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updated: 1/24/2018 12:43 PM

Sales managers: Do you have a playbook for 2018?

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This is the time of year when the professional football season comes to an end, which means that coaches will be judged for their success or failure. The judgment occurs in the form of their contract renewal or termination and as harsh as it seems, the won-lost column is always a key indicator for team ownership in the decision-making process.

I was watching ESPN the other day and heard a commentator report on potential firings saying, "Most of the managers who will be fired didn't have an effective playbook and the others had one, but didn't follow it!" He continued by asserting that the three keys to success in the National Football League were: the right personnel, an effective playbook and the coach's ability to develop a unified team during their 16-game schedule.

This made me think of the high-performing sales managers I coach and train each year, as they take a similar approach to achieving their goals. You see, they have the same won-lost column, only it is associated with closing business and the way to assure more wins, fewer or no losses, lies in the same three keys: the right personnel, an effective playbook and the ability to motivate their team over the course of the year.

The linchpin for the sales manager's success is a well-constructed and well-executed playbook as it connects the right personnel with maximal motivation. With that in mind, let me make a few suggestions that will help you design a fail-proof sales playbook:

• A good 30 second commercial is the starting point as it's the way in which salespeople introduce their company. My experience tells me that in any given company, each salesperson has their preferred way of explaining what the company does which, often, causes confusion in the marketplace. Managers should develop a standard 30 second commercial and then work with each salesperson to personalize it.

• An effective prospecting script to serve as a talk-track that must be personalized to fit each individual salesperson. All prospecting talk-tracks should begin with the 30 second commercial that is followed by asking three critical questions to access the prospect's concerns, disappointments or fears. Managers should construct a script that each salesperson can customize to fit their personality.

• Techniques to combat the top five objections salespeople encounter as they continuously trip up lower performing salespeople. Prospects predictably give the same five excuses for not meeting with salespeople. Low performers accept these excuses as if they were true in lieu of applying a questioning strategy to overcome them. Managers should conduct a sales meeting, give salespersons permission to list all the objections prospects typically use and then brainstorm strategies and tactics to overcome them.

• A sales process to be strictly followed by all salespeople on the team. Most salespeople sell using personality and intuition which constitute a methodology for disaster. The manager should have a well-defined six to eight step selling system and monitor its usage.

• Briefing and debriefing sales objectives for each sales call. 80 percent of sales calls are won in the briefing and debriefing process. A solid pre-ball strategy is the driver of success and a debriefing strategy that analyzes what went well and what could have been done differently completes the process. Sales managers should develop a pre-ball planning process that must be followed and then give each salesperson a list of 10 questions they must be able to answer at the end of the sales call.

These are always the first five pages, among many, in my playbook and they represent the key in assuring consistent, predictable success. Managers who don't do this are typically putting too much faith in the salesperson's ability to do this on their own. Take a lesson from all successful coaches: Help your salespeople build sales muscle by executing a playbook mentality and celebrate all the wins at year-end! Go conquer your worlds!

• Bill Bartlett owns Corporate Strategies, A Sandler Training Center. Text "SalesTip" to 71813 to receive Bill's biweekly newsletter.