7 Lessons Learned

Darlene Samer gave an honest account of the speedbumps she encountered at Yelp whilst trying to create the perfect playbook.

Darlene firmly believes business moves too fast to misfire and prefers to get initiatives out the door sooner than later and then test, learn and iterate rather than sitting in needs analysis for too long.

Here's the 7 lessons Darlene learned.

How are we defining a playbook?

A playbook is defined as a one stop resource that helps our reps to be more effective and efficient in their jobs.

But why?

Why do we really want to create these playbooks? What's behind all of this?

60% of deals in our current pipelines today, never close. Of that 60% of deals that never closed, the question is, what the heck happens to those deals?

Just over half of those are going to an indecision, the buyers on the buying team and the cast of characters aren't even talking about your product or solution. They're doing some internal conversations around where they're even focusing their business.

The other 50% is going to the form of an objection, or the clients or customers saying we don't see value. Either it doesn't solve for something that's going on in my business or in fact, maybe the rep didn't stitch it together well enough in order to make a difference.

The opportunity of creating a playbook can impact that number. It also impacts a whole bunch of other things that you'll define such as better pipeline momentum, greater deal value, conversion of proposals over to contracts faster, and it can also impact the lifetime value of your clients.

These are some lessons learned on how to engage with stakeholders and your teams to bring a playbook to life.

And to bring a playbook to life, not just that results in really great content, but a playbook that reps access, use, and they actually generate sales results and hopefully make your reps a little bit more money along the way.

Everyone's doing different stuff

Everyone on our sales teams would agree that they're selling and that they're engaging with clients.

Everyone at a nightclub dance floor is agreeing that they're dancing around a ballroom dance floor. They agree that they're all dancing, but I guarantee you, they've all got different moves.

They've all got different plays that they think makes them unique. They've got their own song going on in their head. They go on their merry way and engage, and these playbooks start to intersect.

So very early on one of the lessons I learned, in addition to bringing in good content, you want to take very close inventory of what's going on out there because by the time you come back to position and roll out your playbook, you will have already got and secured some buy in and support around the concept of the playbook, which is fantastic.

What you're also doing is communicating and positioning.

We discovered on two of our teams at Yelp that we had reps going out. They were talking about e-commerce, they were talking about delivery, when really, at the end, our playbook was around ‘well, Yelp drives leads and Yelp drives visits.’

When we went back to that team, we had to get them to discontinue the things that they were saying, in order to refine that message.

So even though we're creating these assets and these playbooks, it's really change management in disguise, from the very, very start and getting that act of buy in and support.

When teams have come together, in my experience, they go down this very straight line and say ‘great, let's create a playbook. Let's think about what our products are. What are our services? What are our benefits? What are our features? What makes us unique? How do we want to position ourselves out there in the market?’

All of a sudden, we start to get this lopsidedness that starts to be about us, ourselves and our products or services.

I recommend that we don't go down that path, from experience!

The lesson learned as sales enablement professionals, is to get in front of the cast of characters that's coming together and say 'start with our clients.'

The music was so loud that there was no thinking. There was no sense of time. Just feeling. The moment. Dancing to the beat of the music. Raving in the ravenous red lights of the night.
Photo by Josh Gordon / Unsplash

It's not about you, it's about the customer

Specifically, what are our client

goals? What are their objectives? What are their KPIs?

When you start to turn that corner a little bit, it's around what are the challenges and the speed bumps that they're experiencing and getting to those goals?

You'll develop a hypothesis about how you think you can help solve for certain challenges in order to help them achieve their goals.

The other interesting part is a lot of teams get very centric and one directional around being competitive.

'What makes us unique?'

I actually don't even recommend you go that far early on in a playbook development.

The most important question to ask is in the eyes of our customer, relative to how our customers view the competition, what do we need to do?

In fairness at Yelp, it's like how do our clients perceive traditional marketing venues? How do our clients perceive the Google's the Facebook's and all of the other options of the world? We have to get anchored in that as a really good spot.

Identify top priorities

There's a blessing and a curse with all playbooks. This much time, this much content, this much opportunity, where do you start?

Here's the recommendation.

I've worked with teams that have said 'we just need to get going on our playbook.'

This meant we went live with playbooks that were incomplete.

They scrubbed the parts that we did go out with, but they weren't finished.

One of my clients previous to Yelp, they said ‘We need more leads into our pipeline and we need our reps having better meetings.’

So we patched together a playbook that got more into the pipeline, and gave the organization and the framework for our reps to go out and have initial discovery calls.

And that worked. We said 'holy shit, we have all these clients, what do we do with them?' And then we created the rest of the playbook downstream.

Interestingly, at Yelp, we came in the door and created a little bit more robustness around our products and our solutions because we had to get some clarity there. But my favorite thing is that we went out and said ‘What are the top six verticals we want to start with?’

We wanted to start with restaurants and retail and automotive and hotels. And once we push that out the door in May, guess what we're doing now, another six playbooks looking at very different industries.

We just got it out and the market continues and the reps tell us what to do.

Now here's a pro tip.

As you're identifying and starting to put together the components of your playbook, you'll have an agenda, a laundry list, key components, whatever you're going to call it.

Please ensure that you work with the collective people in your groups and come up with the proper language.

It will stick.

So whether you call them solutions or products, it doesn't matter. Pick one.

Whether you call them clients or customers, it doesn't matter. Pick one.

Do it from the outset because the people listening, both internally need to hear it from day one.

Give clear direction

In the world of pulling together content, it's one of the most fascinating and frustrating experiences.

As you're going out sourcing different people in your organization, could be inside or outside, your ability to be unbelievably clear in what you're looking for in your content, and then tweaking it along the way, will pay off in multiple benefits down the road.

We had seven weeks to create a playbook before we did a big launch.

We pulled together four office heads across the country to start to come up with some content.

We said ‘Hey, we need some content on what's going on in this particular industry. What are some of our products and add tools that actually line up with this industry?’

We gave them this bucket and we said ‘what kind of nuances do our reps need to be aware of selling into this vertical?’

We were 48 hours out from launching our playbook live to our reps in our entire multi location org. And our content was way too varied.

We realized very quickly we should have been more specific in our direction.

What did we mean?

We specifically meant ‘Who are the cast of characters that we want to be reaching out to? What are their roles? What are their responsibilities? What KPIs do they have on their backs? Specifically, how do they work internally to make decisions?’

We totally goofed.

So the six playbooks that we're developing now, we have got that structure and we learned that lesson early on.

Generalities won't cut it and don't leave it to chance and have multiple iterations.

Red blue traffic sign
Photo by Adrià Tormo / Unsplash

You have a hub

Your playbook operates as a hub.

It is a central repository with information going in and out.

Our current playbook exists. It's about four to six pages.

I have an extreme paranoia of protecting reps time. That means that the inundation that's going on in reps inboxes and emails drives me bananas.

We've got product sending product updates, some days when I walked in the door, leadership giving updates, marketing with their new events and things that are happening.

That has to stop.

If you think about this hub, your role as air traffic control is to ensure that the coordination and the sequencing of everything coming in and going out is organized in a thoughtful way that the reps can actually use it and access it in the moment that they need it.

It's not ‘where was that document again?’

No. Do whatever you can do to get the reps extreme rep focus.

It's really helpful to start to categorize in whatever way makes sense and matters to you.

How do we want to package this content?

A-level content would be non negotiable, do not pass go. These are your primary offerings. This is primary information about your clients, what you're offering to them, nuances that go on and possibly some tools.

B-level content for us are things like power maps, we ask that all of our reps create a power map to scope up bigger opportunities. So we know what's happening. We have question repositories in there. So as you're navigating through each stage of the sale, we actually have questions that align.

Operationally we've stitched in our sales process into our sales playbook.

We have four stages, detect, identify, clarify, execute, that's the type of stuff that sits in the B-level and it gets a little bit into A depending on what it looks like, C-level stuff can be articles and additional tools and resources and nice to have, depending on what the rep is focused on, depending on where the business is headed. So the earlier you can categorize that, it’s going to make a difference. The access is key.

They own it

This isn't your playbook.

It's hard that you don't technically own it. Who owns it? Leadership owns it, managers own it, reps own it, different stakeholders own it.

You just happen to be the centralized resource that can help pull it together. Specifically when you're thinking about executing and rolling it out.

I think we did three things really well.

When we got our essential playbook together in May, we were behind the scenes.

We prepared our CEO, our VP and our enterprise office head in front of all of our managers in May, we package them up and train them up to design and deliver to all of the managers.

We did a day long rollout that was full of information and exercises, but they owned it.

We didn't own it at all.

Still to this day, my team probably gets bored of me. I don't let them train at all.

Sure we show up and help a little bit, but along the way, the managers feel fully involved.

It's making a big difference along the way.

Repeat, repeat, repeat!

We knew we had standards in the playbook; create a multi tier strategy, create a wider network, move from pilots over to campaigns faster, front run objections, that was playbook stuff.

We worked with HR, and now our reps are evaluated on the core standards that sit in the playbooks and they're not just words, when we say develop a multi tier strategy, we help them to learn how to do that.

We train the managers on how to coach and build skill and capability around that.

The other thing that we did was we realized, we need reps to have a repeatable, consistent approach, time and time again.

It didn't matter if you came into the door at Yelp, and you had been there for three months, or you're a veteran enterprise sales person. With experience out there, we needed to feel confident that the baseline was not being eroded.

This is tough. You've got people in your organizations who've been there for a really long time, some people just joined, we needed to get baseline.

So we created something called Project Simplify.

We went to the drawing board and we made decks that were used in discovery calls and some recommendations and pitches down the road.

The reps have access to these linked off of the hub and the playbook so that every time they open up an opportunity, they have to use this consistent deck.

Now there's some freedom and there's some room to breathe and we position it that way so that we're not turning them into puppets, but we show them where they have creative license, because we can't afford to goof up any meetings, the complexities of the sales environment are way too high.

We can't afford to misfire.

This is basic business, but at the end of the day, these are pretty big feats that you're undertaking and you'll do a fantastic job if you reward along the way.

There's never a perfect order. They'll all work, make up your own version and you'll be perfectly okay.

This article is adapted from a speech Darlene gave at the SES San Francisco, Darlene Samer is Director of Sales Enablement at Yelp