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Sales Playbooks

A few weeks ago the folks at Kadient briefed me on their approach and their sales performance improvement tools.  As you would expect, I posed the chicken-and-egg question with respect to what order a company should implement Kadient’s tools versus installing and implementing a sales methodology.  I liked their answers.

I picked up a tweet from Kadient’s Rich Berkman (@richberk) last week about a new guide they had just published, How to Create Killer Sales Playbooks: Four Steps for Designing Sales Playbooks that Win Deals.

Just from the title, I was immediately encouraged.  Here’s why:

  1. I believe in sales playbooks. I’ve used them and have recommended them to clients, who generally saw significant performance improvement;
  2. “Four Steps” represents process and sales leaders and sales people can often use a lot more of that;
  3. The guide is focused on winning deals.

I downloaded the guide and read through it.   These guys from Kadient get it.  Here’s a quote from the guide (with permission).  Highlights are mine:

Whether you decide to begin with a top-down or bottom-up approach, your playbooks should be aligned with your sales process.

“But, wait,” you say. “We don’t have a sales process!” This is a very common situation. Chances are that you do have some process or steps that define the stages of your sales cycle. Sales playbooks are an excellent organizational hub for defining them. Also, every organization has successful salespeople who are following their own processes.

If you don’t have a defined process, you can still get started quickly by defining a baseline set of sales stages and then using playbooks as your organizing tool for its development. Focus on mapping out your existing sales-to-buyer lifecycle or process. Some of the most successful playbooks have been those designed from a blank slate or ones in which it was decided that the sales process would be reinvented through the use of sales playbooks.

If you have a sales process (or multiple ones), align it with your customers’ buying cycle and create a map for your sales playbook. The goal is to stimulate a conversation between seller and buyer-the seller diagnosing the buyer’s needs and then providing the buyer with the right information at the right time.

In addition to directing salespeople to what they should do at each stage of the sales cycle, mapping will also identify specific activities that need to be completed to advance deals. This should illustrate how your sales teams engage with customers at every stage of the buying process.

You can download the guide here (registration required).  I highly recommend it.

Photo credit: © Sharpshot – Fotolia.com

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9 Responses

  1. Thanks for the link. It’s great to see a guide with a focus on explicitly mapping out and pinning down the sales processes that work, and reinforcing sales training with an effective framework.

    We work in a similar area: our latest tool bSelling is designed to link the core elements of a consultative sales process (like diagnosing a customer’s needs, and generating a conversation around a solution) into the CRM. We’re always looking for input on how sales teams operate most successfully and what tools they need; I’m going to share Kadient’s guide with my colleagues for further inspiration.

  2. A strong Sales Playbook (collection of best practice sales tools that help sales reps win by making them competent, confident and credible) is the secret sauce to making allthe time you spend on sales profiling, sales targeting, sales process, sales training and sales coaching pay off.

    Everything tastes better when it sits on a Ritz!

    I think that while figuring out how to help your reps say, do and show the right things is the lion share of the playbook effort, these sales tools are worthless if they aren’t easily delivered to the reps when they need them. I’ve done many variations on the online repository ‘sales playbook’ theme and it is better than nothing but all-in-all, a sketchy delivery vehicle.

    So, while 80% of the hard work is creating good sales playbook content, the 20% effort of plugging it into the right delivery platform like Kadient or Playboox or bSelling is critical.

    The real dilemna, though, is who creates the sales playbook content? VP Sales? Probably not – they’re busy and are focused on their 3 month “career plan” (phrase stolen from a speaker at the Sales 2.0 conference, thanks!) of making the quarter.

    Sales Ops? Probably not. They often have more of an administrative skill set than actual selling domain expertise.

    Marketing? Probably not. They typically focus at the market or product level, not the buying team member level.

    Training? Probably not, unless you have a training department and your trainers are expert at selling your solution.

    Sales Reps? Probably not, although they are the domain experts and the ‘organic’ sales playbooks like Savo, GroupSwim, Playbook.com and HeadMix can do a good job at capturing and sharing internal expertise.

    What is needed is a “VP Scale” role, someone with sales and domain expertise that can also “write it down” or make sure that it gets written down and plugged into the delivery platform.

    This can be an internal person or sales experts that specialize in this area.

  3. Check out this free tool – it lets you build your sales playbook very easily
    http://www.provenpath.com

  4. Great comments Paul and I agree with Dave, anyone from Sales Readiness, Sales Enablement, Sales Effectiveness would likely be the ones to coordinate the Sales Playbook creation effort. That said, who that person is will depend on the size and structure of an organization. What I’ve found works well is when one person who oversees product marketing (knows all the offerings/messaging) is teamed up with someone is sales operations (knows all the sales process/delivery tools, etc..) and work together on the sales enablement effort.

    • Rich and Paul,

      There is always a lot of enthusiasm when playbooks are first introduced. The challenge is in maintaining the playbooks going forward. It doesn’t help anyone when playbooks become shelfware. Kadient’s platform is a big help, but the key is still going to be ongoing responsibility. Rich, in Kadient’s experience, who winds up owning the ongoing maintenance of the playbooks?

  5. Dave, when I hear “own” and “maintain” I think of a few things.

    A. Ownership of the strategic pieces (which also involved in maintenance) is driven by the collaboration of a cross functional governance team – outlined in page 5 of the Guide. We need both qualitative and quantitative information driving playbook evolution with inputs from the team.

    B. Ownership in terms of hands on practical changes made to playbooks is typically handled by a designated role like a playbook manager, coordinator or architect who may have it as a percentage of their job, or in some cases as their full-time job–it completely depends on size/structure of org. This person typically reports into one of the business units we discussed above like sales effectiveness, etc. and sometimes marketing (a knowledge manager/product marketer).

    C. I personally think it’s best when two individuals (one from sales who is focused on playbook deployment/use/maintenance and one from marketing – like a knowledge manager) work together and are equally responsible for driving sales enablement goals and take input from the cross functional governance team.

    This also helps bridge that gap we always hear about between sales and marketing.

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