sales

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.

Need to Engage and Connect With Prospects and Customers? Marketing Automation to the Rescue (Maybe)

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Today, a suitable marketing automation platform is available to meet just about any company’s requirements and budget. These platforms often include systems for managing digital assets, allocating resources and tracking marketing expenditures, automating Imagecampaigns (online and offline), measuring marketing activity and demand generation, and managing Web content and leads.Many companies invest in marketing automation platforms as a way to make their marketing organizations more efficient. Though marketing automation can achieve that objective, two key benefits of these systems is that they help you connect better with prospects and improve the opportunity to engage prospects and customers.

What Marketing Automation Isn’t

Marketing automation isn’t magic. Success requires taking a methodical and disciplined
approach to segmenting, defining the customer-buying process, establishing agreed-upon
definitions of stages, creating personas, establishing common metrics, and committing to
faithfully using the system

.Marketing automation allows you to tailor your content and interactions to enhance how you connect with and engage prospects and customers. As a result, you can positively affect the conversion rate and sales cycle. And, in these tough times, who wouldn’t want to see higher and faster conversions?

Take a Customer-Centric Approach to Configuration

Such benefits alone present a good business case for marketing automation. But for a system to “be all that it can be,” it must be properly configured and deployed. Proper configuration and alignment require and enable stronger alignment between Sales and Marketing.

Many companies configure their systems around how they might sell and evaluate an opportunity (e.g., whether they’ve identified a budget, project, or need). However, before you deploy, take an outside-in view and configure the system around how your customer finds, evaluates, selects, and buys products in your category.

For your investment and that approach to pay off, Sales and Marketing need to agree on how the customer buys, the buying stages, and what constitutes a qualified opportunity, in terms of both fit (segment, budget, size, etc.) and buying behaviors. This approach allows you to use fit and behavior to create a lead-scoring schema.

Create and Measure Four Customer Interactions

Marketing and sales teams are typically proficient in connecting at the beginning and end of the conversation, but the real challenge is managing the middle of the conversation. The middle conversation is when prospects and customers are in the “in-between”—between initial contact and interest, on the one hand, and the short list and final selection, on the other.
A properly configured and deployed marketing automation system enables you to manage the middle. How? It makes it possible to cost-effectively sustain a dialogue with qualified
opportunities until they are ready to buy while enabling you to monitor the interaction between those opportunities and your organization.

You’ll want to set performance targets for these four kinds of interactions, and then use your marketing automation system to create, measure, and monitor them:

• Connections
• Conversations
• Engagement
• Consideration

Think of connections as those contacts with whom you have established communication and rapport and who have agreed to be “touched” by your organization. A connection doesn’t necessarily result in a conversation. Connections are just that: two entities that have a link between them.Think of how many people you may have in your LinkedIn network that you are connected with but don’t necessarily have conversations with. Conversations suggest an exchange—the sharing of ideas, opinions, or observations. Consider how many people you “talk” with on a variety of 3 topics on any given day. Though some of those people might be interesting, they may not necessarily be the right people—or they may not be ready to move the relationship forward.

Ultimately your marketing efforts aim to create engagement, and you want your marketing automation system to support those efforts. Engagement consists of interactions that indicate the strength of the relationship.

Finally, you want to produce and measure consideration because it is the precursor to conversion. Consideration simply refers to those prospects and customers who are actively “shopping” for the products and services you offer and are considering your offer among the options.

If You Build It, They Will Come

The premise of marketing automation is that it will help Marketing increase the number of
business opportunities for your company, deliver sales-worthy and ready leads to Sales, improve your visibility into the pipeline, and enable your marketing organization to focus on efforts that will drive the highest conversion rate and the lowest cost.

The value proposition is that marketing automation will shorten your sales cycle and help
improve your forecast accuracy.And it’s all possible with this one caveat: Marketing automation is only as good as the effort you make in using it. To use it properly and realize the kinds of results you want will likely require changing processes, addressing Marketing and Sales alignment, and improving skills.

Research suggests that when marketing and sales processes, skills, and systems are aligned, an organization can see a five-fold improvement in revenue. If you are willing to make the necessary investments, you can realize the benefits of implementing a marketing automation platform.

Getting Sales to Accept More Qualified Leads

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Would you like to reduce the number of qualified leads passed on by marketing that sales rejects?  It’s a relatively easy disconnect to resolve. All it takes is marketing and sales collaborating  around the definition of the various stages in the opportunity pipeline and a scoring methodology.

If you want to get serious about opportunity management, just follow these three steps:

1. Define Each Stage in the Buying Pipeline.
When marketing, sales, and management all speak the same language regarding opportunities in the pipeline, everyone can work together to nurture those opportunities most promising from a sales and revenue perspective. Therefore, it’s important to create a glossary of standard terms for what your company considers a contact, suspect, lead, qualified lead,  prospect, and so forth.

The best way to do this is to outline the customer buying process based on observable behaviors, then mapping these to the appropriate opportunity stage. In this first step you will do your best to identify the behaviors of your customer buying process you can observe. But of course, you will want to validate this truly is their process.

To illustrate this idea, let’s suppose based on experience, research and customer input, your customers’ buying process includes the following behaviors:
• Registering for a Webinar.
• Subscribing to the company newsletter.
• Downloading a white paper.
• Downloading product literature.
• Participating in a live demo.
• Requesting or scheduling a meeting with their decision-maker.
• Requesting pricing information.
• Offering buying criteria.
• Providing budget and timing information.
• Requesting or participating in a product trial.
• Contacting references.
• Requesting an RFP.
• Conducting an internal review of all RFPs.
• Holding meetings with the top 1 to 2 suppliers selected from the RFP process.

Again, based on experience and research, determine which behaviors go into which stage of the pipeline. Using this example, we might map the behaviors below as follows:
• Registering for a Webinar and subscribing to the company newsletter represent the contact stage.
• Participating in a live demo and requesting a product sample represent the suspect stage.
• Requesting pricing information and scheduling an appointment with the decisionmaker represent the lead stage.
• Providing buying criteria, requesting to participate in a product trial, and requesting an RFP go into the qualified lead stage.
• Contacting references and holding meetings with the RFP finalists might represent the prospect stage.

While these most likely exemplify just a few behaviors in the buying process, hopefully you grasp the main idea: By using observable behaviors and mapping them to the pipeline, there is much less ambiguity. Once you complete and validate the behaviors and stages, create and publish an opportunity pipeline glossary that documents how your company defines each stage. This will help avoid confusion later.

2. Establish Ideal Behavioral and Fit Criteria.
Now that you’ve completed the first step, you can use the process to establish the criteria for the ideal opportunity. We recommend working from two key categories: the buying behaviors and fit. The latter helps determine whether the opportunity would be an ideal profitable customer for your organization.

Using all the behaviors you identified, select those that would suggest the opportunity is ready to buy. Then make a list of criteria for your fit category. For example, the opportunity is in a target vertical where you have domain expertise. Or your product is a “plug and play” way for them to solve their problem.

Now establish your threshold criteria. Select those criterion that serve as the gate for passing an opportunity to sales.

3. Develop an Opportunity Scoring Methodology.
A key part of your qualification should be the opportunity score. The concept of opportunity or lead scoring is relatively simple. Essentially, you assign points based on how well an opportunity meets each of your qualification criteria. To create your scoring method, assign points to all the buying behaviors, as well as the fit criteria. Then create some ranges to help with the granularity. This way you can assess an opportunity both in terms of the conversion potential and fit. To illustrate this idea let’s say we score some of the behaviors and fit as follows:
Fit
• In a target vertical where you have domain expertise: five points.
• In a target vertical where you don’t have domain expertise: three points.
• Not in a target vertical: no points.
• Your product is ideally suited to solve their problem: five points.
• Your product will solve their problem with some customization: three points.
• Your product will not solve their problem without a major investment on your part: no points.
Behaviors
• Meeting held with decision-maker: five points.
• Meeting held with recommender: three points.
• Meeting held with influencer: one point.
• Provided product specification and buying criteria: five points.
• Indicated they are funded: five points.
• Indicated budget is approved: three points.
• Contacted references: five points.
• Requested references: one point.
• Participated in on-site demo: five points.
• Participated in online demo: one point.

You will need to complete this point assignment process for all of the behaviors and fit criteria. As part of your scoring method you will also want to consider the volume of actions exhibited by the opportunity within a period of time as part of your criteria.

Establish your point criteria and volume thresholds—that is, what is the minimum number of points, minimum criteria, and minimum number of action an opportunity needs to meet in order to pass the opportunity to sales? You now have three components that comprise what constitutes a sales-worthy qualified lead: point, volume and criteria thresholds.

Sales agrees to accept opportunities that meet these thresholds and marketing agrees to only forward those opportunities. So for example, qualified leads must be at least 20 points and must include (at a minimum) the behaviors indicating they are funded, participated in an on-site demo, and are in a target vertical.

Now, score each opportunity. As a team, discuss what to do with those opportunities at various stages in the pipeline that don’t meet the thresholds, so they are appropriately nurtured.

Keep in mind, lead scores should evolve as you see changes in customer buying behavior. This will help optimize the accuracy of the lead score and your marketing efforts.