Sales playbook best practices are easy to talk about but less simple to define in writing. Nevertheless, you probably can’t maintain and grow your sales unless you have a decent, well-constructed sales playbook for your staff to use.
The reps need to constantly be sure they’re ahead of others in terms of how they go about the sales process. And the only clear way to achieve this is with a sales playbook that guides them in every aspect of the potential customer’s journey, and how to work within each scenario.
By definition, this sales playbook is a resource document. The sales team will use it as a valuable asset – one they can consult – that covers best practice, methods, and strategies during different stages of the selling process. These will range wide, from strategies and messaging points to social images and email templates.
Crucially, it empowers your sales force to engage with their prospects, carry through a sale, and nurture their customer base afterwards to maintain loyalty. Knowledge and empowerment inevitably lead to sales growth.
In this article, we look at the best practice for writing a good sales playbook, offering tips and examples so you can get started producing your own.
Before You Get Started
Before putting together a sales playbook, we want to touch on some pointers that will help you begin writing your copy. These include the need to:
Your sales playbook will of course evolve to include many different sections. But start small. Best practice is to begin by figuring out what is uniquely yours and build from there. With this base, you will then be able to scale the playbook in line with that script and adapt it to your different sales scenarios as they develop over time.
Outline your goals.
In order to have a clear picture of what you want to achieve with the sales playbook, you have to identify your sales goals. The sales goals could be anything around quality or quantity of the sales made, expansion, retention, value proposition, and more.
Choose a team.
It’s not possible to create a good sales playbook by yourself. You should choose a select team, perhaps from sales reps, managers, VPs, sales experts, etc. You should also allow input/feedback from team members across the company, especially the sales and marketing personnel who’ll be using the playbook most often.
Decide on a team leader.
Team leaders are there to oversee the entire creation of the sales playbook. They’re not above everyone else, but rather work hand in hand with the team to facilitate a smooth process and ensure everything is delivered accordingly and reviewed on time.
Decide on key elements.
There are several sales playbook templates available to download, and plenty of structures you could follow. To make sure it benefits your business, best practice is to choose key elements to include that specifically align with your business’s goals and vision. As long as it helps your sales people to follow through every step of the buyer’s journey and close deals, your sales playbook can take any form or structure you like.
Inside the Sales Playbook: A General Template
The sales playbook should not be universal. As we indicated above, every business will decide what to include in theirs that is essential for their particular business and reps. So, in following our template here, ensure you create a sales playbook that will compliment your sales plan and be effective for your team.
In this general template, therefore, we include examples of how each section could appear in your final copy of the playbook. You’ll customize it according to your business needs, as you see fit.
1. Company Overview
This is an important section before getting into the details of the playbook. It gives your employees and future hires an overview of who you are, what you do, and company goals. Provide details about how your organization is structured.
This section could therefore include company information such as
- Company background
- Company vision and core values
- Charts showing the leadership structure
- Company mission statement
- KPIs and goals
Avoid including any sensitive company details you would not want in the public domain.
This part of the playbook provides detailed information about the products or services your sales team will be selling.
To be more targeted with your product listing, you could choose to prepare a separate mini-playbook dedicated to each buying process (and scenario of your customer’s buying journey) for each product or service you provide.
This section can also include a product/service list and some competitor/competitive products.
3. Sales Strategy
Your sales strategy will document your thorough plan on how to position and sell your products (or services). We consider this to be the core of the sales playbook, since improved sales results is the reason you’re creating it.
It will therefore include the following:
- Vision – where are you going?
- What do you sell (specifically)?
- Who do you sell to?
- Who are your buyers and influencers?
- Where do you sell?
- Where are you seeking growth (geographies, markets, service/product lines, etc)?
- Which products/services are most profitable?
4. Sales Process
This will be a set of planned and well thought-out steps to show how a rep will convert a prospect into a new customer, and be successful at each sales point from preparation to closing of a sale. This section in effect contains a step-by-step overview of how to win a buyer. To understand how each process works, the playbook should remain consistent in its approach to help sales reps determine which processes are working and worth replicating.
A company’s step-by-step process of their sales cycle might look like this:
- Preparation – Understand the product from your customers’ perspectives and understand your competitors’ products.
- Prospecting – Prepare outreach that will attract the right match for your ideal customer profile/persona (see later).
- Research – Does the market need your product? Is it the right fit? Do people need what you’re selling? Have answers here that can be used with prospects.
- Approach – Once you understand your customer, find a way to gain their attention. This is the sales methodology.
- Pitch/Presentation – Articles and content that your buyers will respond to, targeting their needs and emotions. Essentially, the best strategies to move through each stage of the sales cycle, including steps to take while nurturing leads.
- Objection handling – Come up with possible answers to any objections they offer.
- Closing – Send a proposal to finalize the deal with your customer.
- Follow-up – Engage your customer with excellent and relevant content, and collect feedback.
5. Sales Story Messages
For the most part, your target customer is constantly bombarded with information, and getting noticed becomes more difficult as competition increases. Because of this, businesses have to communicate simply and clearly to get their customer’s attention. A sales story will be your company’s solution to communicating your message to your customers in an immediately engaging way.
Ways you can write a great sales story include the following:
- Be clear – Don’t try to include and explain everything in your messaging. Only gather key features that will stand out for your customer and influence their decision.
- Be relatable – Ensure that your message shows how you care for their values and understand the challenges they’re facing. Treat your customer as the hero and guide them to find their desired solutions. This means targeting emotionally compelling reasons to buy, rather than pushing features.
- Be specific – When clients are considering products and services like yours, what problems are they trying to solve? What frustrations might they have?
- Differentiate – Why is your product or service better for solving those problems and frustrations?
- Choose the right story – Sales stories are used across all sales cycle stages. Crafting sales stories for each stage will ensure your salespeople are communicating the right message to your customers at the right time.
6. Custom Sales Plays
Sales motions guide salespeople to successfully close a sales deal in a specific set of circumstances. Custom plays work best, since they’re also specific to a set of customers. This section of your sales playbook will cover a lot of ground, much of it specific to your business, industry, or situation. Identify and create different plays for a variety of sets of customers and scenarios. The playbook creation team can discuss and choose which plays to prioritize in order to move the deals forward. Customization can be decided from different points of focus such as:
- Lead generation
7. Detailed Buyer Personas
In this section, your sales team identifies their ideal customer and tries to paint a picture of their fictional ideal customer to represent the large group in the marketplace. These buyer persona profiles help your reps to create content and strategies that will appeal to the majority of your buying customers. You should probably have more than one buyer persona, and each should be unique to your business. Each persona might include things like:
- Goals, etc.
- Likely objections
- Anything else that identifies a particular client persona
- Best strategies to work with this persona
This is your team’s repository of on-demand content, context-specific to your organization and industry, to support interactions with buyers. When your resources are organized, easy to find and tailored to buyer scenarios, it becomes easier for the team to implement good practices. This repository includes resources such as
- Content marketing materials, case studies, customers’ references, etc.
- Sales presentations that will be used internally to pitch to corporate and other high-profile clients or partners.
- Product resources, which may include in-depth details about the products your company offers and a list of the inventory available.
- FAQs that guide your team on “what I do” scenarios that may happen – to ensure consistency and accuracy in messaging and marketing.
Sales Playbook: 5 Best Practices
1 Quality Content
This is critical for the success of your playbook. You need to have timely and relevant content that can be easily adopted by your sales team. This content can be gathered from your existing content, information collected from your buyers, or from competitor research, etc. Make it engaging and easy to consume by including the use of fun elements of multimedia and other content types.
When writing the sales playbook, think of the sales rep or marketing person and how you can better help them to meet your company needs. The focus of the content is not the customer, but enabling the sales people to successfully close sales with these customers. Hence, the playbook should always prioritize that and customize content to be user friendly for ease of skimming, readability, and retention.
3 Use of Technology
In addition to having your sales playbook printed as paper copies, make it cloud based so that all reps with permission can easily access it and make changes if need be. When uploaded to the cloud, make use of all the possible design elements. Ideally, for instance, users should be able to jump to specific sections and subsections without extensive scrolling.
Playbooks should be updated regularly. As you receive new feedback and input from the team, you’ll need to make changes to the playbook as necessary. Updates also happen when there are new products/services, tools, and strategies. In updating the playbook, make sure sales reps are fully aware of the revision and update process.
It’s important to make sure every sales rep or team can input into the playbook’s redrafting, since they’ll be the ones using it. They can point out changes that need to be done, what areas to focus on, and the quality of the overall sales playbook content and usability.
Sales Playbook: Essential FAQs
In creating the perfect sales playbook, many questions arise, especially if it’s your first one. Below are a few of the common questions asked when creating a sales playbook.
What will I use my playbook for?
A: One of the most important uses for your sales playbook will be for onboarding your new sales people. It essentially gives them a roadmap to follow and ensures their success – your firm’s success.
What should be in a sales playbook?
A: Basically, include key elements that present what your company needs the sales people to be aware of and do. You can gradually increase these as you learn more about your customers and collect feedback.
When should I start creating the sales playbook?
A: Whether you’re part of a huge multinational corporation, a SMB, or a startup that’s just begun, sales playbooks are useful for companies of all shapes and sizes. Create one early on, and it will help your sales (and therefore your company) grow organically.
How long should my playbook be?
A: Depending on the number of key elements you include, the answer is that it should at least cover the essentials that enable your sales team to close more deals.
We can help!
At 360 Consulting, we’re dedicated to providing innovative solutions to our customers. Ensure your sales leadership, your team, and your strategy are foolproof against future intensified competition in the marketplace with our guidance in designing and implementing the best sales playbook to meet your unique business needs. Contact us for a free consultation.