To increase the productivity and proficiency of sales teams and channel partners, companies try to implement a common sales methodology that leverages the processes used by the high performers. This process is known as sales enablement, which is focused on empowering salespeople to perform their job more effectively

For these processes to be successful, every salesperson must have the knowledge on how to handle different selling situations, such as how to position against a particular competitor and how to communicate the value proposition to each person in the buying process.

The sales organization relies on the marketing organization to create the tools that support the sales enablement process and strategy.

The purpose of sales enablement tools is to help the sales organization improve their effectiveness at generating revenue and earnings by giving salespeople the right information at the right time to increase their rate of success.

Marketing and sales need to collaborate with each other to ensure appropriate materials and tools are created, properly distributed, and utilized.

This is the third in a series of articles on sales enablement tools that marketing should develop. The two previous articles published in MarketingProfs discussed personas (pdf) and use cases (pdf). This article provides guidance on developing playbooks.

What Is a Playbook?

A playbook is a collection of tactics or methods. When this definition is applied to business, we are essentially creating a document—the sales playbook—that characterizes the roles and responsibilities for each member of the selling organization, lays out clear objectives for each member of the team to support the business plan, targets setting and performance measurement, and provides a common framework and approach for most effectively developing and closing opportunities.

The sales playbook captures your company's knowledge about its markets, value propositions, offers, competitors, and best practices. These are the very elements that fall within the marketing organization's domain, which is why marketing plays a strategic role in developing the playbook.

Making a Good Playbook

A good playbook defines your sales process and methodology and how your process maps to your customer's buying process. It tells your team not only what to do but how to make it happen.

When you create a playbook, you are planning for how your team will engage with a prospective customer. A well-designed playbook diagrams the engagement experience and serves as an alignment and enablement tool. It helps accelerate sales effectiveness and accuracy, thereby increasing sales performance and company revenues.

The sales and marketing teams should develop the playbook together. A play in the sports world is an action designed to achieve a specific purpose in specific conditions. When you design a playbook you need to define the conditions. Therefore, at a minimum, the following knowledge needs to be integrated into the playbook:

  • Customer analysis and buying process
  • Company offer and value proposition
  • Competitive analysis
  • Sales methodology
  • Best practices.

Let's take a look at each of these.

Customer analysis includes identifying the market, key trends, key buyers and influencers, a profile of the ideal customer, the customers' pain points and preferences and the critical business issues customers are trying to solve. This section of the playbook should also outline the customer's buying process and the conditions or events that trigger consideration, evaluation, and ultimately purchase. It is also a good place to provide customer profiles and reference the various personas.

This section of the playbook is not complete until you have answers to these two questions:

  1. What is the profile of the ideal prospect?
  2. What are the behaviors exhibited by a qualified lead?

The value in this section is to help the team identify the prospects to pursue as well as whom not to pursue. The actual personas can be included in the playbook appendix.

Many organizations begin with the company offer and value proposition. We recommend this information follow the customer analysis so the customer context can be taken into consideration when developing this section of the playbook. In this section, you want to describe and clarify what your company offers and the ways your products and services address the customer's pain points and business issues.

This is the time to explain why your company exists and how your company makes a difference to the customer and in the market. This section of the playbook is not complete until it clearly answers two questions:

  1. Why should people buy this product from you?
  2. What is the value they receive buying this product from you?

Part of this section should be dedicated to giving examples of questions that draw out the customer's business needs and pain points. This section is also a good place to include use-case scenarios.

Typically, customers have more than one company or solution they can use to solve their issues and resolve their pain. Therefore, a playbook is not complete without a competitive analysis.

The focus of the competitive analysis should be on how the competitors position themselves in the market, the competitors' selling process, typical moves by each competitor, and recommendations on how to counter these moves. It may be helpful to name the competitor's moves and your moves and then to diagram these counterpoints.

The complexity of most sales cycles is a result of multiple steps, decision-makers, and decision criteria in the customer's buying process. This complexity creates variability and unpredictability. Once the customer's buying process has been mapped, you can define your sales process and methodology.

This section should include the map of the customer buying process, and an outline of your sales process: that is, the standard set of critical steps that move the customer's buying process to a favorable outcome—at high level, because the exact next step cannot be predicted.

While this section should outline the sales cycle stages and responsibilities, it should go beyond just describing the steps in the sales cycle. It should provide instructions on what information needs to be collected at each stage in the process, identify the players in each step, and how to assess the opportunity.

The opportunity assessment information should recommend standard methods and tools that help the sales person determine where they are in the customer's buying process, enable them to analyze the situation, and anticipate what they might do next.

This section of the playbook should also provide the guidelines for entering and exiting opportunities and a list of the resources, skills, knowledge, and tools needed for each stage in the process. Also, your company should articulate the most common customer objections to your product and specific instruction on how to address each objection in this section.

The best practices section should provide a list of proven tips and techniques, as well as under which circumstances to use them. This section should also capture what hasn't worked in the past and associated lessons learned.

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While developing a sales playbook is an extensive investment, it provides numerous benefits to your organization: aligning the selling organization (marketing, sales, etc.) around the customer pains and preferences, improving sales effectiveness and productivity, and exposing and correcting weaknesses in the current sales process.

When completed, your playbook becomes a living document of your sales methodology and provides tactical guidelines and instructions that enable your sales team to retrieve important customer decision-making information to address the vulnerabilities of both your company and competitors, leverage strengths, differentiate your offers, prove business value, and ultimately improve your win/loss ratio.

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image of Laura Patterson

Laura Patterson is the president of VisionEdge Marketing. A pioneer in Marketing Performance Management, Laura has published four books and she has been recognized for her thought leadership, winning numerous industry awards.