If my recent experience is anything to go by, sales playbooks have overtaken sales analytics as 2017's "must do" sales performance improvement initiative. It's not hard to see why. CEOs and sales leaders are frustrated that - despite all their investments in CRM and sales training - there remains a significant and persistent performance gap between their top sales people and the rest.
Now, some of the difference can be attributed to the fact that many top performers display a set of personal attitudes and attributes that are missing in many other sales people. But that's far from the only (or even the main) explanation - much of the difference is actually down to learned behaviours - behaviours that their colleagues can copy.
And it's this discovery that has sparked a wave of interest in sales playbooks and in the technologies that support them. But - just as everybody ought to have learned with CRM - simply throwing technology at the problem will not by itself solve it...
It's probably best to think of any sales playbook technology merely as a convenient container for the accumulated wisdom of your sales organisation. And, of course, as with so much else, it's the content that matters. All the technology can do is to make it easy to consume.
So what are the essential elements of a great sales playbook? I think we need to take the basics as given - all the product presentations, data sheets, case studies and other collateral produced by your product marketing and marketing communications teams. Granted, it's an essential foundation, but it's not going to seriously move the sales performance needle.
To be truly effective, your sales playbook needs to guide every sales person in the winning habits and hard-won experiences of your top performing sales people. Your playbook needs to be much more about how to sell than what to sell.
Every situation is different. But here are my top ten recommendations for the essential elements of a truly effective sales playbook:
- A regularly updated, issue-led sales presentation that sales people can individually customise to meet specific customer situations
- Ideal customer profiles for each of your key offerings that enable every sales person to accurately identify and qualify potential accounts
- Comprehensive stakeholder maps that help every sales person to anticipate and address the key issues, concerns and motivations of their prospect's decision team
- Opportunity qualification check-lists and scoring guides that ensure that all sales people consistently and accurately assess sales opportunities
- "Cost of Inaction" models and calculators that enable all sales people to make a compelling case for change to the key decision makers in their prospects
- Clear value frameworks for each of your offerings that enable every sales person to articulate a tailored value proposition to every qualified prospect
- A well defined sales process that makes it clear what every sales person needs to know and do at every stage to maximise their changes of winning
- Clearly defined milestones that allow every sales person to consistently and accurately judge where the prospect is in their buying process
- Deep competitive analysis that enables sales people to anticipate the strategies other vendors are likely to adopt and how to counter them
- Well established frameworks that make a clear connection between our prospect’s most compelling issues and our most powerful capabilities
Those are my top 10. Yours may vary a little - but the essential elements are defined above.
The specific capabilities of your playbook technology platform only matter once you've assembled enough compelling content to make it a "must use" resource for your sales people. Having a great platform is no substitute for having great content.
But once you've reached that critical mass, the ability of your chosen platform to deliver the appropriate information whenever and wherever it is needed becomes a critical consideration.
So - is your organisation ready to take full advantages of the (potential) power of sales playbooks? I suggest you download this 10-point check-list (there are no forms to fill in), and then drop me a line to let me know how well you believe you've done...
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bob Apollo is a Fellow of the Association of Professional Sales and the Founder of UK-based Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners, the B2B sales process consultants. Following a successful corporate career spanning start-ups to established corporates, Bob now works with a growing client base of B2B-focused growth-phase technology companies, helping them to perfect sales playbooks that drive predictable revenue growth.