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6 minutes
August 14, 2023

A guide to B2B sales plays: What every play needs to succeed

Sales plays are used by sales teams to guide and optimize sales strategies and strengthen customer interactions. Let's talk about how to build effectives plays for your sales team.
Alex Carlson
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In today’s hypercompetitive business landscape,  many B2B SaaS sellers are struggling to hit their goals. Luckily, making a few changes can be all the difference between failing short of quotas and making a massive impact on the bottom line.

In fact, if you’re willing to spend time creating new sales plays that can be implemented quickly, you can build pipeline and achieve your goals for Q3, Q4, and beyond.

Keep reading to learn more about sales plays, how they differ from sales playbooks, why they matter, and how to use sales plays to build pipeline.

What is a sales play?

A sales play is a strategic, coordinated approach that outlines the specific steps, actions, and tactics sales teams should take to achieve particular goals or respond to specific sales challenges. Examples include upselling to existing customers, handling objections during negotiations, winning back churned customers, and launching cold outbound email sequences.

At a high level, SaaS sales plays aim to guide sales teams through the entire sales process, from prospecting and lead generation to closing deals and beyond. 

Sales plays are used by sales teams, sales managers, and other departments to guide and optimize sales strategies and strengthen customer interactions. While reps use them to structure their approach and ensure they engage with prospects effectively, sales managers use them to train and coach their teams, assessing the effectiveness of different plays and making sure every rep is aligned with the organization’s sales strategies.

Sales plays are created in a collaborative process, with reps, sales enablement teams, and marketers working together to ensure that sales teams have the tools and resources they need to close deals — and that their efforts are aligned with marketing messaging.

What’s the difference between a sales play and a playbook?

A sales play is a granular strategy designed to help teams achieve a particular objective or address a specific challenge. It outlines the step-by-step actions, tactics, and processes that sales teams should follow to execute the strategy effectively. Generally speaking, sales plays are focused and targeted. They usually address particular scenarios, customer segments, or obstacles.

A sales playbook, on the other hand, is a comprehensive and organized collection of various sales plays, strategies, techniques, and resources that sales teams can refer to for guidance. Playbooks serve as centralized knowledge bases that cover a wide range of scenarios and sales situations. Essentially, they’re repositories of best practices, tactics, and approaches that sales teams can use to improve their overall performance and outcomes.

Bottom line? A sales play is a single, targeted tactic, and a sales playbook is a vast collection of multiple sales plays and associated resources. 

Benefits of B2B sales plays for reps and sales leaders

SaaS sales plays deliver a number of benefits to both reps and leaders within an organization. Altogether, these benefits help companies improve efficiency, effectiveness, and collaboration across the entire sales process.

For sales representatives, sales plays provide a clear, structured framework they can follow to move through the common sales scenarios they’ll encounter. This, in turn, eliminates guesswork and gives reps the tools they need to act with confidence. Additionally, sales plays help reps deliver consistent messaging in each interaction, which ensures sales teams maintain a unified brand image across touchpoints, strengthening the customer experience. Instead of having to start from scratch, reps can also lean on sales plays to operate more efficiently; similarly, new hires can get up to speed considerably faster when the organization has a library of sales plays at its disposal.

Sales plays also deliver several benefits to sales leaders. Not only do they make it easier to ensure consistent processes and messaging across the team, it’s also obvious to determine which sales plays are yielding the best results — and which need to be revised. At the same time, sales plays also let managers become more agile. When the market shifts, they can roll out new sales plays to ensure the team stays aligned. Other benefits include accelerated new hire onboarding, more accurate forecasting, and scalability.

What do SaaS sales plays look like?

While sales plays may vary depending on an organization’s size, industry, and priorities, all sales plays should include these four components:

  1. Scenarios, or clearly defined sales situations that the play addresses. These can include new product launches, account expansions, renewal negotiations, and churn prevention.
  1. Trigger events, which signal the need for deploying particular sales players and occur when prospects take a certain action (e.g., hire a new decision maker) or external factors create an opportunity for engagement (e.g., the pandemic driving the rapid migration to remote work). Other examples include prospects announcing new funding, receiving an industry award, or visiting your website and downloading a specific resource.
  1. Messaging that addresses the prospect’s pain points, needs, and goals that relate to each trigger event. Messaging should be personalized and compelling, focusing on how your solution addresses the prospect’s specific challenges.
  1. Action, or a series of actionable steps sales reps can take to execute each play successfully. Ideally, the steps provide a clear roadmap for engaging with the prospect and guiding them through the sales process.

Sales plays best practices: How to enable and train your team

You might have the best sales plays in the world. But if your team doesn’t know how to execute them properly, your efforts may very well be in vain. Adopt these sales play best practices to avoid that fate and achieve the business outcomes you’re aiming for.

Create comprehensive playbooks

First things first: Develop detailed playbooks that include sales plays that cover specific scenarios, trigger events, and actions, including relevant messaging that will help reps navigate whatever situation comes their way. By creating and maintaining comprehensive playbooks — and making sure sellers can easily access and refer to them — you can provide a structured framework sales reps can follow to effectively navigate common scenarios and challenges.

Keep playbooks up to date

The world is constantly changing. To keep pace, update your playbooks regularly with the latest market insights, trends, and customer feedback; broadcast these updates to your team to keep them aware of the changes. Ensuring the accuracy and relevancy of your playbooks helps sales teams stay aligned with evolving trends and gives them new sales plays to lean on when market conditions evolve.

Limit the number of plays for each rep

Instead of having your sales team execute several different sales plays at once, limit the number of plays each rep should focus on to help them work more efficiently. Overwhelming teams with too many plays can dilute their efforts, weakening the quality of interactions with potential clients. In some cases, you might want your whole team to focus on the same plays; in others, you might want to segment your team and have different groups prioritize different plays.

Recognize success

Employees like to be recognized for their hard work; according to the Harvard Business Review, employees who believe their managers did a great job recognizing their efforts were 40% more engaged than their counterparts. To this end, celebrate your team’s wins and share real success stories achieved through specific plays. Not only does recognizing wins boost morale, it also validates the effectiveness of the plays and inspires others to give them a try.

Measure performance and continuously improve

No matter how good your sales team is, you can always improve. Cultivate a culture of continuous improvement by measuring performance, offering ongoing training, and keeping the team engaged and up-to-date with new plays. While you’re at it, establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to gauge the impact of each play. Regularly analyze those metrics to find out what’s working and what isn’t, and refine your approach accordingly.

When will you start testing new sales plays in the field?

Simply put, having a robust library of sales plays at your disposal makes life easier for your reps — which, in turn, bolsters your bottom line.

Whatever sales plays you decide to implement, you’re going to need eye-catching subject lines and engaging copy to ultimately convert prospects and win new business.

To learn more about how to create outbound sequences that convert, check out this on-demand webinar.