Imagine that you are the head coach of an NFL team and you are in the playoffs. Your team is down by nine points in the beginning of the fourth quarter. What is your next move? Will you be creative and come up with some new plays? Or, will you go to your playbook and use plays that match the situation? Plays that your team has practiced and know how to execute.
Like a playbook is to a coach, a sales playbook can provide an outline of the tools and next steps for a salesperson. Playbooks can focus the sales effort, improve hit ratios, streamline the sales effort, help with producer development, and optimize overall sales performance. In other words, they help salespeople win.
Sales playbooks are a collection of the agency’s best sales processes and the tools required from finding prospects to closing the sale. A playbook is designed for repeatable selling situations. Since much of sales are repetitive, the playbook is designed to reinforce repeatable winning behavior.
Creating a sales playbook for niche or program sales is a great way to get started. The focus can be on a specific industry – telecommunication firms, or a narrow target – retail shops in the downtown area. Focusing in on a target niche helps limit the scope of the effort required to create the playbook.
Keep in mind that there is the added benefit of actually sitting down and thinking about and planning sales. Critical questions about the sales process, agency resources and the needs of the client will need to be explored and answered. The development of a niche market sales playbook will also help the sales staff create an overall sales strategy for the agency and bring clarity to their own goals. The niche playbook is a building block to an overall sales and marketing plan for the agency.
Building A Sales Playbook
First, start with a three ring binder. Building a playbook will be a combination of written plans, descriptions, processes as well as lists, copies of forms, documents, sample marketing materials, etc. It is intended to be an off the shelf reference book – one that is used on a regular basis.
There are five main sections to include in a niche market sales playbook: 1) Define the Niche, 2) Understand the Niche, 3) Evaluate Agency Resources, 4) Presentation of Products and Services, and 5) Sales Tools. Combined, these sections will allow a producer to know who the target is, understand the targets needs, know the resources and products the agency has available and consolidate the tools required to communicate and work with prospects.
1) Define the Niche
So, who is the targeted group for the focused sales effort? The description should be as specific as possible. Use a page or two to describe industry, size, location, revenue, number of employees, etc. of the target niche for prospects. Clarity of vision is important in knowing whom to focus on. Once that is done, a master suspect list can be purchased or created. Refine the master list even further for likely suspects, to create an initial prospect list that can be contacted right away. This takes away the excuse of not having any leads.
2) Understand the Niche
This section allows for the casual observer to become well acquainted with the salient facts of the niche industry. Summarize the key issues for the industry. Describe the competition in the marketplace. What is the history of the industry? What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for this niche?
Drill down into insurance related issues. Describe and list unique underwriting requirements, loss control issues, and any other special insurance needs. Include in this section an industry-specific questionnaire or supplemental questionnaires. List any unique marketing and sales issues that the companies might have.
It is important to be able to speak the language and understand the issues of the niche. In this section create an industry-specific glossary of terms. Include current articles on topics of interest. Make sure that there is a list of target-related associations, affiliations,
subcontractors, vendors, trade journals, etc. Identify current insurance “pains” and gaps that might exist.
3) Evaluate Agency Resources
Now the target is well defined, but can the agency deliver a product or service to the client? This section needs to be an honest self-analysis of the resources in the agency.
If there currently is one, describe the agency’s program. What are the current available markets for the niche? Which ones, if any, should be added? Are there any unique policies and coverages for the niche? Does the agency have any specialized customer service or value-added services for the targeted niche?
Perform an assessment of the agency’s program for the niche. Evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, and gaps. How does it compare to the competition? If possible, rate the program against perceived customers’ needs and expectations. It is helpful to get as much outside opinions as possible.
4) Present Products and Services
The next steps are to clarify how the agency will communicate and promote the niche market program. Use one page to define the sales and marketing strategy — How, What, When, Why, Who, etc.
Refine the words to highlight key features and the benefits of program into a 30-second elevator pitch that the producers can use. Create industry-specific brochures and marketing materials for the program. Very often these marketing materials can be created and paid for by the insurance companies, especially if this is a niche they are trulyinterested in expanding.
Include in this section all customized marketing letters and e-mails, newsletters, sales scripts, etc. This will be a quick reference for the sales staff. Also, include a list of current clients in the niche and get testimonials from the key accounts. This helps build credibility and can be an opening to a conversation with a prospect.
5) Sales Tools
The last section is for sales tools. Create an industry-specific pre-qualification questionnaire. Develop a sample of typical questions and objections used by this niche and then create answers and solutions. Another great tool are scripts for role-playing as well as for the service staff. Include general marketing tools and other resources the sales staff can use, such as time management tools. A list of action items and calendar for closure needs to be drafted.
Part of this process needs to be a way to analyze results and make adjustments. A system needs to be developed to track what is working and what is not working. This includes sales techniques, methods of contacting prospects, marketing materials, products and services offered, etc.
Evolve the Playbook
The sales playbook is not a static book. It will need constant updating to current industry trends, news, issues, as well as prospect lists and current insurance products for the niche. This is why tracking efforts and results is so critical.
Once the first niche book is created, it can become a template for other focused sales targets. The agency should have one master playbook for each niche. Producers can then copy it to create a personalized version for their own use.
A final thought
Sales playbooks are the roadmap to access the best approach and techniques for the sales process. It is a reference book, checklist and bag of tricks all in one three-ring binder. Developing and maintaining a sales playbook is perhaps more important than the end result itself. Producing it encourages you to ask critical questions about how you sell. What you discover during this process will make you a better sales organization.