Sales Playbook – Part 1
In the run-up to Super Bowl “L,” the much-anticipated 2016 match-up between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, the sporting press naturally focused on the history and habits of the opposing quarterbacks — and especially the tendency of Peyton Manning to frequently shout “Omaha” prior to the snap.
What that word meant and why he yelled it had become the subject of (often humorous) speculation. But it did highlight the importance of in-game communication to achieve competitive advantage. Despite his theatrics, we watched trained professionals respond to signals that triggered specific time-sensitive actions in response to recognized situations. In other words, Peyton reminded us that the game is played according to a playbook.
Sales, too, is a team sport played under competitive pressure to achieve goals within a time limit. Imagine such a game played with no rules, requiring no training or discipline; no behavioral consistency or situational awareness and communications among participants. As with football and other team sports, the sales playbook thus serves to establish the critical success factors and guide participants to a common understanding of how the game must be played in order to win.
The traditional audience for this content is the new or uninitiated sales person for whom key information, such as the characteristics of target opportunities, how best to engage and what resources to utilize under which circumstances, requires articulation. But in today’s most successful enterprise sales organizations, the sales person rarely operates in isolation. A cross-functional team comprised of marketing, sales development and customer success typically engages to support the quota-achieving capacity of the Account Executive. In point of fact the whole company and all its departments, including members of product development and finance/administration, should consider themselves players in the game of profitably attracting and growing satisfied customers.
This calls for a playbook brought to you by attentive corporate leaders who, in order to assure cross-functional support of revenue growth and customer success, deliver to all their constituents consistent communication of critical success elements including:
- Corporate Goals, Culture and Mission
- Marketing Strategy
- Sales Strategy
- Customer Success Strategy
In developing a playbook, sales leaders strive to create consistency and predictability in revenue generation processes that are independent of the personalities facing the customers. Sales is a numbers game, but it’s also a formula game. To achieve predictability in performance, teams must build and institutionalize muscle memory born of following a systematic, repeatable process.
Nonetheless, the development and execution of this process requires whole-company attention to the underlying company principles that are on full display to the market once this process is undertaken. Key questions must be answered early and often in order to properly position the overriding value proposition to the target market(s).
To feed the playbook, creating and maintaining a coherent institutional response to the following questions requires a constant collaborative effort:
- Who are our ideal customers?
(This has to be well-defined and specified by industry, market, enterprise type, buyer persona, and other characteristics.)
- What problems do customers face that we solve better than anyone else?
- What value do we create through the entire life cycle of their buying process, implementation, renewal and expansion?
- How do we want customers to perceive and value our solutions and our company?
- What kind of customer experience do we strive to create; how is it superior to that of our competitors?
- How do we differentiate our offerings from the potential alternatives, including doing nothing?
- What do we, as an organization, stand for and why is it important to our ideal customers?
The modern sales playbook, then, isn’t just for the people in the sales department. It should address all participants in an end-to-end process and represent a living expression of corporate culture and the revenue growth imperatives that direct it.
(In Part 2 of this series we will examine the components of the Sales Playbook and who plays a role in developing it.)
Steve Quehl is a Sales & Marketing Partner in TechCXO’s Atlanta office. He can be reached at (404) 386-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org. See his full bio here.