GTM Plays: How to Win the Race for Sales Productivity

Although it may sound counterintuitive, multiple periods of economic uncertainty have revealed a striking pattern: the biggest winners in business are those who keep investing in growth.

And regardless of how the current economic headwinds play out, Bain & Company partner Jordan Lee says this era’s winners will be the companies that focus their go-to-market strategies around highly efficient, data-driven plays.

“Companies that do go-to-market plays, and do them well, are three times more likely to be outpacing their competitors,” Lee says. “Right now is the right time, because we have the downturn. We know winners break out. And commercial productivity is going to be the big differentiator 10 years from now.”

The Calculus of Growth is Changing (Just Like Your Buyers)

In a recent panel discussion for enterprise CMOs and revenue executives in Seattle, Lee stressed that productivity has become a central force for growth in this economic era, replacing the previous cycle’s focus on growth through added sales capacity.

The long-simmering trend toward buyers performing more sophisticated research is also sharpening the focus on productivity.

“Buyers are coming to the buyer table way more educated than they’ve ever been — 95% of them are coming to the table already knowing something about the product that they’re interested in buying. And not just knowing something, but they often feel like they’re fully educated,” Lee says. 

The majority of these educated buyers will come with a short list of vendors, which will likely include the vendor they end up choosing. That doesn’t mean sales reps can’t still have an impact on winning or losing a deal, but it does mean they may never get a chance if a company can’t figure out how to get to buyers much earlier in the process. 

“This increases the burden of the commercial engine. It’s not just about getting more sales reps out on the field. Now, there’s more marketing that you need to get integrated into it,” Lee says. 

Sales Efficiency Matters. Go-To-Market Plays Make it Happen 

On its face, sales efficiency may not sound terribly exciting. But when you dig into the economics of the world’s most valuable companies, high go-to-market efficiency is a common denominator.

“The more efficient you get, the more dollars you actually have to invest back into research and development, the more dollars you have to invest back into the business, and the more margin you’re able to show to your investors and your shareholder base,” ZoomInfo founder and CEO Henry Schuck says. “It turns out that running a good business means that you actually make money, and that’s now in vogue.”

Automating Your A-Game

Go-to-market plays are a repeatable set of sales and marketing actions tied to desired outcomes. Most sales and marketing professionals have at least a few go-to plays in their arsenal.

But according to Lee, the most successful companies look at sales plays as more than just levers to pull, instead seeing them as strategic assets that can be “industrialized” to make lower-ranking sellers as productive as a company’s top performers.

Go-to-market tools like ZoomInfo can make automated, data-driven plays a reality for more companies than ever before. And developing a high-quality playbook can start with a simple conversation, Schuck says: sit down with the top three sellers at a company and find out which market signals they rely on to begin their outreach, from hiring and funding news to spikes in intent data.

“Those key moments should trigger a play that gets that account executive or that account manager in front of the right company at the right time,” Schuck says. “They’re responsible for the right message. But they figured out how to be in front of the best companies at the best time.”

Automation and orchestration tools like ZoomInfo are critical to turning those best practices into standard processes, which can drive efficiency by giving sellers more opportunities to talking to prospects — something that field sellers only spend about 45% of their time doing, Lee says.

“The reality is, a lot of us spend our time focusing on A players. They work on the biggest deals, they work on the biggest opportunities. We probably enjoy working with them a lot because they’re really good at what they do,” Lee says. “That’s not the leverage point. The leverage point when you’re driving productivity is your B players and your C players.”

Building Your Own Plays: Start Here 

Building a library of go-to-market plays in your business can start with a single play you can stand up and iterate against quickly. ZoomInfo CMO Bryan Law recommends following these steps:

  1. Define your objective. Whether you’re trying to win back a churned customer or acting on an intent data signal, be specific about the outcome you want to affect. 
  2. Use data. This might be a no-brainer, but the more real-time or dynamic data you can pull, the more robust a play you’ll be able to orchestrate, in terms of both targeting and personalization.
  3. Know the triggers. Designate the real-time action that will kick off your play. This could be when one of your target accounts gets a new round of funding or opens a new location. 
  4. Compose your “recipe.” Establish the set of activities that will constitute your play and the length of time over which they’ll take place. Your play is likely to be a multi-step activity across several channels. Because you’re now able to operate at scale, you can test and see what combinations of channels and outreach work best. 
  5. Don’t forget the content. You can have the most optimally structured play, but if you’re not delivering value, you won’t pique the kind of interest that will allow you to develop the conversation with your customer. 

“Our fundamental belief here is go-to-market plays, when elevated to the right level, are really what’s going to get breakout performance,” Lee says.

At ZoomInfo, we think every company has the potential to build an efficient, effective GTM operation that can fuel their future. That’s why we launched our GTM Plays site: a library of customizable plays your team can run at every go-to-market stage, packed with templates, instructional content, and — for ZoomInfo customers — the ability to turn a play into an automated workflow within minutes.

Try GTM Plays today and start building the go-to-market engine that will set your company up for breakout performance — no matter how strong the economic headwinds are blowing.