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sales playbook best practices

Plans and strategies are only as useful as their implementation, which is why every sales organization needs a sales playbook.

Sales playbooks help organizations put their plans into action, guiding sellers through every step of the sales process. When reps have access to practical, simple resources, they will have more effective buyer conversations that lead to higher customer retention rates, better lead conversion rates, and increased numbers of reps meeting their quota.

Playbooks can be used in various stages of buyer engagements and can be customized according to specific processes and needs. Some playbooks describe an organization’s overall sales methodology, while others have more specific focuses, such as describing how to sell to different sales personas.

With so many possible ways to create and use playbooks, it can be difficult to decide what will work best for you and your team. That’s why DSG and Highspot recently surveyed 144 sales, marketing, and sales enablement professionals across 74 organizations to discover the best practices for sales playbooks. Here are four findings from the research.

Ensure Alignment with Sales Playbooks

All sales playbooks help implement sales and marketing plans. Sales organizations may find that sales playbooks offer solutions to specific problems. They can especially help an organization through transitions, and the study shows that two of the primary reasons for creating playbooks are:

  1. Shifting from selling products to selling solutions
  2. Implementing new messaging

Both of these changes require massive reboots in a sales team’s behavior and strategic direction. While sales and marketing leaders may create a great plan to align the teams, a sales playbook will ensure that the entire organization carries out the plan.

Keep the Right Content

The material inside a playbook can make or break its overall effectiveness, so sales leaders should only include the best content. They may include anything from guidance on a comprehensive enterprise story to a play focused on a specific persona. The goal is to find the right content for each organization and to make it simple.

The survey showed that respondents regularly chose a few themes for what they believe sales playbooks should do:

  1. Give instructions on how to sell the organization’s products or solutions
    Most sales playbooks include selling instructions and consist of accessible sales content, scripts, or marketing materials for each specific product or solution being sold. Reps should be able to easily access all the necessary information to make a sale in one convenient place.
  2. Provide coaching for sellers
    While the instructions provide sellers with the necessary information for specific products, this type of sales playbook helps guide reps become better overall sellers. Companies can refer back to past sales trainings that were successful or consult top-performing sellers to help compose effective tips and coaching to be included in the playbook.
  3. Describe the organization’s sales methodology
    For any sales methodology to be effective, organizations need to make sure their methodologies are being followed and reinforced regularly. Including a description in the sales playbook will remind sellers of the sales methodology on a regular basis.

Find Solutions to the Challenges

While sales playbooks help organizations perform efficiently and effectively, they do come with their own set of challenges. 52% of the study’s respondents feel that playbooks are difficult to create. Many companies rely on one group, such as product marketing or sales ops, to build the playbook for the entire sales team, but this approach can often be too much for one group to handle and may result in a less successful outcome.

Instead of relying on one group, organizations can use playbook creation as a way to unite sales, marketing, and product teams. The sales playbook can be built leveraging each team’s unique strengths, creating a more well-rounded playbook that gives sellers everything they may need in any situation.

Another potential problem can come from overloading the playbook with content. Adding too much content, even if the content is great, can decrease a playbook’s effectiveness. Too much excess makes the important information difficult to find and may cause sales reps to give up on a playbook entirely.

Deciding what to cut can be a difficult task, so the study offers a few strategies to help:

  1. Be directive in what content is displayed
  2. Spread out content releases over time
  3. Deliver content in a variety of ways, helping to create an engaging playbook

Keep Your Playbook Relevant

The most effective sales playbooks get regular, scheduled updates. Outdated content will cause sellers to miss out on the most recent, improved content and tools they can use to have successful buyer conversions.

Since 60% of respondents feel that playbooks become outdated quickly, organizations need to have an internal plan to update their playbooks regularly.These updates often get overlooked, as 31% of organizations only update their playbook once a year and 12% never do. Without updates, sellers will have a harder time seeing the value of the playbook and may disregard future updates as well. Sales leaders must set a standard of routine updates, which will benefit sellers and help them recognize the importance of playbooks.

sales playbook best practices

Organizations must also consider how they will deploy their playbooks. The traditional physical playbooks, which include slides or PDF files, are hard to update and make it difficult for sellers to find the right content they need. Sellers do not have the time to thumb through pages of content. Easy-to-navigate digital playbooks are critical for providing sellers with quick access to content.

The study shows that respondents deploy their playbooks in the following ways:

  1. CRM
  2. File Sharing
  3. Sales Enablement Platform
  4. Sales Playbook Solution

Sales playbooks make it easy for sales teams to stay on track with the sales process. By equipping sellers with the right content, sales tools, and training material, sales playbooks can help reps close more deals.

To find out how your organization can benefit from implementing best practices for sales playbooks, download the full study here.


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