What is a Sales Playbook and how do you create one?

all about sales playbook

Playbooks are a vital part of any team effort, and sales are no different. A sales playbook can help you build processes that convert into organized winning habits. When you integrate sales playbooks into your business plan, you can expect better customer retention rates and lead conversion rates. When the sales processes were simpler earlier, the sales playbooks were simpler. However, with increasing competition and changing business dynamics, sales playbooks have expanded. Let us understand in detail what a sales playbook is, and how you can go about creating one.

What is a playbook?

A sales playbook is a compilation of methods and tactics that determines the role of each member of your sales team. It will help you define your objectives, classify measurement metrics, and add a successful approach to close sales. The playbook incorporates all the methods and processes used by the most successful salespersons. The result is simple – you can sell effectively by managing difficult situations and convincing the buyer that there is no better alternative than what you are offering.

To ensure the success of your sales team, you must take every step to reduce the new hire ramp time. It is the time taken by your new sales reps to get adjusted to your processes and systems. Whether you have someone in the account team or on the development side, bringing them up to the speed as soon as possible is important. Your ROI (return on investments) will improve only when you increase your sales.

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Why do you need a sales playbook?

On average, a sales rep will last in a company for only around 1.5 years. Even if we consider the ramp time of three months, you will just get around one year of selling bandwidth from your sales rep. The competition in the business world is ever-increasing, which means that you cannot afford to waste any time. Your sales reps must be att heir productive best to attract new customers and increase your market size.

When you hire for development and response roles, you will most likely focus on inexperienced candidates. The average experience for such sales reps is 0-2 years. It means that without much experience it will be difficult for you to bring them to their optimum levels of productivity. To ramp up your sales reps as quickly as possible, they must necessarily follow a standardized process. They must be made aware of their objectives like the number of calls they need to make, and how quickly should they respond to inbound leads. If you use CRM, they must also know how do you use it since it can be customized.

Furthermore, they must also be made aware of the best practices of your team. Your new sales reps must also know how your team overcame objections or your competitors in the past. You must also make them aware of what content you use to help push deals forward at the different stages of the sales cycle. This is where your sales playbook will come in handy. All the successful sales teams and their sales reps make use of the sales playbook. So it is only a matter of time for you to start using one if you haven’t already.

It is important to note here that creating a sales playbook is a process in itself and takes time. Also, it is not a hack or an overnight phenomenon where you will start seeing results instantly. When you create a sales playbook, it will be very easier to train your new sales reps. You can give them unambiguous explanations of who your customers are, what are their pain points, and how do they buy your products. You can also educate them on the approach you need to follow to close the deals effectively.

If you do not have a sales playbook, your new sales reps will likely learn by shadowing other reps. It might happen they could end up making mistakes, which are already being made by your older sales reps. Since a sales playbook provides a complete overview of your sales process, your sales reps can save the time they spend on researching. It will give them more time to prospect and sell.  A sales playbook will give your reps the resources that have specific messaging and approach to be followed for the prospects.

Lastly, a playbook can also become a compilation of some of the most effective techniques of your sales team. The successful members of your sales team can share their tactics and methods, which can prove beneficial for other members of the team to note and implement.

How to write a sales playbook?

Before starting to write your sales playbook, you must outline your objectives and expected results. Next, it is important to identify which members of your sales team must be involved in it. All your successful sales reps, the Director, and VP should be ideally involved to start with. For any successful organization, their sales and marketing teams must function in close unison. So it is important to add the members of your marketing team as well. They are particularly aware of your buyer personas, market presence, and product messaging.

Your subject matter experts are other important people that need to be here. They will share all the important insights you need to create a sales literature that will rock. If you have a separate function for marketing operations, sales operations, and sales enablement, bring them on board as well. Once you have identified the key players to be a part of the project, you must identify the project manager who will lead the project. The PM will oversee timelines, brainstorming, content inputs, feedback, and lastly approval.

If you are creating your sales playbook from scratch, it is best to pick one part of the sales process. It will be easier for your sales reps to follow a shorter book than a longer one with multiple parts of the sales process. If your sales reps are struggling to identify leads that would qualify, you can cover this section in your playbook. You can start by creating a framework of questions, qualification criteria, and other parameters. If your team is struggling with demos, you can target that. You can focus on your presentation structure and strategies, your USP, and the right messaging.

Next, you must start reviewing your existing content. It will include all your calling and voicemail scripts, email templates and sequences, presentation decks, meeting agendas, etc. Don’t think of discarding them. It will not only save your time to create everything from scratch but also help your sales reps adapt quickly to what they were already doing. Ensure that you have appropriate categories, and the content is tagged correctly to each of them. Let us have a look at what a sales template looks like.

Sales playbook template

A sales playbook template comprises the following sections.

About the company

It is the first section of the template that would include the company’s history, organization structure, and hierarchy, philosophy, goals, and objectives. The focus should also be on your sales team. You can specify the structure of your sales team, the leaders, the targets, assigned territories, how to find answers for nagging questions, etc.

If you have a well-crafted and documented career path for your sales reps, include that as well. Include other important as well like what you must achieve to get promoted, what is the period of moving to the next stage, what skills or experience do your sales reps need to have, how much your company pays for different levels. While the core focus should remain on getting your sales reps aligned with buyer personas, these aspects are important as well. Your new hires must know about your company to get a clear idea of what lies ahead of them.

Sales process

One of the most important sections of the template, you must list all the processes and steps from connecting to closing. Make a list of all the important activities that must be followed at each stage, who are the stakeholders, and what the deliverables are.

Products and services

This section must include the complete information of the products or services your sales reps have to sell. Make sure to include the core value offerings, use cases, price points, buyers and end-users, and related verticals or industries. If your products or services are different from each other, you can create one sales playbook per product or service. It is important because the buying processes would differ, and the sales reps will not be the same for different products or services.

Customer profile

Your new sales reps need to know your customers very well. Doing it quickly will only help them find prospects and identify qualified leads soon. You can start by defining their job profiles, their KPIs, their reporting managers, where are they placed in the buying process, how much authority they have, etc.

The CXO level professionals will not get involved in the sales process until they have two to three shortlisted vendors. You can also classify your leads by tagging them in your qualification criteria. For example, the ‘lead has the budget’ or the ‘lead can buy within two months.’

Outreach tactics

Some sales reps follow a prescribed formula of outreach, while others enjoy total control of how they want to reach out. When deals are complex and involve higher revenue scope, sales reps can expect more autonomy. You can define the medium of touches your sales reps should ideally have. Here is an example of Max Altschuler, who is the CEO of Sales Hacker.

Day 1: Email/Inmail

Day 3: Morning email + afternoon call

Day 5: Morning call + afternoon voicemail

Day 7: Morning email + afternoon call and voicemail

Day 9: Morning email and call

Also, share guidelines on how to pursue opportunities and when to back off. If your prospects open and read your emails, you must continue pursuing them. You should probably start concentrating on other leads if your prospect hasn’t opened your last five emails. They are clearly not interested.

Target messages

It should be one of the largest sections and include a lot of information. You can include your sample target messages like positioning statements, email templates, common objections, and tips to overcome them and calling and voicemail scripts. Your presentation decks, meeting agendas, and any other important resource used by your team must also be included here.

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CRM guidelines

Your CRM must be uniformly used by all the members of your sales team. It is important to set expectations. You can do that by using this section to give a uniform understanding of what each stage consists of.
Furthermore, include information about moving opportunities from one to another, the optional and mandatory fields, how to view the dashboard, how to create and analyze reports, how to customize the portal, how to use tasks, etc. It is also important to define the objectives of the usage of the CRM on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Selling approach

Your company must already be using at least one sales methodology. You can describe that by highlighting what it is, how your sales reps should use it, and where they can find additional information.

Examples

You can use this section to show your sales reps what successful sales calls look like. It should give them key insights and takeaways they can use for their next calls. You can upload the recordings or share the links or screencasts of your top meetings. It would be helpful for your team if you can have one example of every stage of the sales process.

Pay structure

Your sales reps will better execute your plans if they how your compensation and commission structure works. You can describe the type of plan you follow like commission only, salary only, base and bonus, etc. If you have a base and bonus plan, you can define the percentage of base and bonus, and any accelerators or decelerators in the picture.

You can also include the quota-setting process, how often you run sales contests, etc. To further give an idea of how much your sales reps can earn per month, you can have a hypothetical scenario. Include the figures if your sales reps achieve 60, 75, 90, or 120% of their targets.

KPIs

Define the metrics and parameters that your managers consider when tracking the progress of their juniors. Highlight certain important ones and key numbers that they should be watchful of. It can be about the number of calls that each sales rep need to make in a day.

Resources

Resources would include testimonials, case studies, and customer references that sales reps might require from time to time. Include all your existing resources that will be of importance to your new hires.

Depending on your audience profile, your case studies would also differ. Include all the resources that target different buyer personas. A one-size-fits-all approach is not ideal here. Ready reference material will help your sales reps use it to improve their selling and increase their chances of closing.

B2B sales playbook framework

B2B sales playbook can differ based on the type of business, but here are some common elements.

  • It will start off with a comprehensive client profile for every product or service you offer. It should clearly answer the question of who would need it and why.
  • Include your sales presentation, which can either be in a video form or a detailed plan. It will include the pain points of your customers and how your products and services overcome those problems. This can be used by your sales reps to tailor their client presentations.
  • Add a stakeholder map that includes all the stakeholders involved in the buying process. Typically, the buying process would have at least 5-7 stakeholders.
  • Make a list of common objections your sales reps will likely face and add the responses on how to overcome them.
  • Add checklists and scoring guides that can help you rank your leads based on how likely they are to make the purchase. This will help you in identifying the true selling opportunities.
  • During tough times, buyers are very likely to keep away from major purchases to keep costs low. Make sure you educate your sales reps on how they can educate the buyers on how it will cost them if they don’t make the purchase.
  • Add milestones that can help your sales reps identify the stage where the buyer is in the buying process. A similar tactic can be used by your sales reps to identify where they should be in their selling process.
  • Add an analysis of all your main competitors to show their progress and how your company is positioned to tackle and overcome the competition.
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Final thoughts

A sales playbook is an ultimate guide for the new members of your sales team. It will give them all the necessary information and motivation to succeed in their new role. If you don’t have a sales playbook yet, use these tips to make one for yourself today.