Cray Sales Playbook

Rewriting the brand playbook for a whole new audience


Cray Inc., a global leader in supercomputing, is expanding to bring their expertise to a new audience in pursuit of transformational AI technology. While Cray is well-established among research and government organizations as the supercomputing company, the business community does not have great awareness of Cray. Equally important, Cray is not well-known to sales partners. Northbound gave Cray the playbook they needed to empower their partner sales force and bring their boundary-bending solutions to a new audience.


Help a historically game-changing brand to leverage a new sales channel and reach a new audience.


  • Discovery
  • Competitive analysis
  • Stakeholder interviews
  • Messaging strategy
  • Content creation
  • Playbook design

Forty years at the edge of computing

Cray is a titan in the high-performance computing (HPC) and supercomputing world. For over 40 years, they have powered some of the world’s fastest supercomputers, contributing to significant scientific and technological breakthroughs for research organizations. Now, with the confluence of big data, analytical capability, and the need for enterprises to capitalize on AI, Cray is in a ideal place to position themselves to serve customers along the whole AI adoption journey.

Cray’s challenge was twofold. First, the current sales approach needed to evolve from selling direct to public institutions to targeting AI-ready enterprises through partner channels. On top of that, Cray’s outside sales partners needed to be educated about Cray’s abilities and accomplishments in order for them to be able to effectively present the brand to new commercial audiences.

Northbound was chosen to plan and create the playbook to arm their sales partners to do just that.


Cray Playbook


Actionable, credible, and useful

Northbound undertook an in-depth analysis of Cray, including competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and comparative sales tools, as well as conducted independent research to understand what Cray’s sales partners needed in order to be effective. From this we discovered how to effectively frame the content of the playbook to meet the needs of Cray and their partners. We also dove headfirst into the arcane worlds of cryogenic electron microscopy, computational fluid dynamics, AI-assisted optimization, and more to see supercomputing from the perspective of its next-wave users.

Cray’s AI-savvy sales partners live and die on the basis of their credibility with customers. Thus any playbook Cray delivered had to give partners the ability to build confidence with their customers and be truly useful to them. The playbook from Northbound met those requirements in being highly-actionable and easily-navigated. As a result, partners are able to effectively provide their customers with the consultative sales approach they want and expect.


Cray Playbook


Positioning Cray as a true partner

The playbook has had an enthusiastic reception within the walls of Cray and among sales partners. One stakeholder commented, “All of the ‘Crayons’ [Cray employees] have reviewed this thoroughly, and the word I keep hearing is ‘love’—yay!”

For Cray, success meant more than just creating a sales tool. It was showing up as a valued partner for their partner sales teams. By giving them a sales tool packed with commercial insights, designed and planned to be actionable and easy to use in the field, Cray has elevated themselves from being merely a technology provider to being a strategic partner supporting the success of their resellers and integrators.

Following an announcement letter rolling out the new playbook, Cray saw a surge of downloads and engagements from sales partners. In the words of Alison Paisley, a director of marketing programs and enablement at Cray, “This has positioned Cray as a good partner for our sales partners.”

In addition, within two weeks of launching the sales playbook, Cray netted two new enterprise customers and also connected with several others who have started to regularly explore Cray’s newsletters, blogs, and webinars. Northbound ensured that Cray’s foray into a new business channel got off on clear and successful footing.


  • High volume of partner downloads of the playbook and use in market
  • Positioned Cray as a good partner for outside sales teams
  • Helped sales partners successfully make headway with a new audience for Cray
“We chose to partner with Northbound because of their experience with our brand and business, and their strategic approach to understanding the needs of our sales partners and their end customers. Northbound worked in close collaboration with our team to understand and distill technical specs and a complex sales process into a useful, easy-to-implement playbook that has sparked new conversations about Cray and given us greater traction with our channel partners. This is an important direction for Cray, and our work with Northbound has armed us for success.”
Per Nyberg
VP Marketing Development, Artificial Intelligence & Cloud
Cray Inc.

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