What is a sales playbook? A sales playbook is a framework to help sales representatives close more deals. It brings together details about the buyer’s journey, stage-specific content, recommended sales engagement tactics, and guided selling tools to make the sales process scalable and repeatable.

Chances are that your team has a sales manual that is full of training documentation. You need a sales training manual to onboard new hires and get reps in shape. However, a training manual is no substitution for a sales playbook. Let’s look at a sports analogy — where we get the concept of a “playbook” from in the first place.

Players who make the cut, have rigorous training programs to build their strength, speed, and skills. That’s part of preparing themselves as elite athletes. The team playbook, on the other hand, is a set of strategic plays that the team calls to move the ball down the field or court to help the team score.

Improving your pass or increasing your strength = training

A Hail Mary or a Quarterback Sneak = strategic play

See the difference? Unfortunately, not all sales teams have playbooks. Often what they have are sales training manuals or standard operating procedures (SOPs) put together in a PDF or on an intranet page.

If you want to move your sales team’s results to the next level, you need to implement a scalable and repeatable sales playbook.

If you want to move your sales team's results to the next level, you need to implement a scalable and repeatable #SalesPlaybook 📘- this doesn't mean a training manual. #SalesProcess Click To Tweet

how to create a sales playbookWhat Is a Sales Playbook?

We have a brief definition at the top of this page, and we’ve talked about the difference between a training manual or SOPs and a playbook. But what IS a sales playbook? What should it include? Well, that depends on whom you ask, but here are the essential elements of a playbook

  • Buyer personas with information about trends in the market or vertical that may impact decisions, typical pain points for this buyer, and the issues the buyer wants to resolve.
  • Details on the buyer’s journey and what a decision maker may do or search for during awareness, consideration, and decision stages.
  • A presentation or video that explains how sales representatives should talk about customer pain points and ways your product or services can address those issues.
  • Analysis of competitors and how your company’s offering compares.
  • Lead scoring guidelines or automated tools to qualify leads for sales.
  • Your sales process, mapping the buying process to the sales process. This area can include information about sales content for use at each buying stage, milestones to help sales reps judge where the decision maker is in the sales cycle, sales scripts, email templates, and how to use your available sales technology throughout the process.
  • A list of common objections and rebuttals. These will, no doubt, be considered in your script, but you may want to add a section specifically addressing these in detail.
  • Best practices and proven techniques. You could add information about your team’s sales methodology in this section.

Some companies may have one playbook while others create a separate playbook for a new product, a specific campaign, or when targeting a new segment or vertical.

Check out what the essentials of a #SalesPlaybook 📘 should include. #SalesProcess Click To Tweet

what is a sales playbookHallmarks of a Terrific Sales Playbook

As you can see from the section above, even a basic sales playbook contains a lot of information. The sad news is that many businesses make their playbooks burdensome rather than helpful. In fact, the average playbook is 56 pages and often (still!) exists in a PDF format or as paper stuck in a binder. Yikes.

To be actionable and successful, your sales playbook should be:

Concise. Nobody — not even the biggest bookworm — wants to dig through 56-plus pages to find an answer. Keep your playbook focused on what’s pertinent. Move onboarding and training information to your sales manual.

Customer-ready. Buyers have a plethora of information at their fingertips with Google, social media, and review sites. For the most part, especially when it comes to B2B, they have already done their homework. They contact sales when they are ready or almost ready to buy. Your sales playbook should help sales representatives meet customers where they are from a knowledge standpoint.

Ensure your salespeople aren’t just rehashing all of the public-facing content that buyers already have access to on your site. Remember that your buyers have already dealt with an overwhelming amount of information. When your reps repeat what the buyer already knows — and add nothing new to consider — a decision maker’s purchase anxiety may increase causing the deal to fall through. Your playbook should provide reps with access to independent information, analysts reports, news articles, customer stories, and other information the buyer may not have seen when visiting your site.

Finally, your playbook should also provide thorough and validated messaging that resonates with customers. Precision Thinking reported finding that up to 40% of what sales reps claim resonates with buyers doesn’t resonate widely or doesn’t work at all.

A Living, Centralized “Document.” Whether your playbook is an actual document or some other format (as videos, entrenched in or automated by your sales engagement software, etc.), you can’t let it get stale. Your sales playbook must evolve to meet buyer needs and expectations, as well as your business goals and objectives. Review it regularly and welcome feedback from the team to help you update and optimize over time.

The sales playbook should also be accessible and centralized to ensure that all salespeople have access to the most current playbook. Paper and PDFs, to a degree, just don’t cut it anymore.

User-friendly. The characteristics above go a long way in making your sales playbook user-friendly, but you should still pay close attention to ensure that your team members can quickly and easily find what they need, so they can use the information provided. You should also make sure the playbook helps guide reps on the right content to use, the sales cadence to follow, expectations on follow-up persistence. Leave nothing to guesswork when it comes to following your process.

Measurable. You could spend months creating your playbook and even pay up to $50,000 to develop it. With that kind of investment, you must measure the effectiveness of your sales playbook. Before you even begin, define the business results you want to attain. Your playbook needs to have an objective before you start developing it.

Look at your metrics before the implementation of the playbook, and compare your sales data at the 30, 60, 90-day marks. Is your playbook performing? Have you begun to see a return on investment? Use your post-implementation data to help you discover any weaknesses you need to address.

To be actionable & successful, your #SalesPlaybook should be: concise, customer-ready, living-centralized document, user-friendly, & measurable. #SalesSuccess Click To Tweet

sales training manual vs. a sales playbookWhy You Need a Sales Playbook

Maybe you’ve read all of the above and are thinking, “Ugh. This sounds like a lot of work, and we are doing OK meeting our sales goals each quarter.” If you want to take the easy route — which likely won’t be the route that gets you promoted — stick with the status quo. If you’re going to be the sales hero, think about what a winning coach would do. He or she would develop a playbook that ensures players know what to do in a number of scenarios they will face on the field or court. Teams don’t encourage players to just run around willy-nilly doing his or her own thing in hopes that the team MIGHT score.

When you take time to document and systematize everything required, you will be able to implement a repeatable sales process that you can automate through a sales engagement platform. Sales engagement features like logical branch scripting, automated lead routing, sales cadence management, and lead and sales tracking act as guided selling tools to walk reps through the process. Integrated communication tools — email, phone, auto dialing, voicemail drop, texting, conferencing, and a content repository with templates — help drive efficiency and scalability.

When you take time ⏰ to document and systematize everything required, you will be able to implement a repeatable #SalesProcess that you can automate through a #SalesEngagement platform. 👍 Click To Tweet

Ready, Coach?

Nobody said leading a sales team is easy, but implementing the right process and playbook can make it a lot more manageable. If you’re ready to start putting together your playbook, you have a choice: document your existing process or analyze your existing sales process and refine it to achieve maximum results. If your current process works, don’t reinvent the wheel — just make it easier to repeat, scale, share, and measure.

The Harvard Business Review reported that high-performance sales teams:

  • use a structured sales process
  • hold salespeople to a higher level of accountability
  • have no fear of aggressively raising annual quotas

Your sales playbook can help you emulate the qualities of these teams by adding structure, accountability, and a process that is repeatable and scalable.

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