How to Build a Strong Sales Playbook - Modern Distribution Management

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How to Build a Strong Sales Playbook

Bring the right people on board with a focus on emotional intelligence, says SalesLeaderships Colleen Stanley.

Would a football coach who has invested a significant amount of time, energy and money developing his team playbook ever turn over that responsibility to a recently recruited player? Of course not, argued Colleen Stanley, president of SalesLeadership, at MDM’s recent Sales GPS conference. So why are so many distribution executives doing exactly that when they bring in a new sales person, she asked.  

“Too many CEOs and VPs of sales still let their sales person bring their own playbook,” Stanley told attendees during her session, Power of the Playbook — Build a High-Performing Sales Team. The same goes for sales veterans — an even worse prospect, considering their strategy is often decades old.  

When building a sales playbook, Stanley recommended starting by systemizing the sales department, including sales structure, hiring and development, lead generation process, sales process and sales EQ and IQ. Too often, distributors don’t realize the importance that strong sales EQ, or emotional intelligence, plays in developing a deep bench of sales talent.  

“Everybody wants feedback, until they get it,” Stanley said. “You need people who have the ability to admit strengths and weaknesses.”  

Sales GPS Colleen Stanley

The four pillars of strong sales EQ, according to Stanley, include: 

  1. Self-actualization: A commitment to continual self-improvement. “The longer an individual works for you, the dumber they get if you’re not hiring learners,” Stanley said. 
  2. Self-regard: Those with higher self esteem will take feedback on their role and not interpret it as a criticism of who they are as a person. 
  3. Delayed gratification: Not relying on instant gratification means more willingness to put in hours of work to gain a long-term reward. 
  4. Self-awareness: People with high EQ have a lot of self-awareness, meaning they are more tuned into their feelings. When they’re in tune with their own emotions, they can more easily gauge how others are feeling. This is a key asset in sales meetings, Stanley pointed out. A sales rep who misses the non-verbal cues of their client or prospect is more likely to lose business.  

The Right Leadership Plan 

In his book, Rethinking the Sales Force, author Neil Rackham says, “Every world-class sales force I’ve worked with puts great emphasis on coaching. They don’t just give lip service to coaching; they create systems and processes to make coaching happen. The best way to improve sales results is to make effective coaching happen.” 

In contrast, “a lot of sales managers are set up to fail,” Stanley said, because companies don’t realize sales training and coaching are entirely different skills from those typically found in an executive vice president in charge of sales. “EVPs are not good trainers and coaches,” she said. “They’re high-level thinkers.”  

An executive vice president excels at setting strategy, developing channels, major account sales and relationships and manages sales managers. A sales coach or trainer is better at hiring and selecting, onboarding, training, coaching, documenting scripts, running sales meetings, Stanley said. 

With the right leadership in the right seats, the sales team can focus on which customers they should be pursuing. Almost no one does a win-loss analysis of clients from the previous year, Stanley pointed out, but doing so can provide excellent insight into top customers and here to focus on the best prospects. When thinking about the ideal customer, attributes fall into two categories, she said: 

  1. Demographics: Number of locations/offices, industry/niche, size of company, no RFP/negotiated work, current/future opportunity, number of employees/revenue. 
  2. Psychographics: Transactional versus value, philosophy/partnership, relationships/expertise, in-house or outsource, shortcuts or do-it-yourself.  

“Psychographics are as important as demographics,” Stanley said. 

When it comes down to it, Stanley said, a lot of sales reps are doing the right activity without the right skillset. The majority of customers (68%) will choose to change suppliers due to a worker’s indifference. Stanley recommended teaching sales reps a social style model so that they can recognize and respond to personality types in their customers to improve likeability. “You need to teach them real-world empathy,” she said.  

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