive systems.  Teams that succeed have clear goals, work well together, and are well-suited to the job at hand.

High Performing Teams
Even though building high performing teams is a critical success factor, too many leaders ask their teams to get work done without setting them up to succeed.  Companies that understand how to build high performing teams are companies that manage their talent right, individual by individual, job by job, role by role, team by team.

Three Steps to Set Up Your Team for Success
To set up your teams for success, start by following these three team tips:

  1. Set the Stage
    Our organizational alignment research found that strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing teams. Start by making sure that every member of the team understands the team’s purpose, goals, and how success will be measured.Then make sure that roles and interdependencies are understood and aligned with preferences, capabilities, and bandwidth.  Your objective is to make sure that work is organized and shared in a way that clearly leads to accomplishing the team’s goals.

    Once goals and roles are accepted, it is time to agree on standards of behavior, a process for decision making, and a method for resolving conflicts that may arise.  Your objective is to promote trust, collaboration, openness, and continuous improvement.

  2. Align Incentives and Accountability
    High performing team incentives are aligned to reward and recognize both individual and team performance. Effective team incentive systems are timely, have an explicit cause and effect relationship, are customized to the team’s goals and individuals, and are deemed fair and proportionate.To create accountability ensure high levels of transparency and trust around how success is monitored, communicated, and measured.
  3. Keep It Personal
    Remember that a team is made up of individuals with different backgrounds, interests, modes of communication, strengths, and needs. One size does not fit all.  It’s important to get to know what engages and motivates each team member.

The Bottom Line
When you as a team leader can help set the team’s purpose and standards, their priorities and activities, their appreciation for each other’s strengths, you equip your team for success.  Are you taking the time required up front to set your team up for success?

To learn more about how to set your team up for success, download How Much Can you You’re your Team to Do More – The Science Behind Performance Expectations

Role of Project Sponsor
There are so many reasons that an important project can fail.  But if you have a well-chosen project sponsor, they can often navigate you safely past all kinds of stumbling blocks and guide you and your project team to deliver what was promised in a way that makes sense.  And it often starts with having the role of a project sponsor clearly defined and agreed upon.

What a Project Sponsor Is
In some instances, the project sponsor is unknown, unclear, or ineffective. Often project leaders report that project sponsors are too busy to provide meaningful support. While this may be OK for less complex projects, it can spell disaster for complex, urgent, and high-stakes projects.

We define the role of the Project Sponsor as the person with overall accountability for driving the project toward a successful conclusion for the company, the project team, and the project stakeholders. The Project Sponsor plays a vital leadership role as the executive liaison in terms of:

  • Providing context, expertise, and guidance
  • Ensuring capacity, funding, and prioritization
  • Escalating decisions and issues

What a Project Sponsor Is NOT
Project sponsors do not:

  • Manage the project day-to-day
  • Carry out specific tasks
  • Bear responsibility for getting the job done

Why the Role of a Project Sponsor is Critical for Project Success
Tackling a challenging and highly visible project can be daunting for you and your project team. Enlist the support of a great executive sponsor, and you have a much better chance of success. Then agree upon how they can specifically help to ensure – without micromanaging – that the project and the project manager are performing at the right level.

The Bottom Line
If formal and authoritative sponsorship of your project is unclear or in name only, you have some work to do.  It is worth the time and effort to define a clear project sponsor with formal and active authority who is ultimately accountable for and fully committed to project success.

To learn more about the Role of a Project Sponsor, download The 5 Critical Characteristics of a Great Executive Project Sponsor

About LSA Global
Founded in 1995, LSA Global is a leading performance consulting, coaching, and training firm that helps technology, services, and life-science companies create a competitive advantage by powerfully aligning their culture and talent with their strategy.

Set Strategic Priorities
It’s one thing to draft a corporate strategy; it’s another to successfully and consistently execute your strategy across an organization.  And the more ambitious your goals, the more clarity, focus, and perseverance you will need to get there.   While strategic priorities certainly change over time, top leaders ensure that they and their teams set strategic priorities designed to win.

When you want to maximize the impact of achieving your strategy, the importance of prioritization cannot be overestimated to best accelerate decision making, allocate resources, and maximize trade-offs.

First Things First – Strategic Drivers Set the Context
Before you set strategic priorities for the next 12-36 months, you need to have a solid foundation of five strategic drivers:

  • Vision
    We define a company’s vision as “What the organization hopes to become – the business you will be in tomorrow.” The best vision statements provide an inspiring, motivating, challenging, memorable, and unique picture of where the business is headed.
  • Mission
    A company’s mission articulates why the company’s work matters. The clearer you can be about the business you are in and your fundamental purpose, the easier it is to define a successful strategy that your key stakeholders — employees, owners and customers alike — can rally behind.
  • Values
    Corporate values define the fundamental beliefs of an organization and serve as the foundation for not only how you behave, but also who you hire, fire, promote, and reward.
  • Ideal Target Clients
    High growth companies are almost three times as likely to be highly specific and detailed about who they serve. Why?  Because ideal target customers who fit you best don’t just buy your stuff; they passionately buy and use what you have to offer.
  • Unique Value Proposition
    High growth companies are also three times more likely to have a differentiated value proposition.  Knowing what clearly sets you apart in the eyes of your target clients is the final piece of strategic context required to effectively set your strategic priorities.  Clients don’t just need what you offer; they feel they must have what you offer.

Although many leaders believe that their strategic drivers are clear enough to begin to set strategic priorities, our organizational alignment research found that employees believe that these strategic drivers are 50% less clear to them than to the executive team.  Without clear and agreed upon vision, mission, values, target client, and value proposition statements, managers and employees report that they are missing the guiding principles required to know what matters most – especially when things change.

Next, High Performance Success Metrics Set the Bar
Once you have established your strategic drivers, it is time to define what high performance goals look like over the next 12-36 months.   We recommend selecting two or three leading or lagging metrics that carry fifty percent or more of the weight regarding what matters most.

For example, one client looking to enter a new market selected new client acquisition and new client satisfaction as their two main strategic success metrics.  While they had many things on their plate, they knew that these two metrics mattered most to achieve their vision.

Another client striving to scale selected profitable growth rate and client renewals as their overall strategic measures of high performance.  While they also needed to realign some teams and divest some products, they knew that growing their current client base profitably was the key to higher performance.

The key is to identify and agree upon what really matters above all else in helping you get to where you want to go.

The Bottom Line
Getting these strategic drivers right is harder than it may seem.  We found that only 30% of companies have enough strategic clarity to effectively set strategic priorities.  Once you have aligned the top team on the strategic drivers, you can then begin to actively involve your teams to identify the strategy, culture, and talent priorities required to make it happen that make sense for your unique situation.

To learn more about how to create the strategic clarity required to better set priorities, download 7 Proven Ways to Stress Test Your Strategy Now


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