Insights to Optimize the Prospect Experience

Playbooks Replace Chaos with Kick Ass

This is the seventh blog in a series covering the 12-Point Prospect-Experience Transformation process. Ultimately, there will be four blogs about your market, four more covering your message and the final four will cover metrics.

Most of the Sales Development Rep (SDR) managers I talk to agree that developing playbooks to guide and govern the SDRs’ work is essential. What there is not a lot of agreement on is the content a playbook should contain.

A guy I used to work for had a funny expression. He said, “even a man lost in the woods knows where he wants to go.” I am not sure that is the case when it comes to playbooks. I find that playbooks usually don’t start by identifying what the objective of the playbook is – or where you want to go with it. I think that is a critical first step. Before we get to my recommended playbook table of contents, allow me to address a few critical success factors in developing a playbook that will ensure success.  

Identify the Pain, Priority, Process, Environment (Three P’s and an E)

My objective for a playbook is for all stakeholders to understand and agree on results of using the playbook. I express that outcome as follows:

I want to understand for each targeted prospect, at the appropriate level in each prospect organization, their level of pain (as it relates to whatever my product or solution is)

What the priority is to do something about that pain and why it is a priority

The process that will be used to make decisions about actions (escalation, as an example)

The current environment (i.e. what technology is in use; how likely the prospect is to take an action such as outsource some part of their process.) The Three P’s and an E formula lets you describe your agreed upon lead definition.

Don’t Use BANT (or any of the other alphabet soup lead criteria)

In my opinion, companies that sell a complex solution and disqualify based on the lack of the right BANT criteria (budget, authority, need and time-frame) are ceding great – maybe the best – prospects to more agile competitors.

Three P’s and an E is a superior way to qualify (or disqualify) without giving up on valuable prospects. Giving up on prospects because they cannot provide “the budget” and/or don’t have a specific enough time frame disqualifies incorrectly. The process a prospect describes for getting to a decision will uncover how budgets are established. The priority to do something about a pain determines time frame. Once you have established qualifying criteria you can write the playbook to the specifications that define a high-quality prospect.

Reasons to Spend Quality Time Creating the Playbook    

If every SDR is armed with the right story and executed the perfect process you will see more revenue. The playbook provides SDRs’ with the messaging and tactics to perform like the best SDR on your team. Playbooks replace chaos with kick ass.

Without the insights, messaging and the right processes SDRs will either hesitate to make calls or constantly be asking questions for guidance and confirmation that they are doing a good job. 

A well written playbook makes the SDR team more effective and allows other team members to stay focused on the highest value activities.

Great field reps do everything they can to stay out of communication with their boss. Great SDRs are in your face. A good playbook will reduce some of the interaction – but get used to the fact that if you have a great SDR, they are going to need lots of attention.

We refer to what a lot of people call a script as a call flow. Don’t over-complicate the call flow. Good conversations are a product of the call flow. The call flow has three parts. The opening; the dialog and the close. Each of the three parts has a goal. The goals are creating interest; establishing need; satisfying that need. Most scripted calls are not very good. Be sure to keep your objectives simple in the call flow. Reach out to me if you want to discuss this in more detail.

I sometimes read that playbooks allow you to hire relatively young, inexperienced SDRs who “paint by the numbers” (using the playbook.) I don’t think that really works. The SDR needs to be able to carry on a conversation with the targeted decision-maker(s) – most young, inexperienced SDRs can’t do that.

It is true that more experienced and knowledgeable SDRs can be guilty of taking the conversation too deep. Focus SDRs on the Thee P’s and an E qualifying criteria. Convince SDRs that they will get in trouble and lose leads if they get into the weeds. Manage the transition of the lead in a way that encourages and rewards the appropriate level of detail in a lead write-up, but no too much information.

Creating a playbook doesn’t happen overnight (in fact the work is never done). And, it should be painful as management grapples with difficult questions around the market, the message and the media. However, investing time and money in a playbook is chump change as compared to the cost of fielding SDRs. Putting inexperienced SDRs in front of your customers with the right tools is just not necessary.

Why are there SDRs?

Despite what you may read about outbound marketing, it works. Instead of asking whether you should support field sales with inside sales support, you should be asking how many SDRs you need and how do you ramp SDRs to match increases in the field sales team. You should be asking how high a percent of the needed revenue can be driven by the inside team rather than depending on the field to find their own deals.  Good “hunters” hate to prospect. They like the hunt. They hate beating the bushes for opportunities. And, they are too expensive a resource when the function can be successfully executed with a less expensive inside sales team.

Why do SDRs Need a Playbook?

Most marketing teams create an overwhelming amount of information about its products. There are positioning papers, FAQ’s, PowerPoint presentations, white papers, case studies… This mountain of often duplicated information needs to be distilled into a concise, specific and actionable document called a playbook.

Some other benefits of a playbook:

1.       Control the consistency of the delivered message

2.       Processes can be tested and then scaled

3.       Your team will ramp more quickly

4.       Compare results on a person-by-person basis to documented benchmarks and coach or counsel as needed

Finally, any playbook is a work in process. It is a single source for best processes and practices.


Don’t Clutter up the Playbook. The Following Belong Elsewhere – Not in the Playbook:  

·         The company value and vision. While an important part of on boarding new employees, the information does not belong in the playbook.

  • Organization charts: These, or something even more important, will get lost if you weigh down a playbook with data that belongs elsewhere.

  • The role of the SDR: That is a job description with KPIs. It is employment related, not client/playbook related.

  • Compensation or other structural details. These are HR on-boarding issues, not suitable for a playbook.

Playbook Table of Contents

Every company is different, but here is a summary of the chapters I recommend for most playbooks:

1.       Company overview: Not the history of the company… This is where you state the company’s reason for being as it relates to the specific product and/or service covered by this playbook.

2.       Offer: An offer is comprised of a product and/or service, the price and the delivery mechanism (“how does that work?”) The delivery mechanism is always the most difficult for the market to understand. Common questions: “how do you charge?”; “when will I see results?”; “who owns the data?”

3.       Market: What is the total addressable market (TAM)? At what level do we want to engage? How many roles or functional areas will we need to reach out to? If you use personas, they belong here. Personas can be so “cutesy” that they are useless. The most important information to convey in the playbook is what is that role or functional area worried about, how can you help and why you and your solution vs. the competition (as it relates to the person)?

4.       Research requirements: LinkedIn, website, competitive website, analyst reviews, misc. other.

5.       Positioning: How is our offer positioned in the marketplace, how does that compare to the competition and what are the relative strengths and weaknesses of each offer (including our own)?

6.       Lead Qualification Specifics

o   Pain – what is the pain or need? How does that pain or need map to your solution?

o   Priority – when will it be a priority to do something about the pain or need?

o   Process – what is the process to evaluate and act on doing something about the pain or need?

o   Environment – what important factors about the environment (technology, organizational structure…) help qualify or disqualify a prospect?

7.       Message Outbound: Call flow(s), voicemails, emails, direct mail (if used), list of assets to use

8.       Media/Cadence Outbound: touch cycle, timing, outcomes or dispositions

9.       Message Inbound: Call flow(s), voicemails, emails, direct mail (if used), list of assets to use

10.   Media/Cadence Inbound: touch cycle, timing, outcomes or dispositions

11.   Lead Processing: Distribution, method, timing, process for acceptance

12.   Day-part Structuring: Touch cycle time, research time, meeting time

13.   Metrics: Dials, voicemails, emails, dispositions (outcomes) vs. standard, leads, pipeline, total qualified, results by list segment and list priorities

14.   Reporting: Weekly, to be determined during on boarding

15.   Weekly Conference Call Agenda: Lead Review, Pipeline Review, Digital Audio File Comments/Questions, Q&A

16.   Contact Information: For all key stakeholders (and roles) – you want at least one escalation contact on both sides that is senior and accessible.)

Remember that a playbook is a dynamic document. Expect changes. Make sure that every department with input into the playbook signs off on changes as they occur.

Let me know what you would add to or subtract from the playbook and if you want to talk about building a playbook for your team just reach out and I will help you in any way that I can.