Qlose is an interview format that meets the best experts in sales reps to find out how they contribute to the sales performance of their company.
For this second episode, Qobra welcomes Emilien Poujoulas, Head of Sales at Flatlooker, and he will share with you his tips, best practices and methods to build a Sales Playbook adapted to your company.
1. The context
Can you introduce yourself?
Emilien Poujoulas, Head of Sales at Flatlooker. Flatlooker is the Airbnb 2.0, we rent flats 100% online for long periods. Flatlooker is now the first digital agency that allows tenants to rent flats anywhere in France without even going anywhere.
We also manage the owners' property once the flat is rented (accounting, works, taxes, etc.).
Why did you choose to tell us about your "Sales Playbook" at Flatlooker?
To bring a bit of history, I arrived at Flatlooker 5 years ago, I was the first Salesman of the company, and at the time, we were not really structured, we were growing. Then the years passed, and we went from a team of 5 employees in 2018 to almost 70 today. So the question arose as to how we could ensure that all Sales people had the same cards in their hands to succeed in their day-to-day jobs and understand what they needed to do as they went about their day.
It is therefore essential to have a sort of Wikipedia where the sales reps can find all the internal processes, all the rules, all the commercial framework. The Sales Playbook makes it possible to structure, document and set a lot of things in stone.
What thoughts led you to create a Sales Playbook?
When I started managing the sales team two or three years ago, there were four or five of us. I could go and see them and tell them to do things in a certain way, but when there were more and more sales people, in order not to lose control and to ensure that the processes were homogenised, we had to think about creating a Sales Playbook.
What are the objectives of the Sales Playbook?
The Sales Playbook serves several purposes.
First of all, there is a problem common to many startups, which is the ramp up of sales. At Flatlooker, it has been longer and longer, when a company evolves, there are more rules, processes that are put in place and it is absolutely necessary to make sure that this ramp up remains on a short term, and the objective of the Sales Playbook is to reduce this ramp up through the creation and instrumentalization of many topics.
The second objective is to homogenise the different ways of doing things. When there are 20 sales people to manage, many of them will want to do things their own way. The objective is to take the best of each and then build the Sales Playbook.
2. The complete method
What was your method for structuring it?
First of all, I asked myself what I wanted to find in this Sales Playbook, is it only about Sales best practices? Internal processes? Rules?
And in fact, I did 5 years of American football, and it's a sport where there's an offensive team and a defensive team, they're each going to have a playbook and each player has to know what they're supposed to do depending on the play they're playing. So I started from that, I did 5 years of US football and I had to learn a book that was 40 pages long, and I had to know it by heart because if I didn't know it at the time of the game, I could make my team lose.
I said to myself, I'm going to start from what can be found in this sport and put it in place around Flatlooker. The objective is to make sure that each Sales person understands on a daily basis what he has to do.
Within the Sales playbook, there are numbered steps and in each step, there will be a note explaining what to do.
What is the point of creating a Sales Playbook adapted to your company? What are the differences with a generic Sales Playbook?
A generic Sales Playbook will not work because it is not adapted to the product(s) and/or service(s) you are selling, you cannot copy a Sales Playbook found on the internet to your company.
The important thing when building a Sales Playbook is to adapt it to the way your company works: What do you expect from your Sales people? What will the salesperson have to do in his or her sales cycle? etc.
And beyond that, you have to take into account what the sales people are going to expect from this Sales Playbook. It is important to avoid taking a generic Sales Playbook, sending it to the Sales people, and they don't understand anything and don't read it.
Creating a Sales Playbook is a collegial process, you have to use your Sales to build it.
How to keep your Sales Playbook up to date?
The limit of the Sales Playbook is that you have to iterate on it because the product is constantly changing, it's always being improved, and for example, a new offer comes out and you have to integrate it into the Sales Playbook.
So it's important to iterate and to do it in a collegial way with the Sales, to know what is missing in it.
It should be updated at least once a month and when new sales reps arrive.
3. Essential tools and resources
Did you use any tools to create the Sales Playbook?
We use a tool called Slite, it's like Notion and I used it to build the Sales Playbook. It's a powerful tool, you can put notes with videos, comments, links between different pages, etc.
How long did it take to develop the Sales Playbook?
One week to 10 full days for reflection, to know how to make sure that the Sales people go and consult it, that they tell themselves on a daily basis that it is beneficial for them. The Sales Playbook will not only be useful for new salespeople, it will also be useful for senior salespeople who have been there for two years, who may have forgotten a best practice, a closing technique or other.
Then a whole week for the design, I took videos, screenshots, etc.
Which people were mobilised for the project?
What is very important for a Head of Sales or a Sales Manager is to get help from the teams in the field. In fact, very often, you'll have managers who no longer go into the field, which is the case for me today, and who don't necessarily see the challenges and complexities of the sales job on a daily basis because they no longer have their hands in it. Their aim will therefore be to ask Sales what they expect from this Sales Playbook, but also to get help from the Team Leaders, the Junior Managers, and I also got help internally from the property manager who manages all the legal aspects of our business.
Generally speaking, it is essential to have a collective agreement, to survey your teams, to hold workshops, etc. If you don't do this, half the team or even the whole team will tell you that it's not at all what they expected, and in fact they won't adopt the project at all, and you'll have to do it yourself. If you don't do this, half the team, or even the whole team, will tell you that it's not at all what they expected, and in fact, they won't adopt the project at all, and you will have wasted time.
What internal resources did you need?
Before the internal resources, before being a manager, I was a salesman, I experienced the job, so I didn't start from scratch. Then, the workshops also confirm the idea that you had of the project, it's very important to do this.
As far as internal resources are concerned, it's already using the CRM to document the Sales Playbook. It's also about using the data from the platform and what your tool, your service offers.
In the situation where there are things in the Sales Playbook that the teams don't do or do badly, there is a problem. Maybe the note is poorly done, maybe there are not enough explanatory videos, screen shots, or maybe it's just useless, it can happen.
Do you have any resources to share with us that helped you build the Sales Playbook?
There's Chris Voss' "Never Split the Piece", which we at Flatlooker have also used to build our sales rep. Chris Voss is a former FBI negotiator who delivers negotiation techniques to get the job done.
There is also the book "The Sales accelerator formula" by Mark Roberge which helps you to be more efficient.
Secondly, beyond external resources, it is to understand the market and the product.
4. The communication to adopt
What kind of communication around the Sales Playbook? At what point?
When we deployed the Sales Playbook, all the Sales people were trained. Beyond that, during the onboarding, at Flatlooker, the sales person will be educated on the importance of his or her playbook and we will go over all the points of the sales playbook with them. What is important about the Sales Playbook training for newcomers is that you should not take a week to explain the Sales Playbook to them, as they will not understand anything because they have not made any phone calls, they probably do not know the real estate sector, etc. And so it is a waste of time. So it's a waste of time.
You have to explain to the sales people how the playbook works, how the tree structure works, for each process you have to practice it together. In this way, the salesperson understands directly, he/she adopts the topic, and it is by practising that he/she will implement it.
The Sales Playbook is like the bible of the daily sales rep, he will find everything he has to do on a daily basis as well as the commercial framework.
It is also important to make sales people understand that if they have a question, potentially the answer is in the Sales Playbook, they should refer to it first, this helps educate them and gain autonomy.
It is also necessary to communicate when a rule, process, etc. is introduced or changed. This can be done at the team meeting. You also have to make sure that all the Sales people, even those who will arrive in the future, are informed of this update or addition.
It's important to choose the right communication channel, you can't do it one moment on Slack, by email, orally, etc. You have to choose the communication channel and it has to be the same so that the sales person knows that, depending on the channel, it's a change or an addition to the Sales Playbook. You have to choose the communication channel and make sure that it is the same so that the sales person knows that, depending on the channel, it is a modification or an addition to the Sales Playbook.
5. Tips to follow and mistakes to avoid
What were the main difficulties encountered in this project?
Even before setting up the Sales Playbook, which is important to do, and we realised this afterwards, there must be a lexicon in the Sales Playbook. Often, companies have their own acronyms, and for Sales, this can be incomprehensible. So each term must be explained.
It is also important that the Sales person has been trained in the field, to understand the trade, etc. Otherwise they will be lost. Otherwise they will be lost.
Another difficulty is sometimes feeding too much into the Sales Playbook. At Flatlooker, the Sales Playbook was created in the summer of 2022, and since then, we've iterated several times, about once a month, and sometimes you can get lost in the different iterations, has it been well communicated, is it too complex, etc. You have to make sure that you don't over-feed the Sales, and that it remains understandable.
It is also necessary to ensure that each newcomer understands what is inside, it is necessary to use terms that are easy to understand, to use screen shots.
It could also be interesting todo continuous training, for example to do a quiz every 3 or 4 months to make sure that they know it well, and at the same time it allows you to do some sales rep work.
What are your tips for a company that wants to create its own Sales Playbook? And what mistakes should be avoided?
First of all, you have to make sure that the Sales Playbook is well structured and made. For example, it's like an IKEA piece of furniture, it's going to be difficult to assemble it without the instructions, a Sales Playbook is the same. You have to explain how it works, how to search for information, etc. Because the Salesperson is not going to make the effort to do it by himself.
The second piece of advice, whether it's for a Sales Playbook or for the tools that are put in place, is to make sure that the sales people adopt it, and that means onboarding. Otherwise, managers will waste their time constantly re-explaining how it works.
One of the mistakes to avoid is forgetting to update the Sales Playbook, because if you do, the Sales people will no longer consult it, and it will gather dust. It is also important to communicate the changes made to the Sales Playbook, and to all the Sales people.
It is also important to avoid other people feeding into the Sales Playbook because the structure will no longer be the same and you may not be able to find your way around.
Care should also be taken not to over-document, to keep all notes concise and clear with screenshots and videos.
6. The results
What benefits can be observed since the implementation of the Sales Playbook?
In terms of results, it already ensures that all processes are homogenised.
In terms of quantifiable results, in terms of onboarding, we used to have almost two full weeks to train sales people, but now we save between one and two days per sales person with the Sales Playbook. This is a huge time saving for a manager, especially when you have a new sales person arriving every month or two.
Beyond that, it's difficult to have other quantitative results because we're talking about processes, sales reps, and it's difficult to say that the Sales Playbook has improved the conversion rate by one or two percent, for example.
The final word...
Can the Sales Playbook be found anywhere?
So unfortunately not, because it's confidential, otherwise it would be too easy, everyone would have it, especially our competitors.
To find it, you have to join Flatlooker, and we are recruiting Sales.
Do you have one or more resources that you like to consult to improve your Sales approach?
I regularly check the MyBizDev blog, it deals with placing Business Developers in companies, and they do a lot of press articles, blog posts on the Sales approach.
I also listen to the DreamCatcherSales podcasts, they are very good, I listen to them in the morning on my way to work while taking notes.
It's very important as Head of Sales to see what is being done elsewhere, to take the best and adapt it to your product and your team.