March 30, 2018

Why You Need a Sales Playbook and What Should Be In It
Why You Need a Sales Playbook and What Should Be In It

Table of Contents

Scoring a big sales win is no easy feat, often relying on a multitude of factors that lead up to that final, successful closed won deal. For many salespeople, especially those that are new to the job or industry, the ramp up to this winning moment can feel like an exercise in trial-and-error.But it doesn’t have to.Leading organizations have a not-so-secret weapon in their toolkit that instantly sets them apart: a sales playbook.The sales playbook is a go-to resource for salespeople, outlining their roles, responsibilities, methods, tactics, and tricks. A well-developed playbook empowers them to engage customers at every step of the buying journey and increases the likelihood of them reaching that winning moment.Put simply—the sales playbook is a vital resource to help maximize sales efficiency and ease the onboarding process.Don’t just take my word for it—the Harvard Business Review found that 50% of high-performing sales organizations have closely monitored and enforced sales processes (a playbook).Now that you’re convinced of the value let’s break down the elements of a sales playbook and how you can start building one for your sales team today.

Getting Started

Before you hit the ground running, a few things to consider:

  • Playbooks do not replace onboarding and training. While the sales playbook should complement your company’s onboarding and training to ensure alignment, it is not a substitute. Instead, the playbook should serve as a resource for your salespeople to access the right information at the right time.
  • It takes a village. A successful playbook should not (and, frankly, cannot) be created by a single person or single business unit. The playbook should include input from team members across the company, including sales and marketing.
  • Every ship needs a captain. Building on the last point, it is important to identify a few team members to hold elevated responsibility for overseeing the creation of the playbook. These project owners will ensure that content is delivered on time and that everyone is able to review and propose edits throughout the process.
  • Start small with your first playbook. A company can have a multitude of sales playbooks, tailored for an unlimited series of sales scenarios or targets (i.e. new market opportunities, expansion into different sectors, to compete against a specific competitor, etc.). We recommend starting with a sales process that is already highly successful at your company, thus building repeatability around behavior that has already led to proven results. With this base, you can scale the playbook and adapt it to the different sales scenarios.

Evaluate Your People and Processes

Before putting any pen to paper for the playbook, you should first assess the current state of affairs.Interview your top reps to learn more about what has contributed to their success and what resources they’ve used along the way. Conversely, do the same with team members who may be currently underperforming, understand difficulties they face in the sales process.Utilize these conversations as an opportunity to understand the environment in which your sales teams operate and how they leverage your company’s sales technology stack. Your playbook should be built with these considerations in mind, making the content as actionable as possible.Ideally, you will be able to aggregate the information from these conversations to document your sales processes, which you can then align with the buying cycle and create a map for your first sales playbook.

TIP: During these conversations, check for any potential gaps in your content or resources so that you can connect with the appropriate team members early on to begin building this material. By the time you have finished your playbook, these materials will be finished (or near finished) so that you can unveil the full new suite of resources along with the sales playbook.

Including Key Elements

Your sales playbook can take many shapes and no one structure is right or wrong. The most important thing to remember is that the playbook is meant to assist your salespeople in engaging buyers at every step of the journey.The best playbooks provide flexibility instead of mandatory steps. Salespeople need freedom to experiment with different styles and techniques, but a playbook should provide guardrails to stay on message and on track to hit their goals.Some sections you can consider to include:

  • Stages of the sales cycle. Detail the stages of your company’s sales cycle, including the goal of the stage, strategies to successfully move through the stage, skills needed for each stage (i.e. prospecting, engaging, developing, etc.), and any other general tips or information that is pertinent for your salespeople. Stages may include a research/exploratory phase to assess whether your product can solve business issues for your buyer, creating a business case to address those issues, collaborating with decision makers to align on priorities in implementation, negotiation on final conditions, and other key steps.
  • Essential activities per stage. Map the main stages of the sales pipeline to the responsibilities of your salespeople during each of them. This does not need to be a comprehensive job description or step-by-step instructions, but should include general guides for each stage. For example, you could detail the key activities and steps while closing a deal, including that you should ensure there is a clear understanding of all proposals by reviewing them live and documenting any amendments.
  • Sales tools. Point your salespeople to the right resources they will need to leverage, including links to internal documents or resources, or external tools and applications that are frequently used. By linking out to additional resources, you can keep the playbook concise, making it easier to scan and digest.
  • Success stories. Include anecdotes of deals that were closed thanks to quick-thinking salespeople that weren’t afraid to think outside the box to drive home the true value of your company and its solutions to the customer. These examples can not only recognize some of your top sellers, but also encourage the rest of your team to strive for similar levels of creativity.
  • Checklists for research and questions. List key information that your salespeople should arm themselves with prior to engaging with buyers at each step of the journey, and details they need to uncover in their conversations. For example, you could suggest your salespeople research the prospect’s global presence, brand attributes, competitive landscape, company growth, org chart, etc., prior to an introductory call or meeting, however further in the pipeline they will need to be armed with more concrete examples of the actual technology implementation and how it will drive results.

Test and Update

As your company evolves, your sales strategy will also adapt to pursue new buyer profiles and accommodate for new product offerings. Your playbook should be reviewed regularly to account for these changes.We recommend starting a quarterly cadence for review, and then adjusting based on your company’s own unique needs.Further, we recommend leveraging analytics tools across your sales and marketing organizations to accurately capture and track engagements and outcomes. With this data, you can reference whether your playbook needs a scrub sooner, or if the playbook has shown tangible results for your sales team.Interested in learning more about how we can help? Our platform was built to maximize the visibility into your sales pipeline and track your team’s success.

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