How to Adapt Your Sales Playbook to Cater to Modern Buyer Preferences?

Aparna Shah
April 4, 2022
sales playbook

With ongoing changes in B2B buying and selling DNA, your sales playbook is the most valuable asset for your team for post-pandemic survival and growth. Sales teams that don't center their efforts around modern buyers' preferences constantly struggle with unfulfilled quotas, insufficient pipelines, and low margins.  

Modern Buyers acknowledge the "delightful experiences" sellers can provide using digital collaborative platforms that help buyers navigate the complex buying journey, provide seamless communication between internal and external stakeholders, and offer real-time value realization.

Why is a Sales Playbook Important?

A sales playbook is an important tool for any organization that wants to succeed in sales. It is a comprehensive guide that outlines the sales process, techniques, and strategies that a company uses to sell its products or services.

Here are some reasons why a sales playbook is important:

  1. Consistency: A sales playbook ensures that all sales representatives follow the same sales process and use the same techniques and strategies. This consistency ensures that customers have a consistent experience with the company and helps build trust and credibility.
  2. Efficiency: A sales playbook provides a structured approach to the sales process, which can help sales representatives save time and effort. This allows them to focus on closing deals and building relationships with customers.
  3. Training: A sales playbook is a valuable training tool for new sales representatives. It provides a clear understanding of the sales process, the company's products or services, and the techniques and strategies used to sell them.
  4. Collaboration: A sales playbook can be used as a reference for sales teams to collaborate and share best practices. This can help improve the overall sales process and ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals.
  5. Accountability: A sales playbook sets clear expectations for sales representatives and helps managers hold them accountable for their performance. It provides a benchmark for measuring success and identifying areas for improvement.

Overall, a sales playbook is a valuable tool for any organization that wants to improve its sales process, increase efficiency, and drive revenue growth.

What is included in a Sales Playbook?

The contents of a sales playbook can vary depending on the company, industry, and target audience. However, here are some common elements that are typically included in a sales playbook:

  1. Sales Process: A sales playbook outlines the steps involved in the sales process, including prospecting, qualifying leads, presenting solutions, handling objections, closing deals, and post-sale follow-up.
  2. Ideal Customer Profile: A sales playbook includes a description of the ideal customer for the company's products or services, including demographic and psychographic information.
  3. Buyer Personas: A sales playbook includes a detailed description of the different types of buyers that the sales team will encounter, including their motivations, pain points, and objections.
  4. Competitive Analysis: A sales playbook includes a detailed analysis of the company's competitors, including their strengths and weaknesses, pricing strategies, and market share.
  5. Value Proposition: A sales playbook outlines the unique value proposition that the company's products or services offer to customers.

Join CROs Shankar Ganapathy, Steve Shauk, and Zeeshan Hafeez as they discuss digital selling and how you can adapt the sales playbook to cater to modern buyer preferences with Sales Enablement Collective for the Virtual CRO Summit 2022.

If you're a revenue leader, this would be worth a read. Alternatively, you can view the recording below.  

#1 Can you highlight some critical changes in behavior and expectations of modern buyers?

Steve:  Whenever I think of modern buying behavior, I think of Tesla. One can easily purchase a Tesla through their mobile device, which indicates the changing buying behavior today, and how buyers want to be digitally enabled. Furthermore, buyers want to: 

  • Execute things independently as long as they can. 
  • Seamlessly connect with the sellers for a smooth and successful sale. 

As sellers, we need to mimic the buyers and think like consumers every day to understand their expectations better. 

 Zeeshan: It's interesting to see how the virtual environment has replaced the traditional traveling seller's role. A multimillion-dollar deal involves no travel, eating out with buyers, or wine and dine in today's market. With Steve's metaphor of the Tesla buying experience, the whole buying experience has changed. So the way sellers behave, act and sell has completely been transformed. 

Shankar: As we think about the modern buyers and Steve's Tesla buying example, the B2B buyers are also starting to expect "the experience." 

  • The first major transition that we notice in the market is that buyers don't want a siloed or a sales-steered experience, where sellers are solely driven to sell. And after making a sale, sellers dump customers on the other side of the wall for customer success teams to get value. 
  • The second significant B2B preference change is that modern buyers want a "seller-free" experience. There has been some extensive research by Forrester and Gartner, where almost a third of B2B buyers, even for complex transactions, prefer a seller-free buying experience. 
  • And the third trend that I would want to highlight is that the movement toward "land and expand" in sales is different from that of the customers. Today, sellers should not just sell the product but also sell the value that the product brings. Once you deliver value, you can expand from the same accounts. 

#2 How are you using your tech stack to engage customers and guide them through their customer journey?

Zeeshan:  Sales leaders should not only be conditioned to sell in the new virtual environment, but they should also train their sales reps to succeed under this makeshift. 

Modern sales leaders want to:  

  • Build a high-performance sales culture. The B2B deals are complex and will not get complex anytime soon. Pre-pandemic water-cooler conversations, robust support systems, and in-person learnings have been replaced with a complex digital environment. This "digital transition" calls for a strong culture for the sales team to flourish. 
  • Hire more junior sellers because they are not accustomed to the old experience and are easier to work with than an experienced one. 

With virtually driven B2B operations, you need powerful tools to succeed. 

Steve: A tech stack shouldn't be just an internal platform; it should also: 

  • Allow you and your customers to collaborate effectively. 
  • Forecast pipeline intelligence for the outreach committee to create a predictive measure. 

Shankar: Today, the sales team is not working in person and has to conduct the water cooler conversations remotely. It is amusing how we understand the challenges of the sales team but don't know much about the challenges faced by the buyers. It is important to note that significant buying conversations occur when sellers are not in front of them. According to Gartner's research, 83% of the buying process occurs in the absence of a salesperson. 

Before I plunge deeper into the question, I want to share an interesting story from one of my previous jobs. In my last job as an account manager, I was looking forward to this significant renewal uptick from a multimillion-dollar account three months away from renewal. While we had proven incredible value to the customer for the last two and a half years, making the new economic buyer realize measurable value from our service stood as a challenge. 

From a seller's perspective, we have a sales, implementation, support, and customer success team equipped with seller-centric CRMs and information handsets offering everything to the stakeholders easily; there's very little that the current tech stack does to simplify the customer's journey. 

Over time, there have been substantial improvements in the traditional sales stack in effectiveness and productivity. Digital customer collaboration, buyer enablement, and streamlining the value creation process for customers will be the next significant innovations in the new business reality. 

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#3 How has the virtual environment changed the way B2B sellers are selling?

Steve:  The pandemic has proved that sellers can close deals without in-person interactions with buyers. Today, the CFOs are winning more business while growing their margins off the chart without the need for their team to travel anymore. Why would any sales leader blow those margin dollars on T &E when their sales team can get it remotely? In my previous organization, I had one of my sales reps close a $5 million deal via texts in my earlier organization because that's how the customer liked to communicate. 

The best way of connecting with buyers is by asking them if they prefer connecting over texts, email, calls, or LinkedIn messenger! 

Shankar:  The Go-to-market teams (Marketing, sales, and  Customer Success) have become closer. New terms like Account-Based Marketing or Account-Based Selling are replacing SQL and SAL to define modern B2B relationships. Sales and marketing are building deeper connections. 

  • Since we're living in a world of "land and expand," the first trend that I notice is the formation of a deeper connection between sales and customer success. There are many organizations where the Chief Customer Officer reports to the Chief Revenue Officer. With a revenue-first mindset, companies are focal that all teams work together as a single unit. 
  • The second trend we notice is the need to bring everything together for customers. Modern buyers need enablement through:
    1. Easy access to information.
    2. Immediate responses to answers. 
    3. Visibility in the sales process.
    4. Seamless collaboration with sales or customer success team. 

Zeeshan: There are three things that sales leaders need to carry out in the modern market : 

  • They should invest time in enabling their sales reps to be successful. There is at least a weekly cadence of training materials to ensure that your sales reps improve and outperform themselves in the new market scene. 
  • They should make sales reps successful with the tech stack. In the modern era of virtual selling, if you don't use the technology to its best capabilities, you will not be a successful salesperson. 
  • They should cultivate a strong sales culture in the team where people interact and replicate the sales practices they learn from each other. I've encouraged an "only-players" meeting in my organization where all sales representatives connect at least once a week to discuss challenges, roadblocks, critical businesses, and deals. These conversations will add value to your sales operations in the long haul in a virtually-driven environment. 

It's fascinating to see how much the modern market has evolved. When I worked with Microsoft as a field enterprise sales rep, we had already experimented with managing enterprise-level virtually, and it worked! 

When I joined the insides sales department at Google, right before the pandemic in 2019, Google was getting rid of its inside sales organization, convinced that it wouldn't work. Three months into 2020, not only Google but every single seller is now an inside sales seller or a digital seller.

#4 Why is customer success significant in the modern sales playbook? 

Shankar: In a SaaS organization, it is most likely that 70% of the growth or existing revenue comes from recurring revenue. And to continue this growth, your customers need to see more value than what they had earlier. The traditional licensing model for selling something for ten years took almost three years for its enterprise-level implementation.

Today, with the movement towards proof of performance, buyers need to justify their spending to the CFOs and CIOs, and so the vendors should: 

  • Help buyers realize the value faster than ever. 
  • Ensure the customers get value at every point of their relationship. 

This is where Customer success is emerging as a critical component of the GTM teams. While some companies view Customer Success as a support team that manages tickets or helps customers understand the product, others are increasingly viewing CS as a strategic function to the frontline sales in ensuring that the customers get value from your services. Today, mature organizations have more sub-teams, like pre-sales, value consultants, and salesforce solution consultants, in the CS frontier to ensure customers are getting value from the solution. 

Steve: The customer success experience is about making sure the customers are thrilled to be your customers and delighted after using your technology and services. From a business standpoint, customer success is the "Trojan Horse." If you effectively deploy your CS team, they won't be focused on the next sale, and they'll be steered towards making your customers happy. In this way, your CS team not only protects the revenue that comes in each year but also brings forth new opportunities for the customers. 

#5 Advice on how sales leaders can transform their sales models and process

Shankar: Today, there are two significant trends that modern sales leaders are adopting: 

  • While a playbook exists for landing a new customer, the playbook for customer expansion is left for the seller's interpretation. Without a distinct set of actions, the accounts team has no choice but to configure the following steps on their own. 
  • Each GTM team element has its own set of independent playbooks that require robust linkages. When a deal closes, the handover has to go from a two-pager document and a thirty-minute handover call to something that is more encapsulated. There is a need for a platform that captures the sentiments across a six-month or three-month sales cycle and interconnects all milestones- new logo land, renewals, or upsells;  throughout the customer journey. 

Steve:  In the modern marketplace, a sales leader should be willing to learn the idea of iteration. Nobody saw the pandemic coming, and so if you're not ready to evolve with changes, you'll never align with the ever-evolving needs of your prospects and customers. How do you iterate? You conduct virtual meets and webinars to connect with your peers and learn from them. 

The GTM team is part and parcel of the revenue machine, where everybody speaks the same language and is driven by the same outcomes. It doesn't matter if you're focused on an outcomes-based sales point-of-view or hitting the objectives from the CS perspective; it's all in the same hymnal. 

Zeeshan: Despite a robust tech stack, you'll be inefficient in retaining your sales reps if you lack a strong sales culture. It takes at least a year to become completely valuable and productive to an organization. So if you don't build a strong culture in your sales team, you won't be able to retain them for long.  

Next, talking about the sales tech stack, you have to create a power tech stack for your team and ensure that they're entirely onboarded with its features and usage. Your tech stack is a waste of your expense if it fails to generate value! 

And finally, if you want to get the most out of your sales team, ensure you stay on top while training your reps and keeping up with all the ongoing changes in this modern sales environment. 

Wrapping Up 

Adapting your sales playbook to cater to modern buyers' preferences is more crucial than ever. The post-pandemic business landscape requires sales leaders to re-examine their current playbook and leverage the power of a digital collaborative platform to stay atop of deals while aligning with the buyers at each step of their buying journey. 

BuyerAssist is a customer collaboration platform used by B2B revenue teams and their customers to work together efficiently. It drives clarity, alignment, and visibility at each step in the enterprise sales, implementation, and customer engagement process.

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