How to maximise sales performance with a sales playbook

How to maximise sales performance with a sales playbook

by Rob Keogh | 7 January 2020

A full-time salesperson on say an $80k base, burns around $500 each day before bonuses. That covers super, insurances, taxes, administration and management cost and accounts for annual leave, public holidays, carers leave and sick leave.

When reviewing sales performance, the key measure is revenue efficiency, but how do you define “efficient”? Some companies settle for a viable percentage of cost. Often sales targets are created working backwards from a revenue budget. In other cases, expectations might be based on what has been achieved in the past.

In Australia, the performances of top salespeople are revered, with their numbers recounted as though they were gun shearers. However, despite some refinements of process, the tools and infrastructure for shearing sheep still operates as it did 130 years ago. By contrast, sales revenue efficiency has doubled in the last ten years due to advancements in sales automation and data accessibility.

So, if your sales expectations are based on processes created years ago, then you might want to assess whether your benchmark for what is possible is in line with current best practice. The fact is that half the tasks that filled a salespersons’ day ten years ago, can now be automated. That represents an opportunity for a one hundred percent (100%) gain in revenue efficiency. Unless your sales process beats what your competitors might implement, then you are not efficient by any definition.

Searching for efficiency
Wool in Australia is a $3 billion industry. Efficiency in production and harvesting, faces global competition. Shearing is a labour-intensive human task, so every variation and pattern of movement has been studied.

It has proved a long journey for the wool industry to find efficiency gains. In 1892 Jackie Howe set a shearing record with hand shears, that was only broken by Ted Reick, using machine shears in 1950.

In 1963 a process called the “Tally-Hi” method was developed. It reduces strain on both the shearer and the sheep. The 30 seconds saved per sheep equates to a 25% to 30% efficiency gain. Most all shearers still use the same core movements today because they have proven over time to produce the best results.

The wool industry is now spending millions researching automation and robotics to aid in the removal of wool. As with sales, it is recognised that the wrinkles and nuances of the shearing interaction will mean that robots will never replace humans, but it is considered possible that they might soon do half the work.

The point of the comparison is that shearers spend almost one hundred percent of their time in the act of shearing. They even have rouseabouts to support the shearer, removing belly wool so the shearer does not have to pause. With sales, only a third of a typical salesperson’s time was spent in the human interaction of selling in 2017. (Ref HubSpot chart below) The analysis of the other tasks that occupy a salespersons’ day leaves massive scope to increase revenue efficiency.

"A sales playbook is a core tool in your sales performance framework.
It is also an essential requirement for sales automation."

Research on time spent selling
So what does a sales performance framework look like?
What are the chances that a salesperson, left to their own devices, will come up with the best possible sales process and messaging for a pre-existing product? When a salesperson steps into their work environment on a Monday morning, what sales framework, tools and infrastructure should they have at their disposal?

"If your sales process and resources are not documented
in an easily accessible format, where does this information exist?
How is it accessed and disseminated?"

The initial benefit of a sales playbook is that it defines your proven plays and sales structure. It defines success and how to achieve it (KPI's). It is the ultimate reference for any sales question. It sets the brand voice of the company and the standards for the customer experience.

In addition to supporting consistency, the content, messages, emails and scripts contained in a playbook frees up more time for selling. A playbook sets down the sales techniques that have proven to be most effective in each situation. The most important benefit of having a sales playbook is that it enables sales automation which is the foundation for revenue efficiency and growth.

The sales playbook for each company and possibly each product will be different, but it is essential that the best process is defined, measured and delivered within a framework that encourages continuous improvement. (How to create a sales playbook)

Is the cadence of your salespersons’ day clearly defined like a shearer, or does each person have self-determination as to the structure they follow? Some salespeople have near-total control over the quantity, type, and schedule of their outreach, while others follow a prescribed cadence. The larger and more complex your deals are, the more autonomy salespeople likely have.

Even though most shearers are paid per sheep, they don’t get to make up their own day. A shearer’s workday starts at 7:30 am and is divided into four “runs” of two hours each. “Smoko” breaks of a half hour each are at 9:30 am and again at 3 pm. The lunch break is taken at 12 midday for one hour.

In a sales workday, the sales playbook will lay out the ideal number, timing, and medium of touches. It also provides content, email templates, researched references, case studies and guidelines to ensure customers enjoy one common brand experience; one brand voice.

So, rather than having each salesperson develop their own day-plan, process, messaging and questions to use with prospects, give them ready-made content and a framework of resources. This lets them focus on selling.

Turnover rates for B2B salespeople are currently quoted by LinkedIn to be 35% to 55%. Training new salespeople is far quicker and easier when you have clear, explicit explanations of who your customers are, how they buy your products, their pain points, what to say to them, and more.

Without a sales playbook, your reps are forced to learn this information ad hoc; usually by shadowing other staff, who may be making mistakes. Remember that a sales playbook is the "ultimate guide", not only for your sales team, but for all staff that interact with your market.

Too often I have found different staff in the one company give entirely different answers to the same question. Often the difference does not stem from specific points of fact, but points of bias around how services or products should be represented. Customers must experience only one version of your business. The brand voice must be the same day in, day out, every time your business is discussed by staff or customers. A sales playbook is essential to ensure the best possible version of your business is always front and centre.

Teams who reference an in-house sales playbook are always on the same page. They know what's expected of them and understand how to communicate, without going against your brand values. Every staff member should be able to deliver the same version of the business elevator pitch. Salespeople must stick to a sales processes that is proven. If everyone is using the same process, your KPI’s will have a common benchmark without excuses. Individual results may vary slightly, but the expectation of performance and quality of customer experience will be the same.