Every business owner wants their sales team at peak performance, but hiccups often get in the way. You might come across a particularly tough lead or struggle with reps stumbling through their sales scripts. These common and not-so-common problems require a solution: an effective sales playbook.

In this guide, you’ll learn what a sales playbook is, why it matters, and how to create one for your sales team. Plus, learn bonus tips on how to implement your sales playbook to maximize sales.

What is a Sales Playbook?

A sales playbook is a guide that includes best practices, sales techniques, and tools to lead your sales team to sales success. It explains what your sales reps should do in different situations, provides scripts and sales templates, and helps them overcome the biggest sales challenges.

If you’ve heard of standard operating procedures (SOPs) then you are familiar with the idea of step-by-step guides for a variety of tasks. A sales playbook is made specifically for your sales team, though it often overlaps with marketing best practices.

Why Do You Need a Sales Playbook?

When one right, your sales playbook empowers reps to engage customers across multiple touchpoints and learn how to navigate any selling situation with ease. They will have a complete roadmap of what to do when it comes to turning a lead into a paying customer. 

An effective sales playbook helps you align sales reps around your core business objectives. It guides them through the entire sales cycle from start to finish, relaying your tried and tested sales strategies. It includes both high-level guidelines as well as step-by-step procedures for each stage of the sales process.

The goal here is to increase productivity, improve performance, inform new hires, and keep existing reps on the latest strategies you are implementing in your business. Case in point, research by the Harvard Business Review found that companies that have a streamlined sales process have a 15% higher average growth rate than companies that don’t have an effective process in place.

What if You Don’t Have One?

Many businesses choose to “wing it” with their sales approach or simply rely on the skills of individual reps to drive sales success. But, without a playbook, you’re leaving reps to figure things out on their own, which can lead to inconsistencies and bad habits.

Ideally, each rep will have a detailed playbook in hand to help them overcome common sales issues and close more sales. Plus, you’ll have a straightforward process new reps can follow instead of them having to shadow your existing sales team. Having an effective sales playbook is better for everyone: business owner, manager, salesperson, and prospect.

What’s Included in a Sales Playbook?

Your sales playbook will likely include all of your specific sales methodologies, a detailed guide on your sales process, and a variety of additional resources to equip your sales team. It might also include call scripts, negotiation techniques, a description of buyer personas, common customer pain points, email templates, and more. 

While the list below includes the most common elements of an effective playbook, your playbook should be customized to your organization. At its core, your playbook is a guide for your sales reps on how they should navigate different sales situations, tools, and techniques.

The most common elements of an effective sales playbook include:

  • Company information. Before you dive into the “meat” of your playbook, you should brief sales reps on what your company is all about. This should include your company mission, your big-picture sales strategy, company structure, and how training will be conducted. Be as thorough as possible so reps know exactly what to expect and don’t mistakenly misrepresent your company to potential customers.
  • Products. Since your reps are in the business of selling your products, it should be no surprise that they should know what those products are, what they do, and how they should be marketed to potential customers. Make sure your salespeople know each product’s main selling points, how they work, and why customers should care enough to buy them. 
  • Product pricing. Another common sense element is how much your products cost. You don’t want reps to mislead prospective customers with the wrong pricing, or market the wrong product at the wrong time. If your company has an expansive catalog of offerings, you’ll want to make this readily available, including the specific buying processes, buyers personas, and pricing. 
  • Commission structure. Your sales reps’ paychecks may depend on a variety of factors, which should be carefully outlined in your sales playbook. Describe in clear terms how your compensation structure works. Be as transparent to avoid any confusion later on. 
  • Target personas. Paint a picture of your ideal customer so reps know exactly the type of person they are selling to. Outline market conditions, common pain points, and buyer preferences to help your sales team take the right approach with each prospect. It’s best if this section is supported with accurate market research.
  • Sales methodology. Your sales methodology outlines the best practices reps should follow at each step in the sales process. Explain how and why this process works, and create a roadmap to show reps how to navigate each stage according to your ideal customer’s needs.
  • Specialized strategies. This is the “meat” of your sales playbook. It tells your salespeople what they need in order to be successful at each touchpoint. You should include detailed instructions for each step: from prospecting to lead qualification to selling to closing. 
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs). Which metrics will be used to measure success? Be sure to list these while including a process for how to track them. You’ll also want to include information on how sales leaders will be assessed and rewarded. This section can also include instructions on how reps can leave feedback about the sales process or offer their own suggestions for improvement.
  • Sales tools. You’ll also want to have a section that details the proper use of your company’s chosen sales tools. This should include: where to find tools, how to manage leads, how to track sales, how quotas are assigned, how to automate follow up, and more.
  • Sales scripts. Finally, you’ll want a section that instructs sales reps on what to say in different sales scenarios. You might include a script for explaining your brand’s unique value proposition, products or services, pricing structure, or positioning. You might also include your “elevator pitch”, how to handle objections, positioning guides, or email and call scripts.
  • Additional resources. Your goal is to equip your salespeople with the on-demand resources they need in order to converse with prospects and close sales effectively. So, having an “Additional Resources” makes it easy for them to find what they are looking for. Some of these resources might include customer testimonials, whitepapers, case studies, blog posts, or presentations. You might also include training content and pitch decks for new and existing reps to use. 

How to Create Your Sales Playbook

Creating a sales playbook is a no-brainer for any company looking to optimize their sales process from start to finish. Here’s how to build out an effective sales playbook for your team in order to facilitate sales success. 

1. Assemble Your Taskforce 

Your first step is to determine who should be involved in creating your playbook. 

Including representatives from your Sales department is critical, as they will provide some of the best insight into how your system works, what doesn’t work, and what needs to be optimized. 

Having someone from Product Marketing is also essential, as they will be well-versed in your buyer personas and product messaging. 

Finally, you might choose to bring in subject matter experts to consult you when it comes to creating sales materials, outlining processes, implementing sales tools, etc. Your sales enablement, sales operations, and marketing operations teams should also be involved in this process. 

2. Audit Your Existing Sales Process

Before starting from scratch, you should audit your existing sales processes and materials. Wasting what’s already in place may result in extra work and missed opportunities when it comes to what’s already working in your business. 

In auditing your system, you should first determine your sales goals. Beyond “drive more sales”, you want to be specific about what you want to achieve, whether your current processes are helping you hit those goals, or whether something needs to change. 

During your audit, ask: 

  • What sales situations are driving the most success?
  • What seems to be the most important parts of the sales process?
  • Are there gaps in your existing system?
  • What resources to reps find most effective in moving deals forward?
  • Is prospecting one one platform yielding better results than another platform?
  • How do top reps move through the sales process? 
  • Which strategies are top performers using to move through each stage?
  • What content or scripts work best at each touchpoint? 
  • What challenges are salespeople facing?

3. Map Buyer Behavior to the Sales Process

In order to help your reps navigate the sales, they need to understand what makes prospects tick at each touchpoint. Your playbook should give a detailed description of each target buyer persona and what their pain points are at each stage. 

Outline the details of each segment and provide a step-by-step process for how to interact with each type of buyer. Your playbook might also include:

  • A list of common buyer pain point by type of buyer
  • A map of the buying and selling process, broken down by stage
  • An identifications if what action represents a conversion at each stage
  • Define what buyer action represents a “conversion” at each stage
  • What content and tactics should be used to move buyers through the sales process

4. Design Your “Plays”

Now the fun part: creating your plays.

This is where input from your existing sales team is most crucial. Together, you can determine which plays to include based on which strategies are most effective and time-efficient. Pull in your top performers to gain their insight.

First, go through each buyer’s journey map to identify which tactics, scripts, tools, etc. should be used at each touchpoint. Include a step-by-step process for each step to assist reps in navigating this with ease. 

Include a list of best practices reps should follow in order to drive sales success. Then, include the following information so reps know exactly who to interact with and how:

  • Your company overview
  • A list of the industries you sell to
  • A description of each persona you target
  • A map each buyer’s journey
  • A list of pain points, common questions, and objections that may arise at each stage
  • What tools should be used, how they should be used, and what KPIs should be tracked

5. Make Your Playbook Readily Accessible

Many companies have relied on paper documents or PDFs to house their playbooks, but these are difficult to access and use at scale. Your playbook should be readily available––somewhere where your sales team can access what they need in just a few clicks.

It’s best to house your sales playbook in a centralized CRM or data hub. This ensures any relevant party can access the materials when they need it. This helps speed up the sales process, prevents costly errors, and makes it easy for reps to provide feedback in real time. 

Your sales playbook will be a powerful tool when it comes to building your winning sales team. 

Make sure your playbook is concise, easy to access, and provides step-by-step instructions on how to close more deals. Your sales team will thank you!

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