Crawl, Walk, Run: 3 Steps to Build Signal-Based Selling Savvy

Take your team from "what is a signal?" to fully signal savvy.

Meredith McManus
April 29, 2024
Crawl, Walk, Run: 3 Steps to Build Signal-Based Selling Savvy

With how quickly the world of GTM is changing, it can honestly feel hard to keep up — even if you’re deep in the weeds like we are at Pocus. In just the past year, we’ve seen a big shift in the playbooks that teams are prioritizing, the GTM workflows we’re building, and the tools we’re all using. 

One of the biggest changes we’ve seen at Pocus is the rush to become more data-driven. This change in strategy brings with it a few key challenges:

  • Access: Despite the desire to use more data-based methodology to target and sell, many GTM teams still struggle to get access to the insights they need. RevOps teams can be stuck stitching together multiple tools with varying rates of success.
  • Training: Sales teams need to learn the foundations of how to use data and signals to drive their pipeline strategy.
  • Implementation: As the concept of signal-based selling and playbooks gain traction in the GTM world, teams can be eager to embrace the “new way” but get stuck on how to implement it.

To address some of these challenges and set our customers up for success, we’ve created a crawl, walk, run strategy. In this blog post we'll walk you through how to get your team from “what is a signal?” to fully signal savvy. 

Crawl, Walk, Run: 3 Steps to Build Signal-Based Selling Savvy

Phase 1: Crawl 

Goal: Get everyone’s feet wet with data 

When you start your journey into signal-based selling, the first phase is all about laying the groundwork and building familiarity with the process of using data to drive GTM. 

You’re not trying to test every signal-based playbook available. Instead, focus on getting your team comfortable integrating data in their GTM workflows and mastering the basics of signal playbooks. We recommend picking 1 goal for your signal-based playbooks, for example trying to improve free trial conversion to paid, building pipeline, or retention. This goal should be tied to a company's OKR or revenue KPI. From there, pick 2-3 playbooks to begin experimenting. Depending on the goal, you’ll likely prioritize different signals. A straightforward signal like a trial ending, nearing a paywall, or hand raisers can be a great place to start.

In the crawl stage, there are two key concepts your team should understand to be successful:

  • Signals: Signals are 1st party or 3rd party data that gives reps information about a customer or prospect.
  • Playbooks: At Pocus, we define a playbook as a signal plus an action. Essentially, playbooks tell your team what indicators to look for and how to respond to achieve a specific outcome. For example, if the signal is nearing a paywall, I might want my reps to reach out to high-potential accounts with a helpful message about pricing plans. 

The crawl stage is also your opportunity to get executive buy-in across GTM leadership. Go from the idea of equipping sales with data to showing the impact. Signal-based selling is a departure from the old-school spray-and-pray tactics that focused exclusively on generic, high-volume outreach to drive results. Instead, reps take a strategic, consultative approach to sales, using product, customer, marketing, and other 3rd party data to tailor outreach messaging and address each customer’s pain points. In a down market, this becomes even more important as buyers are more discerning about where they allocate their budget and want to feel fully confident that your product is the best fit for their needs. 

To get started, follow these four steps:

  1. Pick a goal based on your top priorities. Review your revenue goals, company OKRs, and any new initiatives to decide how to focus your efforts. As an example, let’s say your goal is to drive more revenue by increasing conversions from free to paid plans.
  2. Decide which signals to test. Leadership from sales, marketing, and any other relevant GTM teams should select the signals that align to your selected goal. Continuing with the example of increasing conversions, one signal you focus on could be free users nearing the end of their trial period or users hitting a paywall. Getting access to all of your key signals can be difficult, so consider implementing a platform like Pocus to help unify all of your signals in one place.
  3. Define the playbooks. Map out the set of actions that can be taken based on the selected signal to achieve the goal. For the free trial ending signal, for enterprise ICP fit accounts instruct reps to reach out to assist these high-value accounts. For all others put them into an automated marketing nurture sequence instead. 
  4. Roll out with tiger team: Put together a small, agile team of reps to start actioning this initial set of playbooks and test results. This tiger team can help create training materials, prove hypotheses, and refine playbook strategies before expanding out to the full GTM team.

TIP: Make note of exciting wins and proof points that can be used to drive interest and buy-in during the next stage of implementation. 

Think of the crawl stage as the data-gathering phase of implementation, and ask for feedback from the tiger team and leadership before rolling it out to the rest of the team. The focus is on getting your team familiar with using data to drive their actions. Once your tiger team is comfortable with the concept of signals and playbooks, you’re ready to move on to walk.

Phase 2: Walk

Goal: Layer in more complexity with additional goals and playbooks 

Now that you’ve built the foundations of signal-based playbooks, we can begin to add more complexity and nuance. The walk stage is also the time to expand the practice of using signal-based playbooks beyond the tiger team. Once you’ve proven the effectiveness of the first set of playbooks, start building towards a full GTM team rollout using the following steps.

  1. Use your tiger team as evangelists. After seeing success first-hand and having experience running the new signal-based playbooks, your tiger team is an ideal group of trainers. Enlist them to run demos for the team at large and ask them to evangelize the strategy to their peers.
  2. Create hype using live training sessions. To drive widespread adoption, you’ll need to get reps excited about the shift to signal-based selling. Sharing proof points from your initial crawl phase on how much easier it is to build and close pipeline can generate excitement. Live training sessions can also help reps get time to explore playbooks and see the benefits first-hand. 
  3. Expand your playbook library. As your team gets more comfortable and adoption increases, begin layering in more goals, signals, and playbooks. Use existing data to help formulate hypotheses for future testing and iteration.
  4. Build the ritual of reporting and coaching. With wider playbook adoption and more data being generated, make it a habit to regularly review playbook performance, alignment with goals, and the success rates of individual reps. It’s key to identify any issues early, as well as spot opportunities for iteration and improvement.

TIP:  Consider making your training sessions a live, weekly experience where reps can share wins and ask questions. This can help create sustained momentum, especially in the critical early days of adoption.

By the end of the walk stage, the GTM team should be fully bought into signal-based playbooks and excited by the results they’re seeing. Now that everyone is on board, you can begin to develop a system of testing and iteration for constant improvement.

Phase 3: Run

Goal: Start iterating your motion regularly 

Once building and running signal-based playbooks has become the norm for your team, you’ll enter the easiest but most important stage of the process: creating a culture of experimentation and iteration. In short, when you find something that works, double down. 

  1. Review playbook performance data regularly. This may seem obvious, but it’s important to confirm that your playbook is achieving the original goal you aligned it with. Engagement metrics and customer sentiment are important, but at the end of the day, the playbook needs to be earning or protecting revenue. Pocus can help streamline this process by consolidating playbook reporting and automatically surfacing playbooks your team might be missing.
  2. Run incremental tests. Don’t try to change too much, too fast when experimenting. Decide which variables might make the biggest, most immediate impact if tested. For example, you can coach reps on how to action leads faster or improve their messaging to see if the playbook performs better. Make sure to set an experimentation window during which you’ll gather and measure data.
  3. Get feedback from the field. Ask your reps what they’re hearing and seeing. They’re a great front-line resource for new market patterns, which messaging resonates, and where there may be new opportunities. They may also have valuable insights on what’s not landing with leads and customers.
  4. Track your top-down strategy. As business initiatives shift, it’s important to evaluate whether your playbooks are still aligned with the company’s strategy. You may need to revisit and adjust your goals quarterly or annually to ensure you’re targeting the right results.

TIP: Consider implementing a playbook suggestions inbox or form to gather ideas from the team at large. 

When you’ve settled into the run stage, stay wary of complacency. With your playbook strategy fully up and running, it can be easy to let experimentation and iteration fall by the wayside, so we recommend formalizing the process. Designating a steering committee can help keep efforts organized and ensure new plays remain aligned with team and company goals. A formal process can also help you more easily distribute new playbooks that have been proven successful.

Curious how Pocus can help streamline the signal identification and playbook-building process for your team? Our GTM experts would be happy to show you how Pocus can get you from crawl to run in no time.

About the author
Meredith McManus
Content + Product Marketing at Pocus
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