The Science of B2B Team Selling

5 minutes
to read
Written by
Bo Borland
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It's obvious that in business, just as in sports, teams need a coordinated and well executed playbook to outmaneuver the competition.

What’s non-obvious is why companies put themselves at a major disadvantage by playing the game with only one sales play for all distributed teams and customer entry points!

In this article we break down the science of B2B team selling and how to leverage agile, distributed playmaking to gain a competitive advantage with highly tailored sales plays.

Coordinated team execution across silos

Today sales efficiency and productivity are a strategic imperative. The old growth motion of raising money to add more headcount into functional silos is incredibly inefficient. This is especially true for B2B companies where misalignment across revenue functions remains an expensive problem.

Gaining alignment is more complex now as B2B companies add new cross-functional sales motions like product-led sales (PLS) and account-based selling (ABS) to their growth strategies. Integrating these cross-functional sales motions with existing enterprise sales motions adds execution complexity which can negatively impact sales productivity.

In this increasingly complex sales environment, coordinated team execution across silos is more important than ever for driving sales efficiency and productivity. The new growth motion focuses on tight coordination of activities and assets within and across existing teams using clear, dynamic playbooks that can be distributed up and down the chain of command.

What is a playbook?

We hear the term “playbook” everywhere. When business professionals talk about playbooks, they could be referring to a twitter thread, a fifty-page Google Document, or anything in between. So what exactly is a playbook?

A playbook is simply a work methodology and a collection of plays for how to execute a repeatable strategy. For example, a sales playbook includes a sales methodology and a collection of sales plays for different segments such as market, products, or industry verticals.

Teams can build playbooks for:

  • New product launches
  • Enterprise or SMB sales
  • Industry vertical strategies
  • Product-led growth (PLG) and product-led sales (PLS)
  • Account-based marketing and selling (ABM/S)

Or just about anything that can be codified in a repeatable way.

To close the strategy execution gap, organizations have to establish how to best coordinate playbook execution of multiple, highly-tailored plays in a distributed organization at scale.

What is a play?

A play refers to a specific strategy that a company employs to bring a product or service to market and generate sales. It involves a coordinated set of actions (team motion), and set of assets designed to attract and convert potential customers.

The success of a GTM play depends on the company’s ability to understand the needs and preferences of its target customers and to execute a team motion that effectively unlocks “aha” moments for customers about the value of its product or service.

A GTM play can be tailored to a specific market segment, geographical region, buyer persona, industry, or product line, and it may involve multiple channels, including direct sales, partnerships, and self-service.

What is agile, distributed playmaking?

According to the Harvard Business Review Article, Why Strategy Execution Unravels—and What to Do About It, execution requires coordination across silos and adapting to change on the front lines.  A key insight from the article is that,

"Execution lives and dies with a group we call distributed leaders, which include not only middle managers who run critical businesses and functions, but also technical and domain experts who occupy key spots in the informal networks that get things done."

The article is clear on how changing market conditions demand agility and coordination across teams to seize new opportunities or create solutions to unforeseen problems. Yet, most distributed leaders are not enabled with the ability to create and execute highly tailored plays in an agile way.

The traditional, top-down approach to launching playbooks often results in a one-size-fits-all sales play misaligned with the needs of distributed teams. This misalignment decreases playbook adoption as teams struggle to link their core jobs-to-be-done with a theoretical or abstract sales play.

To strengthen the linkage between strategy and execution, companies need to combine traditional top-down with bottom-up playmaking. This gives distributed leaders an agile, decentralized approach to playmaking that allows for front line adaptation to changing market conditions.

A Playbook Franchise Model for Distributed Playmaking

Distributed playmaking empowers distributed leaders with autonomy and flexibility to build plays tailored to their workflow and customers’ needs. A playbook franchise model supports this autonomy by combining global playbook standards and top-down guidance with bottom-up expertise and market insights from distributed leaders.

Strategic guidance comes in the form of playbook methodologies, common terminology, and standard assets as guardrails and best practices for distributed leaders to adhere to when building and running plays tailored for their local markets.

When teams embrace distributed playmaking, a new mindset of intentionality emerges where team members see a new problem or opportunity and ask, “is there a playbook for that”?

How teams embrace and support this distributed playmaking mindset will manifest in diverse ways for different companies based on the GTM strategy and competitive nature of the markets in which they operate.

To develop a plan for distributed playmaking, begin by asking a few key questions:

  • How are the needs of our customers, GTM teams and stakeholders changing?
  • What new business models and markets are we pursuing over the next couple of years?
  • How does our GTM operational structure need to change to reflect evolving market conditions?
  • What plays can we inject into our GTM motion to experiment, innovate and gain a competitive advantage?
  • How can we meet and exceed our customer and employee experience expectations across all of our GTM digital touch points?
  • How do we adapt our approach to support both top-down and bottoms-up playmaking?
  • Who are the distributed leaders with regional or domain expertise that should become playmakers?
  • How will we manage new innovative plays across the full play lifecycle of build, launch, run and scale?

These questions will help your company to understand the internal and external impacts that will inform and influence your vision for cross-functional, distributed playmaking.

In addition, tools such as the GTM Playmaker Canvas are available to expand the conversation across revenue functions or distributed teams. You can use the GTM Playmaker Canvas to facilitate a structuring conversation and collaborative brainstorming for creating innovative growth strategies.

Get Started with the GTM Playmakers Canvas

GTM is a complex team effort, and misaligned teams in functional silos often struggle to execute effectively at scale. Teams use the GTM Playmaker Canvas to connect the dots for how GTM works and generalize lessons learned into a roadmap of playbooks.

The GTM Playmaker Canvas helps bring teams together to align on ideal journeys, prioritize "aha" moments, resolve friction, and define success. The canvas design helps make complex ideas and strategies simple for a collective understanding across every revenue function. This collaboration helps everyone understand how the pieces fit together to develop winning strategies.

The GTM Playmaker Canvas is available for free at to download a poster-sized PDF for printing.

To learn how to use the canvas and increase the pace of innovation for your company, register to attend our free webinar, Become a GTM Playmaker: How the best B2B teams create go-to-market playbooks and run multiple plays to drive growth.

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