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An Interview With Asa Hochhauser: The Importance of Building a Sales Playbook

By: Teresa Weirich

July 31, 2018

Asa Hochhauser

Asa Hochhauser has been in sales for 13 years, calling it a profession that chose him rather than the other way around. His primary experience has been on the phone, but his first job required him to work door-to-door. That’s how Asa learned about “the emotional side of sales.” From there, he got into a more professional environment, doing 60 calls a day, setting appointments, and selling subscriptions over the phone. Most importantly, he continued growing his knowledge of sales.

But it was Asa’s first enterprise position at ION Interactive that pushed him to develop the professionalism and expertise he needed to be successful over his seven-year tenure. He was an individual contributor for about three years before being promoted to head of business development.

Asa crafted and deployed his own sales playbook that allowed him to grow his business development team from one rep to six, which led to him managing three account executives as well. When Asa left the company in June, he’d grown his team to ten account executives and six business development reps.

In this conversation with Asa, we focused on how he established his sales playbook and what practical steps other sales teams can take to replicate his success.

How should teams think about creating a sales playbook?

A successful sales team requires a playbook to help determine what is and isn’t working. That way, a team can double down when they find something that works and can scale their success from there.

“Our team had all these things we were doing and teaching,” Asa said, “but it wasn’t until we started to document everything so we could share it and digest it that we had a playbook.”

A team’s playbook takes shape when you put information in a solid format a team can actually use:

  • Document everything: Write down every strategy and tactic, both successful and unsuccessful. Record all results.
  • Make the information accessible: Commit to a format that’s easy for salespeople to read, re-read, and share.
  • Study the playbook: Ensure everyone on the team is familiar with the most successful “plays” and processes, so they can be repeated.

Why do sales playbooks get results?

Early on in a company’s development, a founder or a gifted salesperson usually kicks off the beginning of the sales organization. That person handles inbound leads, learns what resonates with the market, and figures out how to overcome common obstacles.

Asa believes the person who shapes those early successes should also shape the team’s playbook as it’s the best way to take that pioneer’s knowledge and teach it to others. That way future sales reps aren’t forever reinventing the wheel.

“In this era, companies need to grow yesterday,” Asa said, “and they don’t have time to wait for sales professionals to come in and figure out everything themselves.”

What processes should a playbook be used for?

Asa believes a sales team can and often should create a playbook for just about anything, including:

  • How do you go about finding a lead?
  • What does a rep do on a first call?
  • How should the rep handle the discovery process?
  • What does a rep do in an in-person meeting?
  • What happens after a deal is closed?

There isn’t a bad time to use a sales playbook. They can also be used for any number of internal processes, Asa explained.

How can a company provide a solid playbook without overdoing it and scripting its reps too much?

Effective sales leaders balance the creativity of their team members by giving them a solid framework. A playbook provides an understanding of how various scenarios could potentially play out and ensures each rep is prepared.

Sales playbooks should come from leaders, but they must also be updated regularly because a company will need to learn things in real-time, like new pricing, new competitors, and new features.

Asa recommends incorporating the entire team in the updating process: “A lot of times we would have workshops around updating our playbook,” he said. “We would start with an end in mind and work backwards. By including the team in the process, we developed a framework together and set goals for each step to reach our end goal. In between each goal, we gave the reps flexibility.”

What are some sales playbook best practices to keep in mind?

According to Asa, a sales playbook is simply made up of plays:

  • Objection handling: A salesperson should know in advance the five or six ways prospects are likely to respond to a specific question, and have a strategy ready for overcoming those responses.
  • Questions: A salesperson should have specific questions to ask at each step in the process, from the discovery call to after closing and beyond.
  • Internal processes: Create official processes for all internal procedures and document them.
  • Any useful subject: How to find a prospect, how to run a good demo, how to conduct a discovery, what are the steps to get decision makers involved, etc.

Having this information accessible to all sales professionals saves leadership time and creates a consistent culture.

Marketing’s role in creating the sales playbook

In Asa’s experience, sales and marketing alignment has rarely been an issue. But marketing does have an integral role in creating a sales playbook. Marketing should assist with:

  • Developing personas
  • Understanding of the market
  • Researching the competition
  • Creating ideal customer profiles
  • Gathering insights within the current customer base
  • Passing along any other knowledge that sales reps should have at their disposal
  • What is your advice for sales leaders as it pertains to playbooks?

Asa offers simple but important advice to sales leaders using sales playbooks. “ Don’t put the task of creating one to the side,” he said. “In the day to day grind, leaders will want to stay on the phones and focus on those crucial early sales. They’ll think, “I’ll get to it later,” but playbooks need to be priority number one.”

A leader should use every resource at their disposal to create the best possible playbook and keep it updated to ensure their team’s success, both current and future. Asa collaborated with a sales operation manager who attended meetings and pipeline reviews. His job was to be a fly on the wall and document everything. “I don’t know if I would’ve been as successful as I was without an operations manager helping out as much as possible,” Asa said.


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    Teresa Weirich

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