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Driving sales via a consultative Sales Playbook

Driving sales via a consultative Sales Playbook

By Ian Hirst, Greenbank CEO

Here are 10 ways you can use a Sales Playbook to drive sales productivity, whilst still selling in a consultative way.

In our technology-driven sales world – especially when selling high value professional services, SaaS software or indeed any complex solution, there are two compelling, yet seemingly conflicting, trends:

  1. Everybody knows you need sales teams to be more consultative in their sales approach – understanding in depth each prospect’s specific business pain-points and needs. In a complex, consultative sale, every potential client is different – and quite reasonably, expects you to adapt your sales approach to them – so standard scripts and sales decks simply do not work.
  2. On the other hand, the need for sales productivity has never been greater – sales directors are demanding a consistent high-standard sales approach with everybody following accepted best-practice, using CRM tools effectively and forecasting accurately.

At first glance, these seem like opposing priorities. How can you be consultative if you are following scripted plays? Well – the simple answer of course is that you can’t – but a consultative Sales Playbook can deliver this level of productivity without the scripts!

Here are 10 ways you can use a Sales Playbook to drive sales productivity, whilst still selling in a consultative way.

1. Be clear what you are trying to achieve!
The purpose of a Sales Playbook is not to provide every piece of information sales executives need to advance a sale or to replace good sales coaching. Instead, what a good playbook can do is…

  • shorten the time it takes for new starters to understand the company’s solutions & offerings
  • help salespeople target the right buyer
  • help them prepare for and conduct effective early conversations
  • give the sales team easy access to other tools and resources they might use during the entire sales cycle

All of these are good objectives, but its worth spending a moment to document yours!

2. Carefully select the elements you really need to be consistent
Scripting can of course work for initial lead generation calls, but after this – throw the scripts away. Instead, use your sales playbook to focus on a consistent sales language and the most important processes, policies and procedures. For example:

  • Consistent use of CRM sales stages
  • Sales forecasting and reporting expectations
  • Pricing and discounting guidelines
  • Authorization levels
  • Handover points between teams

3. Focus on the ‘end results’ at each stage of the sale not the ‘how’
You want to motivate and unlock the creative skills of your consultative sales team – not micro-manage them – so use the CRM system to reinforce the information they should be learning at each stage of the sale. For example, during an early ‘Discovery’ stage the CRM system could insist that the sales executive completes information about the prospect’s:

  • Business Context and Drivers
  • Pain Points
  • Decision Criteria and Buying Process
  • Competitive Options
  • Key Stakeholders involved in the decision process, including their ‘hot buttons’

This way, the Playbook can actively encourage a consultative approach, without dictating exactly how they achieve it.

4. Help the sales teams to understand and articulate the business value you offer
A key to consultative selling – actually, a key to selling in general – is to clearly articulate value. If your prospects can see the tangible value of your solution – and view this as higher than the cost and risk of change, they are more likely to buy from you.
Your playbook should reinforce these messages and there are several ways you can do this:

  • Focus on the prospect / client throughout – identify the different segments you are targeting and educate the sales team about what is happening in their world, the likely pain-points and needs they have and how they might measure Return on Investment for your solutions.
  • Make sure that any product marketing information accessible within the Playbook brings out the business value clients will get from your solutions.
  • Use Case Studies to bring out stories about the value being enjoyed by existing clients.
  • Reinforce the importance of early ‘Discovery’ meetings where the salesperson can ask questions to uncover the prospects pain-points and need and consider enforcing this by mandatory fields within your CRM system.
  • Include consultative proposal and pitch templates in the Playbook that first reflect the client’s needs before talking about your company and solutions (see below!)

5. Provide best-practice templates & worked examples.
Just because your team is consultative doesn’t mean each opportunity is completely unique – so, provide simple templates for your written proposals and pitches – not filled with standard info about your company and products – but instead with headings and guidance to encourage a client-focused approach. If you are looking for a structure here, Greenbank’s Value Map tool is a good starting point – you can find more details here.

Consider templates for both a light touch single page proposal as well as a more comprehensive document or pitch.
In addition to the templates, salespeople enjoy seeing what ‘excellence’ might look like, so include a variety of real-life, best practice examples once people start to use the templates.

6. Involve a variety of salespeople and define best practice
A consultative Sales Playbook is a great opportunity to identify what your top performers are already doing and encourage others to raise their game. You also of course want to leverage what other similar organizations are

So, the Playbook should be a compelling cocktail of both internal and external best-practice!

7. Make it easy to access
Too many Playbooks end up in an electronic version of a forgotten drawer, gathering dust – so make it easy to access, ideally on a just-in-time basis. Single-click access from relevant pages in your CRM system is a good starting point.

8. Don’t try to include everything
Keep the main body of the Playbook as short as possible to encourage sales teams to use it by giving single-click links to a ‘Resource Library’ where people can get more detail and advanced information – e.g. case studies, tools, sales training methodology etc..

9. Make the training interactive and motivational
You will probably want to launch your Playbook, with a formal launch and associated training to get immediate attention and adoption. The Playbook will be a waste of money if people don’t see the benefit from it – so make sure when you plan the training that you make it interactive and fun!

If you are referring to existing sales methodologies in the Playbook, then take the opportunity to reinforce these as a common sales language. If you are introducing NEW methodologies, then work with your training provider to make sure that everything is aligned – i.e. that the new skills and methodology are fully integrated into the Playbook.

As part of the adoption process, we suggest you create a training situation where sales executives work with the Playbook in a real-world simulation. And don’t forget to train the sales managers. Behavioral change requires repetition and reinforcement, so you must continue to communicate and demonstrate how using the Playbook can help sales executives accelerate the sales cycle.

10. Measure and refine
Metrics should have been set initially based on your objectives for the Playbook, but you then need to measure them! Its worth splitting these into 3 elements: Just some examples our clients have used:

Adoption: Playbook usage, Use of Tools, Feedback from the sales team and management
Leading Indicators: Weighted Pipeline, Average Deal Size, Number of contacts identified, Forecasting accuracy
Lagging, Business Indicators: Won/Loss Analysis, Revenue, Margin (Discounts).

And finally…
Once you understand the different styles, you can use them to think about the most appropriate approach (or mixture of approaches) for the situation you are in. You can also think about your own instinctive approach and learn how you need to change this when necessary.

Ideally you can adopt an approach that meets the situation, resolves the problem, respects people’s legitimate interests and mends damaged working relationships.

Some Final Words – and how we can help…

Sales Operations / Enablement roles are becoming increasingly important – freeing up sales management to focus on clients and revenue generation. A well-written, motivational, regularly maintained, Sales Playbook can be the beating heart of a Sales Operation – and a competitive edge for your Sales team.

Greenbank have over 18 years global experience in working with Sales Directors and Heads of Sales to help them develop Sales Playbooks and drive sales productivity and we would be delighted to explore ideas with you and how a Playbook could support your sales in 2021.

If you would like to have a no-obligation discussion, then please contact me and it would be great to share ideas!

About Greenbank

Greenbank are an innovative, ‘boutique’ consultancy delivering completely tailored leadership, negotiation and sales development programmes to clients ranging from top 5 global firms to tech start-ups.

We are now delighted to be running truly blended programmes, which make the most of both virtual platforms and interactive face-to-face workshops, to deliver motivational, cost-effective development.

We also have our own industry-leading, multi-lingual, 360° assessment platform, Navigator360 which provides our clients and other training providers with a completely flexible approach to gathering powerful confidential feedback.

If you would like to discuss how we can help your own sales or leadership teams, then we would be delighted to have a relaxed conversation – please contact Ian Hirst or (+44) 7812 074359.