My previous article was about the undeniable use and utility of having a process in your sales program. Today I am writing about the mechanism of applying process to your sales system; the sales playbook.
The playbook is the most often overlooked, underutilized, and mis-deployed collateral that can have the greatest impact on your sales and marketing team. Yes I said marketing. Marketing is also impacted by the sales playbook, since properly followed processes will lead to better data collection, better analysis, better strategic decisions, resulting in more marketing qualified leads (MQLs).
Another interesting point about the playbook is the sometimes complete absence in the sales pit. Often times sales expectations and goals, that are not necessarily meant to be secrets to the entire sales department, are presented to the sales rep in the form of their contract, reviewed once then filed away. For example an account development rep (ADR) may be required to make 40 outbound calls a day. Measuring the team’s efficacy is typically done on a public dashboard to motivate esprit du corps and competition. Thus the information in the contract is public and should be part of the sales playbook.
What are the different sections that should be in an effective sales playbook?
Here I present four broad encompassing categories of how I build a sales playbook. I will not dive into the very specific deliverables however, if requested, I’d be happy to dive deeper into each one in a future article.
One thing that can bring a team together is knowing that everyone knows what is expected of them. Sales teams are like sports teams. Take any football team at any level, the quarterback knows he can take his time to find the receiver who is working to get open while the center and line guards are protecting him. When a sales rep knows what the expectation of quality and quantity of leads fed to them by their ADR they can work more efficiently and focus on their own work. As well if either the quantity or quality is not at the documented and expected level, the ADR, sales rep, and their manager can call work together, reviewing the specific expectations pages relevant to that aspect of the process, debug it, and help the entire sales team become more efficient.
As well as having set expectations of specific units or roles, expectations for hand-offs is critical. To me there are two types of hand-offs, intra- and inter-departmental. For intra-departmental hand-offs, when an ADR hands a lead to a sales rep, what kind, type, and quality of data is expected to be passed? On the sales rep side, what is an appropriate first response type and time for an ADR generated lead. As well, most importantly, what type of feedback and when are the sales reps supposed to give the ADR to help tune that ADR? Finally, inter-departmental hand-offs require guidelines, service level agreements (SLAs) for since there is little visibility into the chasm between departments until the management teams get together. An important secondary feature of inter-department hand-offs is a clear understanding of the definitions of terminology used.
I consider this the single more important section of your playbook.
All too often teams don’t use the same definitions for the same words. From a top very tactical side, ensuring that both sales and marketing understand definitions used is critical. Take for example the definition of an MQL. In most companies when MQLs, or other term that defines when a lead is being passed from marketing to sales, again proving the necessity of at least a data dictionary, are handed off to sales there is an expectation of sales related activity for that MQL.The sales team will define their handling of MQLs based on their assumption of the qualitative and quantitative data required to move a prospect to that coveted MQL state. Without a clear and well articulated agreed upon definition, sales teams will continually mishandle MQLs, build distrust with the marketing team, resulting in a cascading negative communication loop. The two best ways to avoid this is by having clear definitions of corporate terms used, and secondly, training team members that are responsible for those data in proper data logging and management.
While the expectations and definitions deal with definitions and passage of sometimes tactic knowledge, the data section deal with the nuts and bolts of the operation; where and how to log the data. While the previous sections may be rich in text, the data section is be rich in imagery, mostly screenshots, arrows, and annotations defining where fields are found, what fields are linked to what, validation rules etc… While tedious to build, having a data management section will save hours of a team member's time. How often in your organization does one team member casually ask other team member how to do simple tasks that should be documented? As well, this section can eliminate frustration and help team members fulfill their expectations when a team member cannot move a lead from one stage to another due to a validation rule they did not know about.
The last, however certainly not least important, is the the profile section. This section of the playbook is a collection of the qualitative analysis from your sales, marketing, and product team. Personally, I break this section out into two type of profiles; competitor profiles and sales target personas.
Competitive battle cards are cheat sheets for your sales team to refer to, as well as use to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about your competitors. Some aspects of battle cards to consider will be outlining your competitors strengths, weaknesses, list of types of customers you’ve won when going against that competitors, and those key differentiators that made your team win the deal.
Persona profiles, like the battle cards, are the cheat sheets on the people your sales team will encounter during their journey from cold call to close. Persona profiles would start with the role and types of titles that might fulfill that role depending on company size and industry. For example, a small company “director” may have the same authorization as a “VP” level at a larger organization. Some aspects of the persona profiles to consider including are day to day activities, responsibilities, reporting structure, action triggers, what keeps them up at night, and what they take pride in doing. As well, your CRM may have fields to tag leads with their persona type so once lead is identified by their role the sales reps can quickly key into what the next steps would be in moving the sales process along.
While I’ve outlined four sections for the sales playbook, this by no means indicates these are the only four sections, nor that a sales playbook needs to be broken down by these sections. I’ve often encountered playbooks (including mine) that mash up the sections (eg data dictionary and data management combined) and have information in multiple sections (eg expectations includes data dictionary definitions).
In closing, to me, the keys to a functional and effective sales playbook are keeping it up to date, allowing and including feedback from sales and marketing teams so they feel that they are part of the process, and finally having company reporting from the data collected according to the processes defined in the playbook so there is clear accountability and transparency throughout the organization.