What is a Sales Playbook?
A sales playbook is a readily accessible resource that captures selling strategies, resources, and best practices.
Think of a sales playbook similar to the kinds of playbooks used in football or baseball by coaches. The best on-field plays result when the coach digs for fresh ideas and strategies in the book.
A playbook is an excellent tool for onboarding new sales professionals or creating consistent sales results for sales professionals, agents, and their teams.
Don’t let the word “book” throw you off.
A sales playbook can come in many forms, including sales playbook pdfs, templates, and even software for the technologically curious.
If you’re considering developing your playbook, let’s talk about the best sales playbook framework for you to use.
Why Smart Sales Managers Create Sales Playbooks
Every great team succeeds when the players know and practice the best plays.
That’s the value of a sales playbook.
Sales leaders and sales managers use a sales playbook to ensure consistent performance.
Providing a company playbook ensures everyone on their sales team has the most current and relevant information in hand to enable their selling.
Think of it as a learning aid and a means of managing performance.
Robust sales playbooks can provide significant benefits to support effective selling, including:
- Providing clarity on who the ideal buyer is, avoiding time invested in people who can’t (or won’t) buy
- Gives examples of messaging that is consistent to ensure successful buyer interactions
- Suggests questions that will ensure better discovery meetings and, in turn, a more effective solution
- Provides answers to commonly asked questions, increasing sales professionals’ confidence to move their discussions forward, and
- Shares examples of proven closing questions and closing sequences to help the sales team maximize their closing ratio.
Consistent with how a football coach would use a playbook, sales managers who seek to build a high-performing sales team use their sales playbooks to capture best practices, selling strategies, and sales plays.
I’ve seen many playbooks used to capture a SAAS sales team structure or include customer success playbook templates.
Essentially, if there is a method or strategy to help you sell more, capturing it in your playbook only makes sense.
Additionally, the best sales leaders often use their playbooks as coaching tools. When debriefing with their sales team, they consistently refer back to examples in their playbooks.
To be able to use your sales playbook as a coaching tool, it’s essential to keep it up to date at all times by practicing the following:
- Ensure sales meetings or coaching sessions reference content and resources in the book, suggesting and making updates or additions as feedback necessitates.
- Assign responsibility for maintaining the accuracy and integrity of the data to someone with the time and administrative capability for doing so.
- Tie individual performance metrics back to resources outlined in the book.
6 Essential Components of Sales Playbooks
We’ve discussed the various ways in which you can use a sales playbook, so let’s dive into the components you’ll want to include. Consider these to be the minimum attributes you’ll capture.
1. Ideal Buyer Persona
According to a study by Hubspot, 40% of all salespeople say prospecting is the most challenging part of the sales process.
Prospecting is so tricky because the salesperson doesn’t know who their ideal buyer is. So they waste time chasing people who can’t or won’t buy from them, yielding disappointing results.
To prevent your sales team from falling into this trap, create an ideal buyer persona that guides your sales team in pursuit of those who can buy and are eager to do so.
Criteria that you should include are as follows:
- Type of company and industry
- The average size of the company
- Their position title
- Typical responsibilities they have, and
- Those who often influence this buyer (i.e., internal referral sources).
2. Product or Service Details
I recall once losing a pickup truck sale early in my career. The buyer repeatedly asked me questions about features that I couldn’t answer.
Next to pursuing the wrong buyer, many sales professionals aren’t clear on the features or benefits of the product or service they sell.
For this reason, you should include product or service details in your sales playbook to equip them with the information they need.
Typical information might include the following:
- Product specifications or service elements
- Functionality and features they provide
- The benefits a buyer would experience if they purchased such, and
- An FAQ to address typical questions your buyer might ask.
3. Buyer Challenges
If your sales team knows who they should be pursuing and the key features and benefits their product or service offers, the next step is to ensure they are clear on their typical buyer challenges.
This information allows the sales team to frame their presentation to address challenges.
It also takes the guesswork out of understanding challenges when a buyer wishes to hold back on their reasons for engaging in the meeting.
Ensure that your Buyer Challenges address the following questions:
- What would happen if they didn’t buy?
- Why would a buyer consider your product or service?
- What are the annualized impacts if they choose to wait?
- What are the benefits if they move forward with the buy quickly?
4. Value Statement
Aside from understanding the product or service you sell, many sales professionals struggle to communicate and provide value to their ideal buyer.
A value statement captures the subjective and objective reasons our buyer should purchase our product or service.
In a sales playbook, value statements answer commonly asked buyer questions. Think of it as a FAQ (frequently asked questions).
At a minimum, these value statements should address the following:
- How is our product or service distinct as compared to our competitors?
- What makes our product, service, or company unique?
- What is the return on investment our buyers will achieve when they buy?
- How can we add value to our buyers during their buying journey?
- What are examples of value we can provide at each step of the sales pipeline?
- Why is investing with our company a wise decision?
5. Sales Organizational Structure
If you are in a larger organization, you’ll want to capture your sales organizational structure.
The roles you might include as part of your overall sales organizational structure include the following:
- Sales team names, titles, and areas of responsibility
- Sales Manager
- Director or Vice President of Sales
- Finance Manager or CFO
- Director or Manager of Operations or Production
- Manager of Quality
Customer Service Manager
- Customer Service representatives and areas of responsibility, and
- President, CEO, or Managing Director.
For each role, identify how they support the customer and suggest when sales may wish to reach out and engage them in the sales process.
6. Sales Process
Whether you have a seasoned or relatively new sales team, capturing and explaining the critical steps in your sales process in your playbook is a good idea.
Despite the best intentions, sales professionals often miss vital steps or get distracted and forget to take the following action with a buyer to keep the sale moving forward. Your sales playbook acts as a coaching opportunity when steps are missed or forgotten.
Steps to include are as follows:
- Lead Generation activities
- Buyer Qualification steps
- Sales Discussion and Sales Presentation stages
- Proposal or Quote process
- Negotiations and Objection handling best practices
- Closing strategies, and
- Post proposal or quote steps and introductions.
Secrets For a Successful Sales Playbook Program
A sales playbook is only practical if the sales team uses it.
For this reason, aside from the key elements mentioned above, there are some secrets to ensuring you have a successful playbook.
These secrets ensure that your sales team adopts and uses the strategies and tactics you’ve taken the time to lay out.
Otherwise, your playbook will be a giant paperweight with little to no value.
Remember, the objective of a sales playbook is to provide a helpful reference tool that every member of the sales team will use.
The ways to maintain the successful use of a playbook with your sales team include the following:
- Referencing examples while working with your team
- Encouraging playbook adoption as part of regular sales training
- Distributing copies of the playbook to every member of the sales team
- Creating simple sales playbook downloads
- Ensuring your playbook is reviewed and updated frequently
- Where it makes sense, incorporate sales playbook software, and
- Solicit the help of experts to create your playbook.
Sales Playbook Formats
Considering the goal of a sales playbook is to provide a readily available and handy tool for sales leaders and their teams, a playbook can take many forms.
The most common formats include the following:
Excel or Word Format
- Easy to create, capture and organize essential information
- Simple to read, share and update as necessary, and
- Low to no cost other than the investment of time to develop.
Printed Sales Playbook (Physical Copy)
- Provides an aesthetically pleasing resource your sales team can carry with them
- Encourages use by salespeople while “in the field”, and
- Less prone to quick updates and harder to control revisions.
E-book or Digital Playbook Format
- Simple to create and easy to distribute
- More professional appearance than using Excel or Word, and
- Difficult to control revisions in use by the sales team.
Sales Playbook Software
- It can be easy to create using custom or existing CRM software
- Quick access when an App or mobile version is available, and
- Ability to monitor the frequency your sales team uses it.
Sales Playbook FAQs
1. What is included in a sales playbook?
The fundamental components of a sales playbook include an Ideal Buyer Persona, Product or Service Details, Typical Buyer Challenges, and Value Statements.
Additional information can include typical buyer objections and responses and closing language that has been successful previously to close new business.
2. How do you make a playbook for sales?
A sales playbook incorporates basic information that your sales team should know to have the best opportunity to find, convert and close new sales.
You can select a format that is easy to create, as well as readily accessible to your sales team, including a simple excel or word playbook, all the way up to using custom software designed to help you create a successful playbook.
3. How do you write a good playbook?
The goal of a playbook is to encourage use by your sales team. To achieve this, lay out your playbook in an easy-to-read and reference format, using numbering and bullet points where possible.
Include examples and scenarios as reference points to help your sales team connect their experiences with the best practices they should apply.
What Will Your Playbook Look Like?
If you want your sales team to sell more, you need to create a solid sales playbook.
The format isn’t as important as the information contained within.
Get your sales team involved in its development, and you’ll immediately create buy-in to its use and application.
What information will you include in your sales playbook?
© Shawn Casemore 2022. All Rights Reserved.