Rule #11 – Create a Playbook

So now you’re ready to document your sales process “playbook.” A playbook is just as it sounds—it’s a notated game plan of steps, actions and tools used to facilitate the execution of the sales process. In the previous two rules (Rule 9 and Rule 10) we’ve mapped the selling stages to the buying stages. In Figure 12 (see Appendix A), we’ve now filled out the specific actions and tools that management has deemed necessary for the salesperson to successfully navigate the sales cycle.

Every selling stage can be dissected into a bullet list of action steps, tactics or strategies. Additionally, specific collateral documents, templates and sales tools come into play at various points along the process.

For instance, at Stage 1—Lead Generation, salespeople are tasked with following up leads inbound from marketing campaigns or websites, or initiating targeted contacts on their own. There is typically some live preliminary lead qualification beyond common lead scoring or form fields. A well-managed sales and marketing team will coordinate specifically what a rep should be doing and document those actions. These are grilled into the sales rep at sales meetings or training sessions. A playbook can be developed for different types of field reps (inside teams, outside direct, etc.) as well as for different product lines (upsell items, renewals, new business sales, etc.).

At Stage 2—Discovery/Qualification, there is ample room for error and inconsistency as reps need to further qualify the opportunity and execute a professional discovery or information gathering sales call. By document-ing the specific qualifying and probing questions as well as referencing various helpful sales tools for the rep to utilize, sales management ensures that their team is conducting the right effort at the right time. This continues throughout the rest of the sales cycle.

An enterprise software company’s sales team was comprised of inside reps, outside reps and market development/lead generation reps. There were inconsistencies in the quality of customer meetings as reps
often generated a proposal (Stage 4) after a single conversation (Stage 1) with the customer/prospect. While sales were closing in some cases, some implementation issues cropped up because the reps had failed to fully scope out the tailored application and use case of the software solution. What was missing was a more detailed discovery/qualification conversation or meeting (Stage 2) and then a planned proof-of-concept (POC) or pilot/trial that solidified the success of the solution but also further developed the customer relationship and growing engagement. The reps were guilty of short-circuiting the appropriate sales process, a common problem in many of today’s sales organizations. This problem was alleviated by ingraining through sales training the importance of good sales cycle management and crystallizing the correct actions, tactics and tools.

As noted earlier in the CSO Insights research, approximately two-thirds (63%) of firms fall into the category of Random or Informal when it comes to adhering to a specified sales process methodology.2 One-third (37%) are Formal or Dynamic when it comes to effectively following some documented sales process.

But today’s marketplace landscape requires more than simple documentation and training. “Sales Process 2.0” is all about the dynamic interactivity of sales stages, steps, actions, collateral beyond the printed page. There are some exciting new technology solutions that have taken the concept of “Playbook” to new and powerful levels through the automation of a documented selling process and the just-in-time serving up of the appropriate tool, script, or action-step to guide the new or experienced salesperson. When these tools get implemented across sales organizations around the world, then sales effectiveness will meet sales efficiency and produce consistent sales excellence.

Do you have a Sales Process Playbook?

2. CSO Insights, Sales Performance Optimization Report, 2009.