B2B Selling in a Post-Covid World: Re-Enable Your Sales Teams

Written by:
Michelle Vazzana, Co-founder & Chief Strategy Officer for VantagePoint
Tanner Mezel, VP of Sales and Marketing, DSG Consulting

This last in a series of three blogs explores how high-performing companies are enabling their sellers in a way that leverages technology to capture buyer insights, determine sales plays that win, and serves that information up in a way that is guided, real time, and easy.

Is Your Sales Tech Stack Truly Enabling Your Sellers?

According to CSO Insights*, more than 80% of CSOs are not confident about the adoption of the various sales technologies they’ve deployed. This is an alarming, not to mention expensive problem. The promise of improved productivity and associated results is very provocative; however, these technology investments rarely pan out. Why?

At VantagePoint Performance, we believe there are two important ways to use technology to enable your sales force. The first critical path is to use AI and Machine Learning to determine the right content your sellers need in order to win more deals. As indicated in last week’s blog you can use machine learning to gain deep deal-level insights into changing buyer behavior and uncover the specific aspects of changing buyer preferences. Those preferences can be analyzed to make meaning of how your buyers prefer to engage with your sellers. Below is an example of different buying situations that represent differing buyer preferences.

The next critically important thing that machine learning can serve up when used correctly is to reveal the sales strategies that lead to wins (and losses) in each of your unique buying situations. Sales representatives and sales managers often rely on instinct to execute sales strategies. This “instinctual approach” may work for your top-performers, but it typically fails miserably for everyone else. Below is an example of how to use machine learning to identify which of the four primary sales strategies work in each buying situation.

You can use machine learning to dramatically narrow the field of play for both understanding the unique buying situations your sellers face, as well as the sales strategies that win. This removes ambiguity, narrows down the realm of possible content, and provides data-driven guidance that works. This supports a “less is more” philosophy of providing sellers with meaningful insights to help them seize opportunities at the right moment.

RE-Invent the Playbook to Provide Technology that Delivers…

The second critical path is to use technology to deploy the right information, at the right time, and in the right way. DSG believes that a world class sales playbook is video-based and provides the content, tools and training that a seller needs to be successful on their next call. The goal is to give sellers what they need “just in time” vs. “just in case”. “Just in time” is relevant to what’s happening right now. “Just in case” is giving salespeople a huge library they are unlikely to reference due to the sheer size of the library.

A great scenario would be a 2pm call with a CMO early in the customer’s buying process where the CMO is focused on learning and exploring. The seller can determine which unique buying situation they are facing, and which sales strategy is most likely to win.

A sales friendly playbook would provide a seller with 4 things that narrow down exactly what they need for that 2pm call:

  • What to Know: what CMOs in this buying situation care about, use cases that will be relevant, top 2 or 3 sales plays involved in the optimal sales strategy
  • What to Do: best practices for leading an early stage CMO conversation incorporating the right sales tactics to execute the sales plays
  • What to Say: insights, discovery questions, and talk tracks focused on the CMO’s world
  • What to Show: one or 2 customer-facing assets that will make the conversation visual and sticky (e.g. animated slide or infographic)

Playbook Categories

For new hires, experienced sellers, and everyone in between, there are a handful of sales playbook categories that are the most common in B2B environments:

  • Company story: new positioning to create differentiation in the market
  • Integrated solution: selling multiple products or services as a bundled solution or platform
  • Product: a specific offering that in many cases is tied to a product launch or a focused campaign
  • Competitor: talk track, insights, traps, and best practices for a specific competitor or category of competitors
  • Cross-Sell: how to sell wider and deeper within an existing account
  • Partner: selling WITH a partner (e.g. joint solution story) or selling THROUGH a partner (e.g. resellers or distributors

Playbooks as Central to Training & Development

Think of a sales playbook as a core pillar to an integrated model for sales training that incorporates on-demand, experiential and manager-led training. On-demand training of the delivery of an interactive playbook through an app that is typically accessible through the CRM platform. Experiential training is focused on application, practice, and role play based on the playbook content and delivered virtually or in-person. Manager-led training is a critical success factor to driving adoption and involves managers in the reinforcement of the content, tools and training available in each playbook.

The Power of Sharing What Good Looks Like

What’s the 2nd largest search engine on the planet besides Google? YouTube! We love video not just for entertainment but for learning and growing. There’s a 2-minute video on any topic you can imagine which allows one to go from zero knowledge to passable knowledge on how to do just about anything.

It all comes down to the power of sharing “what good looks like”. We like to see how something is done right and then replicate it. Salespeople want that same insight on how to do their job, how to lead a crucial sales conversation, how to handle a tough question, how to share insight or how to beat a key competitor.

The best playbooks are created in collaboration with salespeople who “get it”. And their tribal knowledge captured through video is what the rest of the sales organization will find compelling and worth replicating.

Here’s what it looks like when a video is combined with a useful sales tool and a talk track so that a seasoned rep or a new hire gets clarity on what good looks like in the real world:

Continuous Learning Through Playbooks & Coaching

Traditional enablement revolves around training events and e-learning modules. Continuous learning is the idea that enablement should be more agile based on the need of the business and the needs of the seller. Think about the areas or topics a seller might need in a given learning cycle: how to sell the new product, how to tell the new story, how to handle a new competitive threat…

The easiest way to get started is to establish learning cycles that are time bound and organized around just one or two central topics per learning cycle. An ideal cycle would typically be 60 to 90 days and all the learning would be driven through the sales playbook. Let’s say the topic for the next cycle is “how to cross-sell”. The sales team would receive a set of learning challenges around that topic that would be combined with updated playbook content, on-demand training, live virtual training, sales manager coaching, and some form of certification over that time period.

The big idea is that everything starts with a focused topic tied to learning challenges. Learning challenges could include specific sales outcomes to achieve or skills to master. The learning cycle enables a seller to get those outcomes or master those skills and might include these activities within the sales playbook: submitting a video recording of a role play, watching a training video, participating in a manager-led “Training In A Box” session, watching a sales success webinar, etc.

Here’s a model you could use as a starting point for thinking through your version of a continuous learning model:

*CSO Insights. All That Glitters Is Not Gold: Key Findings From the CSO Insights World-Class Sales Practices Study.

VantagePoint Performance trains salespeople to be more fluent and comfortable across different situations needing different sales approaches, and trains sales managers to be better coaches and team leaders with more focus and less stress.

Are you or your organization ready to take the next step? Contact us to get started.

Click here to learn more about sales playbooks or connect with a DSG consultant.

Accenture Article