Customer Insight

Craft a Killer Sales Playbook

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The Sales Playbook, Defined
A sales playbook is a collection of tactics or methods that characterizes the roles and responsibilities for you (and your sales team), lays out clear objectives, identifies metrics for measurement, and provides a common framework and approach for closing sales.

The playbook helps you implement a common sales methodology that leverages the processes used by high performers. The outcome? You can sell more effectively and handle different selling situations, position against a particular competitor, or communicate the value proposition to each person in the buying process.

In the big picture, a good playbook needs to do several things:

  • Define your sales process and methodology — not only what you need to do but how to make it happen
  • Identify how your process maps to your customer’s buying process
  • Tell you how to engage with a prospective customer
  • Diagram the engagement experience
  • Accelerate sales effectiveness and accuracy.

The Components of the Sales Playbook, Explained
In the sports world, a “play” 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:

  1. Customer analysis – Identifies 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.
  2. Buying process – Identifies conditions or events that trigger consideration, evaluation, and purchase. What are the behaviors of a qualified lead?
  3. Company offer and value proposition – Describes and clarifies what your company offers and the ways in which your products and services address the customer’s pain points and business issues.
  4. Competitive analysis – Details how competitors position themselves in the market, their selling process, typical moves by each competitor, and recommendations on how to counter these moves.
  5. Sales methodology – Maps the customer buying process, and outlines your sales process, that is, the standard set of critical steps that move the customer to buy. 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.
  6. Countering objections – Gives specific instruction on how to address each common objection sales might encounter.
  7. Best practices – Lists proven tips, techniques — and under what circumstances to use them. This section should also capture what hasn’t worked in the past and associated lessons learned.
  8. Your Buyer Personae — A section (perhaps an appendix) that answers the question, “Who is my ideal prospect?”

A Worthwhile Investment

While developing a sales playbook is an extensive investment of your time, it has a big payoff in that it surfaces customer pains and preferences, improves sales effectiveness and productivity, and exposes and corrects weaknesses in the way you currently operate.

When completed, your playbook becomes a living document of your sales methodology and provides tactical guidelines and instructions that enable you to  discover important ways to address the vulnerabilities of both your company and competitors. With a practical sales playbook, you can leverage strengths, differentiate  offers, prove business value, and ultimately improve your win/loss ratio.

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Loyalty vs. Retention Measurement

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Companies who want to retain or expand their relationships with existing customers are finding that measuring and modeling customer loyalty is very valuable. We were recently asked “Do you need to measure loyalty if you are measuring retention-aren’t they the same thing?” Our answer, no, they are not the same thing, and you may need both.

Retention is a measure of whether an existing customer continues to do business with you. That is not to be confused with loyalty, which measures a customer’s predisposition to select a business entity as a preference, and indicates a certain resistance to competitors. Loyalty is a behavioral disposition that suggests that a customer will consistently respond favorably toward a brand/company, and also suggests the willingness to engage. As you can see, there is a distinction and it’s important to understand that a customer who continues to do business with you may be retained, but not necessarily loyal.

Responding favorably covers a lot of territory-from passively choosing to remain a customer, to actively choosing to advocate for a brand/company. Therefore, while measuring retention, once you define what a customer is in terms of tenure, it is a matter of counting. Loyalty takes a bit more sophisticated measurement and needs to take into account three potential behavioral responses if you are going to use the concept to build a model:

  • Expansion–the likelihood the customer will increase their level of business, such as by purchasing more of the same product or other products in your portfolio
  • Influence–the degree to which they can be influenced by the company in a way that positively impacts the company, such as seeking out advice, paying online, complying with new policies
  • Advocacy–the extent to which a customer is willing to actively promote the company, such as online reviews, supporting the company’s position on an issue, participation in case studies, serving as a reference, or making referrals.

Note: The Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology attempts to account for these 3 behaviors, but the primary goal of this score is to help you ascertain the number of promoters vs. detractors.

You will want to determine which of these behaviors (it can be all of them) best define loyalty for your company. If you don’t know, the answers to these five questions will help you get started:

  1. What is the ideal customer for your company? What do they do/not do? What does a less-than-ideal customer look like?
  2. What does your company want from its relationship with customers and why?
  3. What can customers do to support the company’s mission?
  4. What can customers do to help the company improve service and reduce the cost to serve?
  5. What can customers do to reduce the cost of doing business with them?

You may want to engage a number of stakeholders in conversations around these questions. Once you determine the behaviors that define loyalty, you can build a model and begin to measure loyalty. It may be necessary to take different customer segments into account, and as a result you may need more than one model. To validate the model, you may need to conduct some research with customers who meet the loyalty criteria as well as customers you believe do not. Then, set about defining how you will use the model to measure and improve loyalty.

Customer loyalty is an intangible but extremely valuable company asset. By distinguishing retention from loyalty you can begin to understand the customer experiences, interactions, perceptions and attitudes that drive and impact loyalty.

Peace of Mind as a Key Dimension for Measuring Customer Experience

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All of us are customers, and as such, we all have buying experiences (good and bad) that shape our opinion of the company from which we are buying. There have been numerous discussions on how the exchange between buyers and sellers has evolved from creating products, to building customer relationships, to creating compelling customer experiences. This idea reflects the notions that how customers experience the process of acquiring and using a product/service and the exchanges along the way matters. More and more companies realize that they are competing on the basis of customer experience. In fact, recent research suggests that customer experience is a better predictor of loyalty and word of mouth than any other measure. So what is customer experience and how do we measure it?
 
Measuring and improving customer experience is difficult in part because there isn’t a widely agreed upon definition of what constitutes a customer experience. This lack of definition also creates the potential issue of customer experience devolving into everything. But there has been some great progress on the definition and measurement front.
 
Before we discuss some ways to measure customer experience, let’s step back and review the thinking to date. With the focus on customer retention in the early 1990s, Frederic Reichheld and others began to research customer loyalty and the association between loyalty and profit. It is from this research and others that many organizations adopted the “zero-defect” service philosophy as a way to reduce customer defection. Customer satisfaction emerged as a key measure. Research suggested a strong relationship between satisfaction, recommendation, and business outcomes such as repeat purchase. Two key tools emerged to measure these concepts: SERVQUAL and the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Using five dimensions, (reliability, assurance, tangibility, empathy and responsiveness) SERVQUAL became a way for companies to benchmark their service quality. A key concept behind SERVQUAL is to assess the gap between expectation and service received. Current thinking suggests that experience is more about how customers assess the value received in relation to their expected outcome of the interaction. SERVQUAL may be a good tool for measuring the expectation gaps but it isn’t necessarily the best tool for measuring and managing customer experience. Why is this? A service encounter may be judged as “good” or “meeting expectations” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the customer achieved their desired outcomes. The SERVQUAL tool doesn’t examine the experience before or after the service encounter. 
 
Shortly after SERVQUAL, came the Net Promoter Score, which Reichheld and others claim is the sole metric a company needs to understand its effectiveness from the customers’ perceptive. A tremendous amount has been written about NPS and many companies trust and leverage this score to their advantage. But, it is not a measure of experience or the quality of experience. In 2011, Dr. Philipp Klaus and others began to explore alternative ways to measure customer experience that would be based on the cognitive and emotional assessment of value from the customers’ perspective and that captures how well the organization performed on its ability to deliver value customers’ received. They looked at four primary dimensions associated with customer experience quality:
 
  • Product experience (perception of choices and comparative offers)
  • Outcome focus (ability to achieve their desired outcome)
  • Moments of truth (service expectations and encounters)
  • Peace of mind (confidence in the service provide and perceived expertise of the provider).
By using these 4 dimensions to evaluate customer experience quality, Dr. Phillip Klaus came up with 4 conclusions:
 
  1. Peace of mind has the strongest impact on customer satisfaction, loyalty and word of mouth.
  2. Moments of truth are the next most important attributes to positively impact loyalty and word of mouth.
  3. Outcome focus (the customers’ ability to achieve their goals) effects loyalty and word of mouth but only to a lesser extent than peace of mind.
  4. After peace of mind, product experience has the strongest impact on customer satisfaction, but not as much impact as the other three dimensions on loyalty or word of mouth.
This research offers a different view into how to define and measure customer experience. If you plan to create a measure of customer experience, consider how your organization is set up to deliver on these attributes and how you would measure each of these dimensions.