Basketball Play Strategy Drawn Out On A Chalk Board With Ball

“Drive focus and results in your team next quarter by creating and ingraining the right sales motion.”

John Wooden. Jerry Tarkanian. Phil Jackson. NBA Hall of Fame coaches with great players on their championship teams. In their time, other coaches had great players too, but these guys cracked the code and dominated an era by understanding their environment and running one play really, really well.

Wooden’s UCLA Bruins won an unprecedented seven NCAA championships in a row and 10 in 12 years with his high-low post offensive play. Tarkanian’s UNLV Running Rebels mastered the amoeba defense and changed the way college basketball was played in the 1980s. Jackson embedded the “Triangle” offense into the Chicago Bulls’ six NBA titles in the 1990s.

One theme is absolute with these examples – Focus Drives Performance.

Fortunately for sales leaders, we at the Alexander Group know that there are just three sales motions (plays) to master:

  1. Sales Fulfillment
  2. Sales Advocacy
  3. Sales Innovation

By knowing which sales motion is right for your situation and creating a playbook to show your team how to execute, you should see similar, championship-level performance.

Each play is unique. Here are the basics that define the motion, what a winning play looks like and what should be included in your playbook.

Sales Fulfillment – Pace and Replication

This core play is the workhorse of high-volume, transaction-oriented sales teams. Much like the coach who embraces a blue-collar mentality, world-class sales fulfillment leaders coach a straightforward, three-part motion of product availability, choice awareness and relationship building.

Well-run sales fulfillment teams know that their buyers have basic needs, so they shun the temptations of trying to overcomplicate each opportunity with a “solution sell.” Buyers who seek fulfillment just want to know about the choices at hand. They need to have ready access to the products or services being offered, and they want to relate to the person who is selling them.

Winning with this play comes from quickly identifying the right buyer, building a lasting rapport and ensuring that there is never a time or quality gap between point of need and delivery.

Key considerations for building the fulfillment play: Generally, sales fulfillment provides the lowest value of the three sales motions; therefore, the economics of the play require execution excellence to justify its cost of sale. Playbook design teams drive excellence by:

  1. Identifying high quality opportunities
  2. Designing territories that allow reps to be efficient in their call planning
  3. Enabling front-line managers to coach reps in a high-paced, repeatable process with regularly monitored call plans
  4. Setting goals with time horizons that match the fulfillment sales cycle

Sales Advocacy – Persuasion and Assurance

Interestingly, sales advocacy is the play we hear the most about. Most sales training systems and the hardbacks marketed to sales leaders in airport bookstores focus on better process advocacy. Embracing one of these methodologies works well as long as you fully understand who your buyers are and what they seek.

Sales executives running the advocacy play know their team’s primary role is to eliminate buyer uncertainty caused by the decision maker’s lack of knowledge, the proliferation of confusing purchase options or the buyer’s fear of  making a mistake. In the sales advocacy motion, buyers seek advice and want risk mitigation or need purchase justification via a return on investment.

The salesperson’s role in advocacy is to understand their buyers’ latent issues. After uncovering the core concern, sellers provide guidance and offer assurance. Often increased complexity of product offerings introduces the need for specialists to the sales team in this motion.

Winning in advocacy requires balancing the art of persuasion with fact-based product or service knowledge and strong business acumen.

Key considerations for building the advocacy play: Due to increased complexity, the advocacy playbook design teams consist of members from various functions including sales, sales operations, marketing and product management. Design teams focus on:

  1. Creating a dynamic process to which sales reps can adapt to address various buyer objections
  2. Building enablement tools (e.g., ROI calculators or case studies)
  3. Establishing rules of engagement between various members of the sales team

Sales Innovation – Co-Creation of Value

In the most intricate of the sales motions, sales innovators collaborate, develop custom solutions and provide industry or application insights beyond the realm of their clients’ knowledge base. Often the client’s client is the focus of the interaction. As attractive as it seems, this nirvana of client-seller interaction is not easily achieved nor is it best for everyone.

The inherent long sales cycle associated with co-creating a solution requires leadership patience and high-caliber sales talent, both of which elevate the cost of sales investment. Leadership must set the strategy and be able to convey the vision throughout the organization as the innovation motion requires engagement from multiple functions, especially product and marketing. Sales talent must possess industry knowledge and insights that exceed the client’s.

Winning with this play comes when the value of working as an embedded trusted advisor with the client creates sustainable differentiated growth, which more than covers the higher expense of this sales motion.

Key considerations for building the innovation play: Although each sales innovation motion results in a highly customized solution, world-class organizations still create a standard playbook for this sales motion. The design teams should focus on:

  1. Setting a charter that includes an endorsement to assemble cross-functional resources and a commitment from senior executives to sponsor and participate in specific plays
  2. Creating appropriate metrics and progression milestones to monitor internal and client ROI
  3. Building feedback mechanisms to capture field-level insights to be shared throughout the organization

Like a championship coach, knowing what play to run and how to guide your team in running the play are fundamental to success. Learn more about sales playbook creation.


Insight type: Article

Industry: Cross-Industry

Role: C-Suite, Sales and Marketing Leadership

Topic: Sales Playbooks

Insights in the Inbox
Back to Top
Thank you for visiting Want expert insights like this delivered straight to your inbox?
Subscribe now!