Align Your Sales Strategy with Your Brand Using Sales Playbooks and Training Programs

By Mark McCary and Dylan Gray


ABM Photography

In part one of our series about the components of account-based marketing (ABM), we discussed how ABM and marketing automation programs (MAP) support your growth strategy. We also reviewed how to use ABM and a MAP to their full potential, while keeping your sales strategy aligned with your overall branding strategy. Keeping each of your sales tools and marketing campaigns aligned with your brand’s identity is important — this way, you display a consistent brand to each of your different stakeholders. One of our key takeaways was making sure your ABM and MAP are tied into your overall business and sales strategy in order to have a clearly defined sales approach.

Sales enablement tools such as sales playbooks and sales training and coaching play an important role in building your ABM program. As the sales leadership team at BrandExtract, we teach our clients how to create sales playbooks and help train their sales team, among other tools. Through coaching our clients to build beneficial sales enablement tools, we often get asked the same questions:

  • How do I use a sales playbook? 
  • Can I use the same sales playbook for my entire sales cycle? 
  • How do I set up a training program for my sales team?

We’re answering these questions in part two of our series, as well as giving more insight on sales playbooks and other components to your ABM program.

Sales Playbooks 

Sales playbooks are a type of sales enablement tool to help support your team through every stage of the customer buying journey. Playbooks are often a collection of tactics or methods that clearly defines your sales objectives, as well as metrics to measure your sales efforts. Sales playbooks can be used as a framework for your sales team. They support your ABM efforts because they help your team answer the following questions before interacting with your customers:

  • What do I need to know about the client?
  • How does the customer make buying and selling decisions?
  • What are my selling objectives?

The role of sales playbooks has expanded overtime. As sales cycles have become more complex, more information is more accessible to the customer, and buyers become more educated, sales playbooks have evolved to keep up with these ever-changing cycles. Not only have the components of sales playbooks changed, but their physical appearance has changed as well. We first used three-ring binder playbooks, then linked PDF (or just PDF) playbooks, and now the most common format we use for our customers are digital playbooks.

Types of sales playbooks 

No matter what you’re trying to sell, who you’re trying to sell it to, or if your company is simply defining your selling process, there is a type of sales playbook that will suit your needs. Below are the various playbooks we’ve used for our clients:

  • Product: how we sell a tangible product (air conditioners, widgets, etc.)
  • Market: how we use certain techniques and language to sell to a particular industry
  • Sales process: this is the company’s specialized way of selling 
  • Strategy: how we accomplish our selling goals 
  • Competitive strike: how you take over an account from another marketing company  
  • Customer: teaching the customer how to buy 
  • New customer acquisition: how we attract new customers 
  • Account retention: how we keep our accounts/customers

Example

Recently we created an industry-specific sales playbook to help employees within an oil and gas company sell their products. The selling kit was designed to display each step of the selling process and how to gather general information about the customer. Essentially, it helps educate the sales representative on everything he/she needs to know about the product before selling it to a customer. Our Chairman, Jonathan Fisher, along with McCary recently gave a webinar on how to develop sales playbooks. Check out their presentation.

Components of sales playbooks 

We’ve built several different types of playbooks that fit each of our clients’ unique needs. And while there are a variety of different playbooks, each of them should have similar components. They should set the framework for:

  • Who you’re selling to. Identify your target market, customer or influencers, and a profile if your ideal customer (we call these buyer personas). You should know your customers’ preferences, dislikes and business issues they are trying to solve. 
  • What you’re selling. Describe clearly what your company can offer the customer and why your product/service addresses the customer’s issues. 
  • How to sell it (whether it’s a product, service or industry). Define what techniques your sales team will use. Define how competitors position themselves in the market, what their selling process is, and recommendations for how to counter these moves. You should also outline how to address common objections your sales team may encounter. This way, you can be prepared for every scenario. 
  • Define your selling process. Outline the set of critical steps that move your customer to buy. It’s important to go further than just describing the steps in the sales cycle — provide instruction on what information is needed at each stage of the cycle, identify the players in each step of the process and how to assess the opportunity. Also, you should identify the conditions that trigger consideration, evaluation and purchase for your customers. Define what a qualified lead is among your sales representatives. 
  • Messaging and collateral for the sales strategy. Prepare a list of proven tips and techniques — and under what circumstances to use them. Along with what works well, you should also include which techniques haven’t worked for your customer.

Sales Training and Coaching

Sales training and coaching is a really important element of your company’s sales strategy because it ensures your frontline sales managers are working with your salespeople in the right way. When we’re teaching our clients how to train their sales teams, we start by looking at if the sales managers have a good approach for directing the team. We also make sure our clients are measuring what their sales team is doing to ensure the salespeople are equipped with the proper coaching tools and hitting their goals.

Sales playbooks are a great tool to leverage during the sales training and coaching process so your salespeople can use them as a reference after the training.

The dos and don'ts of sales training and coaching

We’re the first to admit it — we aren’t perfect. Throughout all our sales training sessions with clients, we learn something new about what techniques work and which don’t. These are a few tips we’ve acquired through our experience with training sales teams:

Dos

  • Set expectations. Let your sales team know that you expect them to follow the procedures they’ve learned during training. In order to do this effectively, you need to set specific goals related to your expectations and you need a way to measure success (most likely a CRM like salesforce.com). After all, what gets measured gets done. 
  • Be available for help. Especially if you’re teaching a new technique or implementing a new sales strategy, your sales team will have questions. Be available to answer their questions or provide resources for them. 
  • Keep your team informed consistently. Also, don’t forget to give recognition when it’s due and provide constructive feedback to help your team improve. 

Don’ts

  • Remember everyone learns at different paces. Showing patience and going over a technique more than once during training can make a difference in the long-run. 
  • Demand perfection from the get-go. It takes time to develop a good habit. 
  • Punish a salesperson for making a mistake. Turn making a mistake into a learning experience. That way, you also minimize the risk of the same mistake being made twice.

Keeping Your Sales Enablement Tools Aligned With Your Brand

It’s easy to get too far into the weeds about a specific sales strategy or choosing which sales enablement tool is right for your business. However, one aspect that should never be forgotten throughout the entire sales process is your brand. Your brand identity needs to remain strong and consistent through each stage of the sales funnel, because when your sales leads are ready to convert to customers, they should know who they’re buying from. Be clear and specific about what you’re selling, and who’s selling it. The last thing you want is confused or misled customers. Every part of your sales strategy, between the way your sales representatives communicate with customers to the presentation of your sales playbooks, should reflect your brand identity.

Key Takeaways 

Reinforce your ABM strategy with sales enablement tools, like sales playbooks and training your sales team. Sales playbooks are a great tool to support your sales team for every stage of your customer’s buying cycle, and they support your ABM program goals. Equally as important, sales training and coaching ensures that your sales managers and salespeople are properly equipped with the right tools to meet your sales goals.

Both sales playbooks and sales training programs should reflect your ABM strategy. If properly implemented, your ABM program can drive sales results. Read part one of our series for a deep dive into account-based marketing and marketing automation programs. Also, reach out to our sales leadership team for more insights on ABM, MAP, sales playbooks or sales training and coaching and how to integrate them into your sales strategy.