You need to get your product or service out to customers quickly, but don’t have time to train all of your sales force individually. Or maybe you are spending time training the sales teams, but find that two weeks after their training session, they can’t remember the key points about your new product.
Every company wants their sales teams to evangelise about a product with the same knowledge, enthusiasm and credibility as the Product Managers, or even the CEO. But the reality is often very different, and sales conversations get stuck at a low level, very quickly – discussing price, features and contracts.
Sales playbooks are a great way of making all of your company and product information accessible to your entire sales teams and employees; with minimal cost, time and training.
Here we are going to look at how to create the perfect playbook.
What is this playbook aiming to do? Of course you are trying to train the sales teams in how to effectively position the product with clients, but what is it exactly that you are expecting to gain from having this playbook? What has made you decide to create a playbook in the first place? It may be that you want your sales teams to have more strategic conversations rather than talking about product features. Or it may be that you want your salespeople to talk to executives higher up the ladder within customers.
Having an understanding before you start building your playbook will ensure that you position the playbook at the correct level, with the correct language and the most appropriate content. The aim of the playbook is to drive consistency in your messaging to customers so if you get it wrong at the playbook stage then you will drive incorrect messaging down through your organisations.
It’s likely that the creation of the sales playbook will require monetary resources, production resources, or staff time resources to complete it, so it’s imperative that you gain internal support for your playbook early on. If all the managers across different departments support it, then it will mean your sales teams will take it more seriously and it will become a vital company document.
For instance, in a survey to buyers by Forrester, only 22% of buyers found that salespeople could understand their issues and challenges and see how they could help, or how their solution could solve those problems. This is sales 101; being able to understand the customer’s challenge and then position how your product/service helps them to reach a resolution.
Don’t start with your product. Your product is secondary. Your customer is first. Think about what they will be thinking as they are coming into work – maybe there has been a blip in the market overnight, has their share price been falling gradually over the past year, or maybe they are looking to acquire a new business soon to expand into an emerging market. Find out what is troubling and exciting your client’s organisation; look at their annual reports and financial statements for a start. Corporate Visions have a great article about how to have better executive client conversations by reviewing your customers annual reports – and what to look out for.
Look at the news and recent press for your client; what are they doing? All of these angles should be built into your playbook. You obviously can’t include each individual prospective client’s issues in one general playbook, but you can look at what overall issues are troubling your clients; what do you find they are most concerned with?
Or maybe you could tailor your sales playbook to focus on a specific sector that can help to narrow down and specialise in the customer challenges that you focus on.
Once you have your challenges, you then have to map out ways that your solution helps address those challenges. It may be that you find new uses for your product that you weren’t aware of before. For example, you may realise that your product to produce better quality office stationary actually means that your customer is more consistent with their branding due to having to order the stationary from the same company each time. Show this to your customer, and explain the benefits and business outcomes that your client could expect from being more consistent in their branding and marketing.
Your sales teams will be using your sales playbooks to trigger, support and enhance the quality of your customer conversations, so you need to include all the important information that you want your salespeople to get across to clients in a meeting or call.
Think about including ways to get the conversation started; what are common triggers that motivate customers to consider a solution such as yours?
Include helpful hints and tricks to help your teams overcome common objections raised by customers so that they can respond effectively under pressure. Poll your teams for insight into objections that they regularly encounter – the more reflective the playbook is of real life sales scenarios – the more effective and useful it will be when your sales person faces customer concern.
All too often, sales playbooks are produced by the product development teams, or by marketing alone. For a valuable playbook to be developed, you will need to consult with your sales teams. You need to find out how the position their messaging with clients, what is particularly successful and what has worked before in customer scenarios. It’s crucial to get input from all of the major departments across your organisation, but the main objective of the playbook is to make all sales employees as effective as your best salesperson. So recruit your best salesperson to help build the playbook contents.
Don’t let your sales playbooks stagnate – they need to be updated regularly; with case studies from new clients, new market challenges and new perspectives on how your product is being used by customers. If sales teams recognise that the company is investing time in updating the content regularly, the playbooks will be perceived as a credible, up to date source of valuable information. Be sure to add in new objections as they arise and as competitors become more sophisticated in competing against your solution.
Also, collect feedback from sales teams, product teams, the finance department, and marketing – to get their insights, criticism, recommendations and suggestions to continually improve your sales playbooks.
Hopefully that’s given a useful initial overview of how to go about building a successful playbook for your company’s products.
Image “Books HD” courtesy of Abhi Sharma, CC