For anyone who does a lot of traveling, apps like TripAdvisor and Yelp are a godsend. Based on where you are located, they suggest local establishments and include reviews from fellow users on the strengths and weaknesses of these businesses. The apps begin by finding out what you want to do: go shopping for that tie you forgot, get a haircut, have a meal … Based on this, these apps make their recommendations. Life is good.

LMSDuring the past 10 months, one of the top inquiry topics for clients of our sales enablement practice has been the concept of electronic playbooks (sometimes called guided selling solutions). Many of our clients deploy these tools to ensure their reps follow a consistent sales methodology, are guided to the right sales assets, and are “coached” to perform the right actions. These solutions are typically integrated within the sales force automation (SFA) system, and are accessed with a distinct opportunity record. They contextually provide guidance and suggest sales assets based on information from the opportunity record – e.g. what stage the opportunity is in within the sales process, what offerings the rep is positioning, the industry of the company they are selling to. These solutions help reps find what they need when they need it – true sales enablement – so you’d think life would be good in the sales world. After all, reps are always complaining that there are too many sales assets and can’t find what they need when they need it.

However, we find that the adoption of playbooks typically hovers around 40 to 50 percent – meaning reps use playbooks for no more than half the deals they are working. While these stats are far from terrible, you’d think that a playbook that guides reps to the right asset at the right time – saving them time – would have a higher adoption rate. We think we’ve hit on the reason why it doesn’t.

Reps don’t spend their days working within their opportunity records. They spend their days (like most of us) doing stuff – writing emails, making calls, preparing proposals, scheduling sales meetings. We all live in our calendars, email and workforce productivity tools.

Today’s opportunity-based enablement tools begin where the reps are within a particular sales opportunity. To access the playbook, the rep needs to be in an opportunity. To improve adoption, access of these tools needs to based on what the rep wants to do. We call this concept activity-based enablement. Like Yelp or TripAdvisor, these playbooks should be able to start with the activity the rep needs to complete at any given time – build a presentation, write and send an email, prepare for a sales call.  Then, based on the activity – and information from the opportunity record – the playbook would serve up the right assets – templates, content, coaching tips – to help the rep complete the activity.

We are not suggesting that opportunity-based playbooks are wrong. Activity-based enablement is “an addition to” not an “instead of” alternative to opportunity-based enablement. Indeed, we support the concept of opportunity-based enablement as a way to improve SFA adoption, help first-line managers coach their reps and help reps coach themselves. But providing an alternative path to these playbooks via the tools rep use everyday is another way to get to the same place – and we believe this will raise those playbook adoption rates even higher.