A Seven-Step Guide To Building A Customer-Focused Industry Sales Playbook

Founder and President of FinListics Solutions. Author of Amazon Best Seller, “Insight-Led Selling.”

Industry playbooks are critical to building a customer insights-led sales organization. Yet, in a survey of front-line sellers as well as sales and sales enablement leaders conducted by FinListics reveals that 4% rate their playbooks as excellent, 64% report progress is being made, 32% do not have playbooks.

This article provides a seven-step guide to building a customer-focused industry playbook. The information in these steps is in addition to the typical playbook content like the industry’s product and services, largest players, etc.

Before exploring the steps, a couple of comments.

Make playbooks a dynamic resource. Creating playbooks take time, but it makes sellers more relevant to executive buyers. They are also scalable across individual customers since companies within the same industry tend to face the same challenges and have similar goals and strategies. Things are always changing so be prepared to update it at least annually.

It takes a team. The team includes members like sales and sales enablement leaders, sellers, solution architects, industry experts and product development. Don’t forget to include customers.

I use the consumer-packaged goods (CPG) industry as an example. The examples are not exhaustive. The sales organization building the playbook provides solutions that help improve operational efficiencies in manufacturing.

There are many sources of industry information like trade associations, analysts’ reports, as well as investor presentations for individual companies.

Step One: Identify industry business and technology trends.

Understanding an industry’s business and technology trends offers sellers these benefits:

• It helps sellers understand how solutions assist customers in embracing positive trends and addressing the negative ones.

• It provides sellers a potential opportunity to tell buyers something they don’t know about managing trends.

Common business trends in CPG include the retail model shift and the evolution of customer preferences.

Common technology trends in CPG include data and analytics as well as cybersecurity.

Step Two: Define industry risk factors.

The benefits of understanding industry risks include:

• It provides a framework to show the benefits of your solutions.

• It helps compare the risks your customer’s executives are focused on with those of the industry.

Examples of risks in CPG include operational and customer risks. On the operations side, there is the risk of supply chain disruption and risk when it comes to retaining qualified personnel. On the customer side, there is a risk that the customer fails to innovate or prioritize safety. There is also an economic risk, specifically with price fluctuations and global trade policies. 

Step Three: Analyze industry financial performance.

Knowing industry performance provides these benefits:

• It helps create a viewpoint of where solutions add the greatest value.

• It provides perspective on your customer’s relative performance.

Two of the key areas of performance for CPG include:

Revenue growth: If generally declining, this could mean the volume is declining but is offset in part by increased prices.

Profitability: If slightly increasing, look to headwinds like rising expenses for materials and labor.

Step Four: Identify common industry goals and strategies.

Knowing common industry goals and strategies helps:

• Align solutions with customers’ key areas of focus.

• Compare your customer’s specific goals and strategies to those of the industry.

Common goals and related strategies in CPG include increasing revenue and expanding profitability. You can increase revenue with enhanced customer experience and by expanding omnichannel communication. You can expand profitability by improving operational efficiencies and maintaining best-in-class talent. 

Step Five: Determine line of businesses (LOBs) that support goals and strategies.

Buying groups are getting larger. The benefits of knowing LOBs that support goals and strategies are:

• You can better understand what matters most to your traditional buyers.

• You can gain the ability to easily identify potential new buyers.

For the goal of expanding profitability, two important lines of businesses are manufacturing as well as distribution and logistics.

Step Six: Define LOBs initiatives and operational KPIs.

LOBs often have different initiatives and measure success differently — through operational KPIs. Knowing these offers powerful benefits:

• It can provide a framework to tell the story about how solutions deliver business outcomes.

• It helps tailor sales message for individual LOBs.

Initiatives like leveraging sensor technology and IoT to increase yield and improve processes can help with the expanded profitability goal. Minimizing asset downtime and improving quality with predictive analytics can also help.

For operation KPIs, they should apply to material, labor and capacity utilization.

Step Seven: Map solutions.

Mapping your solutions to customers’ goals, strategies, initiatives and operational KPIs is one of the most important parts of an industry playbook. I also find this to be a challenge for many sales organizations.

The following is a framework for mapping solutions that ties together much of the information gathered in the first six steps. Remember that the sales organization developing the playbook provides solutions that help better manage manufacturing costs.

Map solutions to areas of financial performance and operational KPIs. The cost of goods sold includes materials and labor.

Create non-technical “how” statements.

• Materials: Less materials are consumed by more granular analysis through automation of the tracking of materials production and consumption and the net loss that happens within those processes.

• Labor: Automation provides quicker changeovers, reducing idle labor and increasing productivity.

The “how” statements align with individual LOBs initiatives that the solutions can help implement. 

Develop non-technical probing questions.

How well are you collecting and leveraging real-time data from IoT sensors to better manage areas of operations like materials and labor?

How does your capacity utilization compare to your desired utilization and those of your competitors?

Calculate the power of one.

The power of one provides insights into solutions’ financial benefits. The power of one is the financial benefit from a 1% improvement to the LOBs’ operational KPIs. The power of one helps:

• Identify where solutions have the greatest benefits.

• Provide a financial focus early in the sales cycle.

I recommend that the power of one be estimated using industry averages and applied to a common revenue size like $1 billion. In CPG, material and labor costs average approximately 20% and 10% of revenue, respectively. Using revenue of $1 billion, the power of one comes out to $2 million improvement for materials and $1 million improvement for labor. 

I hope you find this guide useful. I want to leave you with a few last recommendations. Make it a team effort. Focus on a few of your key industries and solutions. Collaborate with customers.

Good luck.

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