A sales playbook is a collection of your company’s tactics and/or methods that identifies the roles and responsibilities for your sales team. It provides a common framework that enables your sales team to operate at the highest level.
Your sales playbook allows you to leverage the techniques and processes used by the highest performers and easily distributes this knowledge to new hires all the way through to sales veterans. This framework lays out clear objectives, measurement metrics, a common approach to closing sales and an effective structure for positioning against the competition, handling sales situations and communicating the value proposition of your product or service to each person in the buying process.
By standardising best practices, outlining prospecting, negotiation, proposal and competitive intelligence guidelines, you can improve productivity across your existing sales team and significantly reduce ramp up time for new hires. The outcome will be a well-oiled sales machine capable of high revenue generation.
Why is a Sales Playbook Important
- Creating the ultimate Sales Playbook for your organisation will not be easy. It will take a lot of time initially to create the framework and when it’s up and running it will need to be managed so that the content provided is always up to date and relevant. However, once the initial work is done and your playbook is in place, you will start to see results almost immediately!
- The training of new hires and ramp up period is accelerated as you provide a clear explanation about your company, why and how your customers buy your products or service, how to approach them, what their motivations are and how to communicate effectively.
- Your playbook will free up time for your current sales team. Instead of reps creating their own questions, messaging and resources to use with prospects, you’ll give them ready-to-use content, which they can then adapt to strengthen their tasks in hand. The overall goal of your sales playbook is to ramp up new staff quickly and to keep the sales team focused on selling with the most relevant and effective information.
- Having the ultimate Sales Playbook will take an extensive investment of time, but the benefits are limitless as your playbook becomes a living document of your sales framework and enables you to continuously discover and action new and important ways to address any number of vulnerabilities of both your company but also your competitors.
Framework and Elements of a Sales Playbook
1. Company Overview
Summarise your company first. It should explain the history, company values, your mission statement and goals along with your organisation’s structure and hierarchy. Provide in detail who the sales leadership team are and each of the reps, include hobbies and interests and a short personalised message. This is particularly important for new hires to build immediate familiarity with the team they will work with day to day. Be sure to also include what the targets are and how territories are assigned.
Tell a story about what makes your company unique and valuable, what solutions you provide that differentiates you from your competitors.
My article Creating Your Value Proposition can provide more insight when constructing this part of your playbook.
2. Career Path
After the company overview it’s good to provide a detailed career path for your sales professionals. Indicate the roles and milestones that need to be achieved, include the skills and experience required and the average time it takes to move to each stage. Provide examples of employees that have been promoted and ask them to provide a short message for you to include here.
3. Product or Service
Every product or service your sales reps are expected to sell should be detailed in this section. Make sure you include as much information as possible from the key benefits and features of your offering to pricing, product or service datasheets and well-known current customers.
These should all be included so that your reps understand what they sell front to back. Creating a light quiz around this section that your reps receive and complete after their first week is a good way to gage how easily this section is understood.
4. Six Step Sales Process
Once the reps understand what they are selling it´s time to explain the 6 steps of your sales process. This part is critical as you cover each step from initial prospecting through to close and then retention. Include the key activities for each step, who is involved and what are the deliverables.
In this section you also want to include the 6 stage Sales Pipeline, so that your sales team is fully aware of the actions they will take throughout this process.
If you have a sales development team in place then you will want to make sure they are also aware of the activities that are expected of them and how they will impact your business. My article The Importance of Getting Your Sales Development Team Right can help as a guide here.
5. Sales Methodology
The sales methodology is the foundation that outlines how your sales reps approach each stage of your sales process. It’s like a set of rules on how to sell your products or services.
Defining your sales methodology is one of the most important parts of your sales playbook and should be done alongside creating your sales process so the two work in tandem and your sales reps have clear guidelines. Consider including a framework for lead qualification along with a framework for objection handling when defining your sales methodology.
There are a number of sales methodologies that have been created over the years like Conceptual Selling, MEDDIC, RAIN, SPIN, SNAP and The Challenger Sale to name a few, but it’s pivotal to choose the right one to fit your industry and your buyers.
My article The Right Sales Methodology supplies more details on choosing the most suitable methodology for your business and my article A Brief History of Modern Sales Methodology provides information on how these have evolved.
6. Ideal Customer Profile and Buyer Personas
Engage with marketing to sketch out what your ideal customer profile and buyer personas look like. This will allow your sales team to quickly and effectively understand their target market.
In this section you can include the following: company type, industry, revenue data, buyer’s basic demographics, goals, challenges, how your offering can help and any other relevant information.
My article Ideal Customer Profile: Know Your Target Market can provide more insight when constructing this part of your playbook.
7. Sales Messaging and Examples
This is the most important section of your sales playbook and will be the section that is more likely to change over time. Making sure this section is up to date will significantly reduce ramp up time for new hires and will make sure your experienced sales professionals have access to the highest performing content.
Include call scripts and voicemail scripts, email messaging samples, open-ended and closed-ended questions, objection handling, meeting agendas, presentation decks, closing techniques and any other pre written examples that will be useful for your team.
Upload recordings of high quality cold calls, discovery calls, video messaging, presentations and conference calls where product or service demos have been provided.
Supplying these examples are key to your sales team development and allows each member to incorporate key learnings into their own process, while maintaining the core tactics and techniques you know work.
8. Sales Cadences
Having a well-defined sales cadence makes the sales process more efficient and by setting up common procedures to follow you’ll help reps to be more consistent, but it also makes everything easier to manage and monitor.
A modern sales cadence can incorporate a mixture of phone calls, emails, video messaging and social media, but each company will develop their own high performing cadences based on the factors relevant to their industry and organisational needs.
Take a look at my article Creating a Strong Sales Cadence and 6 Keys to Unlock Sales Cadence for ideas on formulating the ultimate cadences that will propel your company to greater success.
9. Sales Resources
Working closely with Marketing and Customer Success teams should help you generate customer stories, white papers and testimonials etc. This is a crucial part of your sales playbook, as these supply your reps with ongoing knowledge and effective materials to use in their selling activities. Having these resources means your reps will be sending a unified message to your customers instead of going rogue and creating individual content on their own. The main factor here is time saving though, by having this ready-made content available it allows your sales reps to do what they are good at and sell.
Think about having resources set up for each of your verticals. If one of your reps are selling into the automotive industry have customer stories and testimonials available, if another rep is selling into the public sector then have the same available for them and so on. Your content library should be tagged accordingly and easy for your reps to use.
Your customers will want to know that you understand them, so give your sales team the ability to prepare and anticipate objections or questions rather than react to them. It might also be an idea to gear resources towards your Ideal Customer Profiles as they will be the ones pulling the trigger on whether to implement your products or services.
Having a library of ready-made materials for your sales team to use in and around their conversations will increase productivity and in-turn increase in sales.
10. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Process
Having a uniformed approach to your CRM usage is highly important. Having an up to date and continually stocked CRM enables all areas of your business to grow. Be sure to clearly explain the mandatory fields that are required, your expectations of their reporting and when reviews will be done.
Use this section to detail when to prioritise and move opportunities, how to use tasks, activities, how to create and/or run reports, how to look at their dashboard etc. Make sure your team are aware of which permissions they have and who to contact for other specific CRM needs and confirm what they should be doing in the CRM on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis, if applicable.
11. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
This section is to make sure your sales team understands which KPIs are being tracked. Outline the baseline metrics they need to pay most attention to and which ones the sales manager will be reporting on (if different).
If your reps have a clear understanding of what their performance is measured on from the outset, then you can be sure they will do everything needed to achieve or exceed those metrics.
12. Compensation Plan
Let’s be realistic, people choose to work in sales to earn money, so make sure you lay out exactly what their compensation for the role will look like.
Letting members of the team know the base salaries of the others is not generally a good idea, as this can cause animosity within teams, but letting them know how much they will earn if they hit 100%, 110%, 120% etc of target is critical to boost performance.
Include how often any additional competitions will be run (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) and what SPIFFs you have in place. Provide details of what you’ve done in the past and what rewards individuals have received.
Make this section super simple to understand and you’ll see a higher determination from your sales team.
Onboarding is important for both your customers and your employees, so this section is two-fold and both are as important as each other.
Details of how a customer comes onboard to your organisation should be explained in your Sales Playbook. This will allow your sales team easy access to information to questions or objections they’re likely to be asked along the full cycle of the sales process. Letting potential customers know how they will be looked after and what service they can expect after making a commitment goes a long way to building trust and credibility.
Starting at a new company can be a nervous experience so making new hires welcome is important, but giving them all the information from the ‘get go’ is even more important. By adding in the information relevant to their onboarding process and knowing what is planned for them during their first three months will help them settle in and cement in their mind that they made a great decision to commit to joining your organisation. Supplying a full 30-60-90 day plan is imperative, along with information of what teams they will meet and who in those teams will look after them during the meet and great. Make sure the new starters know the dates and times of specific training sessions they will be attending and what they can expect to learn during these sessions, but also make sure they are aware of what you expect from them during these training days too.
Your sales playbook will always be a work in progress as your strategy evolves, markets change, customers shift and your offering expands or lessens. Have a dedicated person within your organisation looking after the well-being of your playbook. Make it easy for everyone to put forward their ideas or suggestions on what could be made to improve your future processes.
Actioning updates and refreshing your sales playbook immediately when needed will continue to give your sales team the best framework for success and your business will reap the rewards.
Give your employees everything they need to be successful, take onboard their ideas around any improvements that can be made and additional information that can potentially be added to your Sales Playbook. If you provide everything they need then there are no excuses for everyone not to succeed.
“A successful business is not created by a single individual, but by many individuals working together towards the same goal”