A Game-Winning Strategy: Get Your Sales Playbook and CRM to Team Up

Every successful sales organization has a playbook—it's one of the oldest, most established practices in the industry. Another, newer tradition that every successful sales organization has come to embrace? CRM. They might seem completely tangential from one another, but sales playbooks and CRM are actually a perfect match—each makes the other exponentially more effective. You can have a sales playbook PDF and expect your reps to stop selling in order to reference it; you can have a CRM solution and expect reps to remember their playbook strategy in every situation. But it's far more effective when you have them work together.

Both sales playbooks and CRM solutions are extremely multifaceted, but in general there are two overarching considerations that should convince you that combining them brings sales to a whole new level.

1. Integrating your sales playbook and your CRM platform allows for a faster workflow.

This one ought to be obvious. Let's say you use Salesforce as your CRM platform. If that's the case, you are already asking your sales team to enter their opportunity information into that platform. If that's where your opportunity information is held, then that's where your playbook needs to be. It must integrate tightly with Salesforce so that when the salesperson works with an opportunity, the playbook will always be present, exactly where it's most useful. That way, the playbook (if it's smart enough) can react to the stages of the sale and the attributes of the opportunity, like the size of the dealer or the products included in the opportunity record, to present the right playbook for that opportunity.

But not all integrations are created equal—the rule is, in general, the tighter the better. If you're on Salesforce, then the playbook will benefit hugely if it is native on the Salesforce platform, so that your data resides in the Salesforce Cloud, and all of the data captured within the playbook is inherently accessible to Salesforce reports, dashboards, and other applications. You don't have to worry about the security of a third-party cloud, the data transfer issues that occur with non-native solutions, or the reliability of a third-party hosting infrastructure.

Complete integration with your CRM delivers the optimum experience for the salesperson and provides sales managers with the ability to view data in the context of the rest of the business. 

2. Integrating the two can greatly increase the accuracy of your sales forecast.

Salespeople spend about 2.5 hours each week on sales forecasting, and often the accuracy of sales forecasts leave a lot to be desired. In fact, based on our recent research, companies who do not define and effectively execute a sales process have inaccurate sales forecasts 71 percent of the time! With success or failure usually measured in margins far less than 25 percent, these forecasts are truly worthless. The good news, though, is that a very strong causal connection can be made between sales process and forecast accuracy. According to that same research study, companies that did define and execute their sales process well reduced the level of inaccuracy to 33 percent. That is a 200 percent increase in sales forecast accuracy.

To maximize the impact of your playbook on the accuracy of your sales forecast, it must be integrated with your CRM, and you should consider two major questions:

(a) Does the sales playbook incorporate intelligence that objectively monitors or manages the close date of the sale? Is it in the CRM? If you’ve built in sales best practices, and your sales playbook can learn about the rhythm of your business, then it should be smart enough to help predict the close date of the opportunity and identify for the salesperson the difference between his opinion of when the deal will close and a projected close date based on past behavior of winning sales cycles.

(b) Does the sales playbook provide the sales manager with insight into deal vulnerabilities and risks in the forecast? It should be able to answer these very important questions: What's in the forecast? Are any of the reps counting on unusually large deals to make the quarter? Are all deals being worked? What has closed? What is projected? Which deals are moving quickly, and which opportunities are stalled?

Your sales playbook—when integrated with CRM—should help you to give those 2.5 hours back to the salesperson, improve the accuracy of the forecast for each opportunity, and provide the sales manager with insight into the factors that will help her understand what she needs to do to make or exceed the quota for the team.

Donal Daly is CEO and founder of the TAS Group and author of the best-seller Account Planning in Salesforce (available on Amazon.com). Daly combines his expertise in enterprise software applications, artificial intelligence, and sales methodology as he continues to transform how progressive organizations sell. The TAS Group is Donal's fifth global business enterprise. 

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