I wrote a Linkedin post in Summer 2023 to share a few thoughts about Go-To-Market (GTM) Playbooks, in which I mentioned some of the things that in my experience do not work anymore.
How many SaaS B2B startups and scaleups are still following a GTM Playbook that is obsolete although it used to work well in 2015-2020?
Table of Contents
In this article I’m sharing my perspective on what are the basic “Fundamentals” of a Go-To-Market Playbook. The elements that do not change with time or specific circumstances or industries.
Go-to-Market Playbook is not a template.
Search for “SaaS Sales Playbook” on Google and you will find a good selection of downloadable templates ready to deploy. Go to this link.
It happens more or less the same if you search for “SaaS Customer Success Playbook” or “SaaS Marketing Playbook”.
I had a meeting some time ago with the co-founder and the Sales VP of a Berlin-based SaaS startup backed by renowned Venture Capital firms. They were at around 5 million € in ARR but revenue had been flat for a while.
At some point during the meeting I asked whether the sales team had a Playbook and their answer was: yes of course!
At that point the VP started to screen share a word document of around 15-20 pages. Each page had a link to several other detailed word or excel files. At least 100 links. 5-10 links per page. There was truly everything a sales person needed to know to work in a structured way and be successful in that company. Everything. Nevertheless it was not working.
After 15 minutes of meticulous presentation I interrupted the VP and asked: does the team comply with this Playbook? Are they executing it properly?
Unsurprisingly, the co-founder replied: Luigi, that’s the issue. People don’t comply. We tried everything.
Well, I gave feedback to that team and it was that they thought they had a Playbook but they didn’t have any, as a matter of fact!
Playbook is behaviour in execution and not a piece of paper.
It’s not just a codified process. It’s a set of rules about the whole go-to-market strategy and how the revenue teams must work together.
“You know why playing a game is fun? Because it has rules, and you have a way to win. Picture a bunch of people showing up at some athletic field with random equipment and no rules. People are going to get hurt. You don’t know what you are playing for, you don’t know how to win, you don’t know how to score, and you don’t know what the objectives are.”
From “High growth Handbook” by Elad Gil.
Photo Ono Kosuki on Pexels
Playbook should work like the “imprinting” for animals.
“Imprinting, in psychobiology, is a form of learning in which a very young animal fixes its attention on the first object with which it has visual, auditory, or tactile experience and thereafter follows that object.” From britannica.com
Understanding, digesting and seeing the Go-To-Market Playbook in action should be the priority activity that any new SDR, Account Executive, Customer Success or Demand Generation / Marketing person should get assigned as soon as they join the company.
On the contrary, it’s quite common that a new hire in the Revenue team is given endless product trainings at the very beginning.
When I joined a corporation like Kellogg’s at the start of my career they didn’t bring me to the factory at the very beginning, to learn everything about corn flakes.
The onboarding was focused on inductions about the value propositions, the competitive landscape, the positioning, the market data and most importantly they sent me on the court to spend time in supermarkets and see customers in action.
Product knowledge is important. Too much product knowledge may be counter productive for new hires.
Photo Racler Claire on Pexels
It’s a religion and not a dictatorship.
You need to build an army of devotees who believe in the game plan expressed by your Playbook.
They should execute driven by trust and not by fear.
As a revenue leader you need to behave with the passion of an evangelical pastor to explain obsessively the Why How and What of the playbook. For example I like to name the team shared folder “go-To-Market Bible” ☺️
It helps to generate that sense of the sacred that the documentation loaded on it (centrally managed) should have in order to drive the appropriate team behaviour.
Playbook is theory and practice and practice and practice again. Continuous enablement is the key.
Why did the team in Germany at the start of this article struggle to get the team execute the Playbook?
You can’t expect execution without building the conditions for the team to practice and you should provide continuous support and feedback.
For example in Sales during the first 12 months (at least) of Playbook implementation the agenda of the weekly one2many team meetings of a sales manager should always include a learning session of 20-30 minutes:
- Use the ‘learning’ section of your weekly meeting to review a section of your current playbook with the team and confirm, edit or remove plays as appropriate.
- It is an easy way to engage the team in a productive learning context
- Reps have the best advice on improving plays
- Gets buy-in to standard plays because they are co-created
- Sharpens the saw for everyone by thinking critically about our plays
Photo Monstera on Pexels
The Go-To-Market Playbook is a never-ending work in progress. It’s not a one-off exercise.
There is not such a thing as a Playbook for all seasons.
For the first 12 months since kick-off there should be structured reviews and edits at least once a month.
For the second year a review every quarter should be fine. Then twice a year is ok.
Example of structure for a SaaS B2B startup
- About the company
- Roles within the team (the Why, How and What)
- Sales Development Rep (SDR)
- Business Development Manager (BDM)
- Account Executive (AE)
- Which verticals do we target?
- Buyer personas
- Job roles
- More details about our ICP (Ideal Customer Profile)
- Objective – Outbound
- Onboarding Plan for SDR
- Daily Planning of SDRs
- Prospecting and finding leads/contact details
- From contact to first meeting – steps to make
- Prospecting emails
- Elevator pitch – phone call
Sales protocol, Salesforce and tools
- Account Executives
- Understanding the differences between Customer Success & Customer Service
- Customer Segmentation
- Onboarding and Ramp-up
- Viability check
- Set up
- Full adoption
- Full adoption
- Follow up
- Upgrade or Lockdown
- Business Case
- Onboarding and Ramp-up
- Customer Health Score
- Support pack hours
- Support requests + BUG
Featured photo by Cottonbro on Pexels
This article was originally written in 2021 and refreshed in October 2023.
If you enjoyed this post, you will also like Game Plan for a Healthy Go-To-Market in B2B SaaS and Game plan for going upmarket in B2B SaaS and Is the “classic” VP Sales model broken in mainland Europe? and SaaS Revenue Leaders. How to reduce the 3 main risks in VC-backed startups.