A Conversation With Eric Pratt: Why Sales Playbooks are a Necessary Complement to Inbound Marketing Plans

By: Teresa Weirich

November 15, 2018

Eric Pratt, Author and Managing Partner at Revenue River

For Eric Pratt, more than thirteen years in the sales and marketing industry taught him a few things about how these teams can work together. This understanding led him to found Revenue River in 2009, a digital marketing and sales innovation agency.

“When we became a Hubspot partner in 2012, our focus shifted from being an outsourced sales agency to a digital marketing agency,” Eric said. “Now, we work with sales and marketing teams all over the world to implement strategies to help organizations compete and win online. This eventually led to an introduction to the Costello team as well. We realize that everything marketers do directly supports sales, but there has always been a pretty big gap between these two teams. Our goal is to align systems, strategies, and teams to bridge this gap.”

In the following conversation, Eric talks about the importance of sales playbooks for inbound teams, how a strong sales methodology can increase success, and how sales and marketing teams can better work together.

How can sales enablement complement inbound marketing efforts?

I see marketing’s role supporting the entire funnel, finding and cultivating solid inbound leads for sales teams. When sales-ready, these leads are passed along to sales with proper context. The sales enablement team is the guiding hand throughout this entire process. Sales enablement gives marketers, SDRs, and sales reps context into their prospects, their deals, and their engagements. The right training, collateral, and communication all act as tools for salespeople. With these tools at their disposal, sales reps can increase their selling time and win more business.

Sale enablement and collateral are only becoming more important as the sales industry as a whole continues to shift and change. Buyers are more prepared than ever before to seek out their own sources of information before making a purchase decision. At Revenue River, we create a veritable arsenal of marketing assets for our reps to help with deals. This is also where sales playbooks start to come into the equation.

Playbooks deliver guidance and roadmaps throughout the sales process. They help identify exactly where a buyer is in their journey and then help reps deliver the right context and consultation. It’s a continuous cycle of enablement and sales success.

Where should marketers start when it comes to creating the right content and assets for sales teams?

This is a great question, and I always recommend reverse-engineering the sales funnel. Most marketers want to start at the top of the funnel and create awareness content to bring in new leads, but I believe marketers should start building at the bottom of the funnel. Look at the personas of prospects that are ready and willing to buy. Then, create content that provides value to the prospect.

This will help on two levels. On one hand, your prospect will be influenced to make a purchase decision, and on the other hand, it will help marketers gain the trust and respect of sales. Creating content that is valuable and actionable for salespeople should always be the first step.

What are some common themes and styles that you come across when working with sales and marketing teams?

Because the way people make buying decisions has changed so drastically in recent years, the way we manage sales processes also has had to change. Everything is more technology-driven, including the sales system and processes. One of the biggest challenges I see is actually getting salespeople to adopt and embrace new methodologies and technologies.

Salespeople are notoriously wary of diving into new processes they haven’t operated in before, and with the sales technology stack growing larger by the day, it’s critical to get them on board early. Marketers can build content assets and sales playbooks to their heart’s content, but if sales reps don’t use them then it’s never going to work.

This opens a new challenge of how to communicate and engage with sales reps and with marketers. It’s important to understand everyone’s paradigms and what motivates them. As a sales team leader, you need to adjust your communication style depending on what people are held accountable for. As a service provider, we try to contribute to clients on a personal and organizational level. When you’re working with large organizations, you need to keep in mind individual needs as well as organizational needs.

Do you subscribe to a specific sales methodology at Revenue River that you share with customers?

On a personal level, we believe in and use all the technology we push out to our clients. All of our technology partners are used in-house at Revenue River first, so we can test them out and weigh their attributes for ourselves before implementing them with our clients. As far as methodologies go, I believe the Baseline Selling is a great option for modernizing sales efforts, as it relies heavily on asking probing questions and evaluating issues before prescribing a solution. This keeps reps from pitching or selling a product before you know exactly what your prospect needs.

What are some recommendations you have for other sales leaders?

My book “How to Lead and Compete in a Digital Universe” helps C-level leaders tasked with leading the charge in sales teams to understand what they’re up against. Embracing an organizational mindset for change is a huge part of competing to win in the digital world, and the book is a great resource for leaders who might not be as familiar with the technical side to better understand and empower their teams.

Other recommendations include the Franklin Covey curriculum, Spin Selling by Neil Rackham, and the Challenger Sale series.


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    Teresa Weirich

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For more information on best practices of great sales leaders, check out the Costello resources below. If you’d like to see Costello in action, request a personalized demo of our real-time sales playbook software.

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