Best Practices to create a killer sales playbook template

Feature Image

Feb 27 2020


In football, a play is the “plan of action” or the “strategy” the players are to use to move the ball down the field. Similarly, a sales play gives your sales team the methodology they ought to use to move the prospect from the discovery stage to the conversion stage.  

With a win rate that is twice as much as their peers, companies that have a well-defined sales strategy enjoy apparent benefits. 

Despite that, over 40% of sales teams do not have a sales playbook. While some companies simply haven’t realized the potential of a sales playbook yet, others fall prey to creating ineffective models and inadvertently leading their sales team on a futile course.  

Wondering how you can avoid such a fate?  The solution is simple — by expanding your understanding of what a sales playbook is, how it can benefit your sales team and the best way to find the ideal fit for yourself. 

What Is a Sales Playbook?  

A sales playbook (aka prospecting sales book) is to your sales team what Google is to students working on a project for marks. An amalgamation of your buyer personas, sales processes, strategies, and everything else a sales personnel from your team can need to close the deal with a prospect - the sales playbook works as a personalized sales search engine.  This consistent sales process, available to everyone in your team, acts as the secret sauce to successful sales. A sales playbook has the exact steps needed to complete a process or resolve an issue your salesperson can face, with the supported content and tools as well.   No two sales playbooks can be the same. Each organization has a customized version of the sales playbook that works the best for it. And as your sales team grows, the plays in your playbook keep increasing to address new challenges.  

Why Should You Use a Sales Playbook?

A tool like the sales playbook came into being because complex organizations realized they were wasting too much of their time and resources on training new employees or helping current employees with their prospect’s buyer’s journey. A coaching tool that can save time, avoid miscommunication, and promise results — the sales playbook is a set of repeatable, actionable, and time-tested steps to close a deal.  But the assistance of a playbook is not limited to complex organizations. Every sales team, whether big or small, can benefit from their sales playbook. Here is what it can do for you.  

  • 1. Improve Onboarding and Training There are three ways newly onboarded members are generally trained. First, through their orientation. Here, you will share the do(s) and don’t(s) of your work and work processes with the individual. While necessary for all new members, this hardly constitutes as training or preparing the new member for any kind of challenge they are expected to face. The orientation is often followed by one of the following two methods. Either they learn what to do when by consulting the experienced members of the team till they understand the processes better or they shadow an experienced member and learn by watching.   

Unfortunately, both of these systems can be problematic. Apart from ad hoc plans taking at least two months more than strong sales onboarding programs, these methods also have a lot of scope for the trainee getting mislead. For instance, they could end up picking up work tactics that the experienced member himself is incorrectly applying. Moreover, it is easy for the new member to lose what they learned and not be able to apply it to their work at all when an approach such as this is taken. 

In fact, in four weeks’ time, they are expected to forget at least 87% of what was taught in training. And yet, 70% of still leave coaching up to the manager or use an informal approach for it. 

This is where the sales playbook can make things easier. It can be directly handed to the trainee after the orientation, allowing them to follow already established effective processes without wasting the experienced member’s time. The sales reps can also go back to it whenever they are stuck, avoiding the issue of forgetting something vital altogether. 

  •  2. Identify Key Players  You are not the first one to believe you and your company hired salespeople with a lot of potential only to get stuck with underperforming personnel in your team. Often times, we blame this on the individual’s lack of understanding of the company’s processes or on them having to navigate sales in a new environment.   

By offering specific instructions on how your team can manage sales efficiently, you can get rid of the doubts of external factors (like the ones mentioned above) affecting your team members. If individuals are still unable to reach their performance quota, you can clearly identify them as underperformers and take actions accordingly. Similarly, with high-performing sales teams being 2.3 times more likely than underperforming ones to use guided selling, the ‘A level’ performers will shine through after being introduced to the company’s sales playbook, allowing you to take measures to encourage their growth.  

  • 3. Enable Consistency  With the existence of clearly defined and outlined sales processes, a consistent and efficient work environment will follow. Additionally, since everyone on your team will be echoing the same messaging to the prospects throughout the sales process, the chances of miscommunication through mixed messages and confusion will reduce exponentially.  Brand consistency will allow your entire team to create an impression of one entity instead of different salespeople in your prospect’s mind, increasing your revenue by over 33%   

 Save Time and Increase Efficiency  Sales executives spend 30% of their time looking for or creating content. This translates to hours of wasted time if they have to create unique messaging and questions for their prospects. Unfortunately, even after the salespeople do that, 70% of the content is never utilized by them because they do not find relevant material.  With a sales playbook in hand, sales reps simply need to determine the strategy they are going to use with a particular prospect and take the content from there.  

How Can You Create Your Own Sales Playbook?  

Now that you know how beneficial a sales playbook is for your company, it is time to make one for yourself. Obviously, your playbook will be customized to your organization, but there are a few elements that are standard to all, and you should ensure you do not miss any of them. Here is a checklist of key ingredients to help you create the sales playbook you need.  

1. Start With a Task Team  

Before you start on the playbook itself, remember that creating a sales playbook is not a one-man job. Make a dedicated task team that can contribute to the content you are adding in the playbook. You should include the following members in your task team:  - Subject matter experts who can offer insights on the content. - Sales team members who can share their experience and the strategies that work and fail for them. - Marketing team members who are well-versed with your buyer persona and the company’s messaging and can help you tune the same. To avoid delay and conflict between the members, it is best to assign the role of a Project Manager to one of the team members. This individual will have the responsibility of maintaining the timeline, approving content, and ensuring other members actively participate.  

2. Work on the Business Overview  

It is to fulfill your company’s purpose that your sales department exists, and your core values are what define and give meaning to this purpose. It is essential to integrate them within your playbook content so that your sales reps can have clarity on what the bigger picture is and how do they fit into it. In fact, around 63% of sales leaders believe that company knowledge is one of the primary factors that lead to success.   Consult with your leadership team to clearly determine what your company’s mission and vision are and create your strategies around them. Spelling them out will also help your sales reps understand what the company stands for and help them convey that effectively to their prospects.  

3. Determine the Ideal Buyer Persona  

If your sales reps do not understand your target audience, they will not be able to sell to them. 82% of companies have created an improved value proposition using customer personas, proving that forming targeted strategies that make conversion easier is possible if you accurately determine your buyer persona. From your lead’s location to what they like and dislike to which part of the buyer’s journey they are in, each nugget of information will help you shape your ideal buyer persona. 

This will, in turn, assist you in creating content that targets specific profiles, likely increasing your customer engagement by almost six times when targeting cold leads.  For a better understanding of how a buyer’s journey and persona can help with sales, go over this short video.  

4. Identify the Roles and Responsibilities of Your Sales Team  

This step will help in two ways. First, it will give you a transparent view of your sales team’s day-to-day work, the tools they require to manage it, and what results does it bring. This knowledge will directly contribute to your content and strategies in the playbook. Secondly, if you have more clarity on the responsibilities of the current members, you can propose to aim your hiring towards getting talent that can satisfy the unfulfilled roles. This way, instead of wasting resources and training time by hiring talent and fitting them into a specific role, you can search head-on for employees to fill particular positions you have in mind.  

5. Add Messaging Templates and Examples  

New sales reps find it challenging to follow in the footsteps of the experienced players around them when it comes to directly deal with the prospect. Researching or trying to learn by themselves how to contact the prospects and what to say or write can cost them as much as 30% of their time.  By adding email templates, call scripts, qualification questions, etc. to your sales playbook, you can save your sales executives from wasting time on formulating unique messages. 

Even though the top 20% of sellers generate 56% of revenue, only 16% of organizations assess why those high performers are so successful, obviously losing out on a no-cost, valuable resource. You can avoid this mistake by using your star performers' insight to train your new employees. To replicate the learnings of shadowing an experienced team member without wasting said member’s time, you can include call recordings, screenshots of the email chains or text messages, and screen share recordings of Skype calls or live demos. These can comprise material from various situations, from fundamental to exceptional use cases. 

Pro Tip: Remember that each team member can have a medium they prefer to engage with their prospects. When adding messaging examples and templates, offer alternatives for different seller types. Instead of plucking the reps out of their comfort zone and forcing your medium on them, you can see better results by nurturing them to profit using their preferred channels. 

6. Resources to Understand Your Prospect  

While message templates do make things easier for the sales team, choosing between which model to use in which situation can be a little difficult for a new player. This does not mean that your playbook won’t have instructions on how to use each template, but a better tactic will be to empower your sales team to make the decision themselves in dynamic situations.  You can do so by adding relevant customer testimonials, use cases, and stories that can give your team an even better indication of how your ideal buyer persona behaves. 55% of businesses said that their sales reps are not able to personalize the buyer’s journey because they struggle to find tailored collateral. To avoid such a situation with your team, you can use these resources you have on your customers and prepare your sales executives to make informed decisions on how to approach and engage their prospects.   

7. Outline the Compensation Plan  

A detailed, easy-to-understand compensation plan can motivate your sales reps to work towards executing it. Ensure that your sales playbook has the compensation system detailed out, whether it is salary only, salary plus commission, or commission only. Be clear and concise in listing out the basics and benefits of the model you choose.   To make things easier for your team to understand, you can also include an example of a hypothetical salesperson and the compensation she receives when she reaches her quota by 30%, 50%, 80%, 100%, 120%, etc.  

8. Measure Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)  

Another valuable element to motivate your sales reps to achieve their targets, the KPIs will give your team measurable goals to work toward. Apart from playing an essential role in the compensation plan, you can also use KPIs to extract data that can eventually improve your sales methodology.  For instance, if you notice that sales executives that sent at least three follow-up emails enjoyed more conversions, you can make it a standard practice to send that many emails for prospecting and add its examples in your playbook. 

9. Pick Proper Tools  

Remember, no “play” or strategy is complete without knowledge on how it is to be carried out. A sound sales playbook has the entire collection of content and tools that your sales team may need to support your strategy. Ensure that you add information on all the tools required for each step, along with suggestions on their must-use features.   Whether your inclusion is as elementary as Skype for video conferences or as refined as Clodura for sales engagement, by offering a list of efficient tools, you can significantly reduce a new member’s guesstimate workload and ensure consistency in the organization.  

10. Ensure Repeatable Strategies  

As much as this playbook will have your most remarkable success stories, it is essential to remember that the intention behind creating it is not presenting your best moments in a compiled form. While working on your sales playbook, do not stray away from your main aim — to create a coaching tool that your sales executives, both new and old, can refer to for all their sales-related processes and queries.  To be a source worth referring to, the tactics you include in the playbook should be duplicable consistently. Until your sales reps can use your playbook to recreate the strategies and achieve the expected, intended result, the playbook is nothing but a guide. Enforcing such a guide on your trainees will bring forth negative consequences and end up distracting them rather than helping them save time, effort, and resources like intended.  

11. Keep Switching the Old for the New  

Do not assume that your work is complete once you finish with the first final copy of your sales playbook. To increase the longevity of your playbook, you have to ensure that it stays relevant to the present sales processes and scenarios. This is only possible if you regularly add new strategies and tools and remove outdated ones.  Apart from the techniques, your sales team should also be aware of the changing customer behaviors and preferences. So, it is imperative that you regularly update customer stories, use cases, whitepapers, and testimonials as well.  

Pro Tip: To make sure that none of the members from your sales team misses any of these additions and upgrades, create a dedicated channel where everyone can be notified of significant changes in the sales playbook. It is also a good idea to allow others to contribute to its growth by keeping suggestions open.

What Should You Avoid?  

So, now you have a complete understanding of what a sales playbook is, how it is beneficial for your business, and how you can create one that can drive your sales team’s success. All you have to do now is stick to your sales playbook best practices, and avoid these common errors, and you’re good to go: 

  • Generic Content  

Do not merely copy-paste a template of another organization’s sales playbook. Your playbook is your unique voice, targeting your unique prospects.   

  • Information Overload  

In the process of developing a sales playbook, you will come across a lot of valuable information. It is not necessary to include all of it in your playbook. Instead, organize the data to create segment-specific guides so that your sales reps do not feel overwhelmed.    

  • Unengaging Medium

Your perfectly compiled sales playbook will be of no use if it is too dull for salespeople to actually go through it. 83% of human learning occurs visually, making audio and video one of the best mediums to learn something. Create a digital, easily shareable and searchable playbook with good sound and visual inclusions to keep your team interested in using it.   - 

  • Wishful Positioning

40% of what salespeople claim resonates with us, doesn’t really resonate widely or at all (in some cases). If your messaging is misleading and tries to position your organization as something it is not, your sales playbook will fail to boost sales like you hope to. Validate your positioning with accurate data and weed out messaging that doesn’t resonate with your company to avoid your playbook from crashing. 

You're Ready to Play!  

Developing a sales playbook is difficult and time-consuming. But, it also gets you one step closer to creating the ideal sales team. Not to mention, in the long run, you’ll end up saving much more than what you invest in making this playbook. So, double your efforts and start the work on your sales playbook to standardize your sales process for scalability and predictability.