Digital Sales Enablement

Solving information overload with digital sales playbooks

Robin Griffiths

Last time, we looked at how learning behaviours have changed and how this is driving demand for sales playbooks that deliver relevant learning, in bite sized pieces, as sales people need it.

In this article, we’ll look at the type of knowledge sales people need at each step of the sales process and the challenges this can create in terms of the sheer volume of information involved. We will then go on to explore how digital playbooks can be designed to solve the problem of information overload.

Type of knowledge required

The different types of things you need to know to sell effectively depend, of course, on where you are in the sales process and the selling methodology you follow. For a typical consultative selling approach, reps will need to equip themselves with information such as:

Sales Stage: Prospecting

  • Insights into the markets served by the customer
  • Possible top of mind issues for the persona concerned
  • How to position our company as relevant and of potential interest
  • Conversation openers and questions

Sales Stage: Exploration

  • Likely goals, issues and pain for the persona(s) concerned
  • How we’ve solved problems for similar customers
  • How to articulate ‘what life could be like’ with a solution

Sales Stage: Needs Analysis

  • Needs discovery questions
  • How our products address particular customer challenges
  • Challenges solved for other customers and value delivered

Sales Stage: Solution Evaluation

  • Top points of differentiation for our company and products
  • Corporate credentials
  • Positioning vs competitors

This is in addition to the research they’ll need to do into the individual prospect.

How much knowledge is this?

If your company sells one product into one industry segment to one main buyer, then you could fit this type of information into one PDF of perhaps 2-4 pages. On the other hand, if your reps sell into more than one segment, to multiple personas and have several products and services to offer, then they are going to need access to a whole load of knowledge to sell effectively!

Putting all this into a 20-40 page PDF, even one that’s designed around the sales process and has information separated out by persona, will ensure it gathers dust in the bottom drawer of the sales person’s desk!

When sales people see a multipage playbook like this their immediate reaction is ‘information overload’! And the typical request from sales managers is, “Put this onto one sheet so my team can consume it”.

But you can’t put all the required knowledge onto one sheet!

Why a knowledge portal isn’t the answer

In recent years, many companies have looked to address this problem by building a knowledge portal to hold the critical information sales people need on industries, customers and propositions – I’ve helped build a number of these myself. But frustratingly they just don’t seem to get used by sales people.

After an initial flurry of logons when the portal is launched, usage falls off and after 6 months only new starters are visiting the site. Why is this?

As discussed in the last article, this may have a lot to do with the way learning behaviours have changed. People see a knowledge portal as a place to go to read and accumulate knowledge – a resource for new sales people but not something for them.

Other typical comments I get from sales people include:

“The information is static on the page – there’s no easy way for me to use it and adapt it for an individual call or meeting.”

“I need to access this information on my phone or laptop online and offline so I can prepare for my next call wherever I happen to be.”

How can digital playbooks solve the problem?

The new generation of HTML5 digital playbooks offers a different way to give sales people access to the information they need to prepare for customer interactions.

The latest HTML5 development frameworks offer designers a much wider range of components to use to build more interactive and engaging user interfaces. So, for example, you can build a digital playbook that allows a sales person to select the relevant industry and persona for their next call and instantly filter what’s displayed on the page so they just see the information that’s relevant to them now.

Video content can be played natively in the browser – no need for plug-ins.

Further, HTML5 apps can run both on and offline using a datastore that resides within the browser. This means you can store bite sized pieces of knowledge in a central database and automatically send updates to the local datastore as information is changed or added.

This ability to synchronise textual content between a database in the cloud and the HTML5 app running on a person’s tablet or smartphone, also makes it possible to build digital playbooks that allow sales people to use and adapt content as they prepare for an upcoming meeting or call. And the great thing is their thinking is then updated to all the devices they use so it’s available offline for them to look at just before the call, or to refer to on their iPad during a meeting.

The result is a digital playbook that doesn’t overwhelm sales people with information but allows them to ‘dial-up’ just the nuggets of knowledge they need and then select and adapt insights, questions to ask, and messages to use as they build up their thinking for the next call.

Next time: Selling is a team sport…

Robin Griffiths

Specialist in proposition development and creator of the Proposition Mapping™ methodology. Robin's career includes Founder and CEO of Force12 Software, and Director of Cambridge Consulting Engineers.