If you run a sales team or are about to, you may know that things can sometimes get out of whack.
You may have good training, a great team, and a solid process but that can all go awry without the right implementation
Maybe there is...
- Lack of knowledge about what to prioritize.
- Inconsistency in the sales operation within your team.
- Confusion on what to track or how to track sales metrics.
- A group of new hires that aren’t ramping up fast enough.
Does any of that resonate with you?
If so, you’re in the right place.
In this article, we'll show you how to build a sales playbook that you'll actually use.
Provide a template you can use for your sales playbook. We'll also cover:
- Explain different variations of Sales Playbooks.
- Outline how to create a sales playbook.
- Dive deep into each section a sales playbook.
- Discuss distribution methods and update frequency.
Sales Playbook Template
Before we get into the meat of this topic, here is a sales playbook template for you to copy.
What is a Sales Playbook, and why is it important to have?
A sales playbook is a collection of strategies, processes, resources, and messaging given to your sales team. A sales playbook should provide clarity about the company, sales process, and messaging for the success of closing deals at scale.
Here is a list of common things a sales playbook can have.
- Sales tools.
- Sales tactics.
- Product overviews.
- Company information.
- Sales operational process.
- User personas & challenges.
The above information is designed to help sales reps both acclimate quickly to their roles as well as have a clear set of guidelines to follows when they need it. While managers may have open-door policies to help reps succeed, the sales playbook keeps the basics readily available for the sales team as well as any stakeholders working in conjunction.
The playbook will serve as the central communication blueprint of your sales operations throughout your entire team. From new hires to seasoned pros, your sales playbook will keep everyone on the same page.
Over the years, the format of a “Sales Playbooks” has evolved and is now available in different a variety of formats.
- Physical sales playbook - An old-fashioned book-formatted handbook that have been around for a century. These are harder to distribute and very restricted to future editions and updates. The benefit is a lot of people enjoy reviewing materials in a physical format.
- E-Book/PDF Playbook - This is a non-print version of the physical handbook. They are similar to that of a physical playbook with the advantage of being easier to distribute.
- Digital playbook - An online-based playbook that you can easily edit, collaborate, and interact with in real-time. This format is easy to distribute, easy to update, and quick to access. Another advantage is you can include links within the playbooks that direct users to other resources such as process diagrams, metrics dashboards, blog content, etc.
- Software playbooks - There are some softwares that allow you to build out a playbook within them, typically in the form of a wiki. Be carful though, sometimes the term “playbook” is used by SaaS companies to describe a feature of their tool. This feature might not be what you are looking for in a playbook, just a name to illustrate the features ability to help with sales consistency.
How to create a Sales Playbook
Every company is unique (product, customer, industry, operations) and so are its process and metrics. Because of this, your playbook will also be unique and mirror your business operations. In the next few sections, we will address the important sections that should be included in every playbook.
With the playbook being the foundation of your sales team operations, it is important to ensure the information outlined in the playbook is up to date and accurate. If needed, involve stakeholders from other departments to ensure the validity of the content.
When planning the playbook, keep in mind that our audiences may change over time, so we should be inclusive of all contents that are beneficial to everyone, from the current sales team, new hires, marketing teams, and even for other departments to reference. Transparency in information is what makes your team’s overall operations more productive.
Here is an overview of the sales playbook template (access here).
- Communication with managers
Product & Pricing
- Inbound/Outbound Prospecting
Operational Best Practices
- Prospect Research Guide
- Sequencing Guide
- Priority Management & Time Allocation
- Sales Technology Stack
Let’s dive into each section.
Section 1: Company Overview
This section provides a broad overview of the entire company, its business operations, the business environment it exists in, and the goals of the company. This is especially great for new hires since they will have the least amount of knowledge. For current employees, this will serve as a good refresher whenever its reviewed.
This is a great opportunity to excite your team about how you're impacting the industry and fill them in on the company's history.
At the bare minimum, it should address the following questions:
- What does your company do?
- What is the industry and where does your company fit?
- Mission & values of the company.
- What is the long-term strategy/vision of your company?
This part is to show the current organizational structure and reporting within the company. The importance here is showing how the sales team fits within the overall structure of the company. This should not be a detailed org chart like you would find in your HR system.
This should be a simple, high-level overview that provides a functional organizational chart with one name who represents each function. This allows the reader to know who to look for if they need assistance.
The section of the organizational chart you should have the most detail on is the one of the sales team. This should explain job functions, roles, and relationships. This is also the place to outline the general responsibilities for each role, to better understand who’s doing what and who reports to whom.
Communication with managers
Your VPs and executives are busy people and so are your managers. They may not have a whole lot of time, but they do want to be informed and engaged with.
Your sales teams may encounter a lot of questions, but they aren’t always brave enough to go and ask all the questions they have. They may make assumptions in between, not knowing what question is too basic or what’s presentable.
This section should outline the communication plan between the sales team and the VPs, Executives, and Managers they work with.
COO of Stripe.com, Claire Hughes Johnson started a communication outline back when she was at Google called “Working with Claire” that outlined all the dos/don’ts, interests, best tactics one should do when working with Claire. For her, it was a 2,000 words document that talked through all elements of working together. 2,000 words may be overkill, but having a one-pager created by each of your representing managers can be very helpful to ramp up the communication, transparency, and productivity surrounding the team.
It can be as simple as a basic table with links to Google Docs on each individual leader's communication preferences.
Section 2: Industry
Next is providing information on the industry your company operates in. Selling in one industry can be different than another. This section is intended to educate your team on the market, customers, and challenges they experience.
This section should include the following information:
- Industry Overview, trends/movement within the industry
- Good to know industry terminologies
- General challenges within the industry
- Customer Profiles (that you focus on/target)
- Pain points shared by those customers (for each persona)
Section 3: Product & Pricing
What is the core of every business? Some say it’s the product, some say it’s the employees that drive the operation and sales. They are both true. However, without the product, there wouldn’t be a business in the first place. So this section is to educate your team on the product/service offering, bundling, and pricing options.
This section is heavily dependent on the company, as every business/offerings are unique. However, at the minimum, it should contain the following information:
- Product Overview/Vision
- Product/Feature briefs (1 for each segment or personas)
- Pricing information (or how it is determined)
Section 4: Sales Process/Workflow
With the foundational knowledge of organization, market, and product offerings, your reps are now ready to hit the ground running and win deals. In order to do that, your reps must be be familiar with the sales process.
The first step is introducing the process from beginning to end. This can be done by mapping the sales process in a flow chart or listing every step in detail. The importance here is to have a guiding principle for your sales team to follow at every stage of the sales cycle.
- What to do when a customer is interested?
- What do you do with a referral?
- What if they no-showed a meeting?
Your sales process mapping document should include all stages of the sales process from leads coming from marketing, sales prospecting, discovery calls, presentation, contracting, renewals, and everything in between.
Inbound and outbound prospecting is a large part of the sales process, its how leads are generated. If you have an SDR team responsible for handing leads off to the salesperson it is important to have qualifications outlined here. The definition of a qualified lead aligns the team responsible for lead gen with the team responsible for closing the sale.
This section should include information on:
- List of terminologies used to describe inbound and outbound process
- Information on qualifying a lead
- Information on booking discovery/demos.
There is always some similarities between different companies but often there are a lot of differences. Make sure to outline each of these stages here. .
This section should include information on:
- What’s considered a discovery?
- When do you qualify someone into the discovery stage?
- How is it different from demos?
- How to properly conduct a demo? (including scripts)
- Who should be involved?
This is a place to jot down some of those processes, best practices, and internal case studies available for your sales team to reference so they can best present your solution to the customer, negotiate, and win deals.
For many businesses, returning customers make up a large portion of their revenue. Teach your sales team about the lifetime value of each customer they sign and the importance of maintaining a good relationship with that customer. Provide lessons on how they can maximize sales from existing customers and how to pitch new products to make those extra sales.
Section 5: Messaging Library
Coming up with a good message to sell to customers takes time and effort. Marketing messaging is normally created with advertising pipeline generation in mind and focus more on attracting a large number of interest, rather than being specific to certain person. Salespeople often make edits to the messaging that is sent out on the individual level, but with inconsistencies among the team.
A great messaging library should address all messaging across all platforms:
- Introductory/overview emails
- Follow-ups (for every stage)
- Call scripts and voice mails
- Responses to objections
- Social Media Messaging (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc)
- Briefs/Snippets (product, case studies, press release, blogs)
Unless your products have drastic changes, your messages should remain somewhat consistent.
Section 6: Operational Best Practices
Your reps may be creative at cracking through a customer, but at the end of the day, you’re both looking for results that maximize individual time and productivity. This section should be filled with a collection of operational best practices for your sales team to follow while conducting sales activities.
Prospect Research Guide
Arguably, one of the most time consuming aspect of sales prospecting is conducting prospect research. It is also the most distracting activity for your reps because of social media and ads.
The truth is, there is a diminishing return curve on the time your reps conduct the research. In most cases, any time spent after 8-minutes doesn’t get you nearly as much of a return as your first 8. We recently published a deep dive article on account and prospect research with frameworks and templates you can use immediately.
There’s a lot of methodologies out there on sequencing. What you have found to be the best for your team should be put in this section.
This section should include information on:
- Explaining what is Sequence/Cadence (Here's our guide on building one)
- Methodology specific to your company on building one
- The mix of phone calls, emails, social media, in-person outreach
- Organizing the “one-off” events
Priority management & time allocation
Most sales teams work on a number of prospective customers at the same time. Not all of which are in the same stage of the sales cycle and require different activities to get to the next stage. This is a section that explains what to prioritize, and how to allocate the time so your rep is consistently pursue the high-value items.
Sales Technology Stack
Companies nowadays all use technologies to improve the productivity of their team. But with so much competition, each team may be using a different portfolio of technologies. This is the section to list them and how they are being used within the team. You can also explain the basic setup for each.
Section 7: Metrics
This is the KPIs section. While there are a lot of things to track, every company has its sets of metrics that matter to them most. Whether that’s the total revenue closed, sales of a certain type of product, or new versus old customer %, ultimately, this is what ties everything together between you, your team, and upper management.
This section should include information on:
- The metrics your company uses to measure sales performance.
- The expectation of each salesperson
- Top priorities
- Any dashboard that may be relevant to your team.
Distribution & update frequency
Now with the completed Sales playbook, it’s time to distribute it to your team. At the beginning of this article, we explained the different variations of playbooks in the market. If you’re following the digital playbook, distribution is easy, since the playbook lives in the cloud. This will allow your team to access it and you can make edits as often as needed.
Sales is an ever-evolving operation and proven methodologies are backed by data. If you make improvements to a process after proving the validity with data, update the playbook to reflect that change. Treat your new sales playbook like a living document and watch it scale with your company.