Do you remember when one of the deliverables for Sales Kickoff was a “Playbook”? Or a set of “Blueprints”? Or maybe even “Cheat Sheets”? Whatever they were called, they were inevitably a lot of hard work and expensive to produce. The end product looked good – really good. The Playbook represented a lot of hard work and the collective knowledge of the Marketing team at a given point in time. Unfortunately, the Playbook was almost always out-of-date the moment it was printed and its value to Sales was almost impossible to quantify.
Fast forward a few years… Today, everything is online and available through (?) a portal of one kind or another. Our ability to produce and deliver content is enhanced, and there are a variety of proven technologies to support these efforts. But, selling situations have become more specific and the customer more informed, and Sales is struggling to know what tool to use in what situation. On top of that, competition is more intense and solution selling is more complex than ever.
So what do you do? How is a new and improved version of an old idea the answer?
At first creating a Playbook seems simple and straightforward. But it turns out there are a number of decisions that need to be made prior to getting started. What are the selling situations that are most relevant? How do you create a repeatable process? How do you build something that will help new reps onboard faster, while still providing seasoned reps with information that provides value? This is just the beginning of the questions you need to answer.
It probably goes without saying that selling is linear in nature. There’s a somewhat predictable and, hopefully, manageable beginning, middle and end to a sales cycle. Most companies have a sales methodology in place to manage their pipeline and forecast. The Playbook must be aligned to these stages.
Simple & Specific
Whether your Playbook is about a product, solution, campaign or industry – you need to be prescriptive and concise. Part of the beauty of a well-executed Playbook is that it’s simple. The Playbook provides exactly the components needed to complete a specific “play” or sales scenario.
The Right Content
As you prepare your first Playbook, you may learn that your content owners (or subject matter experts) are not in the habit of creating content based on sales stage. The creation of Playbooks actually becomes a compelling reason to change behavior and drive value on behalf of the field. Just keep in mind, it will extend your timeline if you have to create new content.
Larry Ball of Polycom.
Productivity Driver – Polycom launched 12 Playbooks earlier this year with the goal of driving sales productivity. The key metrics are increase in deal size and in the total number of closed deals. Polycom is also looking to drive forecasting accuracy through the use of Playbooks.
Sales Process Reinforcement – The Polycom Playbooks closely follow the steps and associated activities of the company’s sales process. Coaching tips, sales tools and other resources are served up for each activity at the appropriate point in the sales process.
Jenine Young of VMware.
Field Validation – The VMware process requires field validation and input. The field wants to have exactly what they need to get their job done served up to them. The playbooks are never released without field signoff.
Layout – Content is segmented into Discover, Engage and Close for both Sales and Technical users. Additional information is provided on Promotions, Competitive, Training and Customer Facing materials.
VMware uses SAVO to deliver playbooks, integrated with Salesforce.com.
Promotion & Adoption
Playbooks are only relevant if they are used. An aggressive promotion and adoption campaign has to be part of the rollout process. Executive buy-in and sponsorship is also key. Don’t overlook the internal selling effort. Expect to discover some gaps in process or content as you work toward this effort. Consider engaging a pilot group to work out the kinks before a major launch.
The risk goes back to why expensive printed playbooks failed. The playbook has to be relevant and current. It’s critically important that you understand the time and resources involved to plan, create and maintain your playbooks over time. Any lapse in relevance could lead to a loss of credibility.
A Killer Deliverable
Thanks to technology, playbooks have the potential to be a killer deliverable. Technology makes it possible, but solid, repeatable processes are required to make it work over time. Expect to rollout in phases, adjust along the way and occasionally retrench. Playbooks are a great point of intersection for sales and marketing. More importantly they have the potential to truly give your sales team an unfair advantage.