You’ve built your sales strategy. You’ve rolled out your sales methodology. Now how do you ensure your sales team can effectively execute these actions in the field?
Enter sales playbooks. These handy guides exist to empower salespeople with everything they need to know simply and repeatedly bring your sales strategy to life in the field.
Let’s take a look at the essentials of crafting and deploying impactful sales playbooks including:
What is a sales playbook?
A sales playbook refers to any means of codifying and documenting sales best practices. A good sales playbook should tell sellers specifically what to know, say, show, and do for any given scenario across sales cycles, industry factors, specific buyers’ journeys, and unique pain points of consumers. This ensures that sellers can execute your sales strategy effectively in the field – and close more deals.
Before the advent of digital sales, sales playbooks were literally that – huge physical binders of call scripts, step-by-step workflows, and other resources salespeople could use to engage buyers. As sales itself has evolved, so have playbooks. Modern versions now reside online – typically within a sales enablement platform – which allows sellers easy, in-the-moment access to best practices wherever they are working.
What is the difference between a sales playbook vs. a sales kit vs. a sales play?
Besides sales playbooks, you may have also heard of sales plays or sales kits. Each of these terms refers to a method of guiding salespeople through every stage of the sales process. However, where a sales playbook may comprise many different plays and kits, sales plays and sales kits are intended for specific use cases. Let’s take a closer look at their differences.
What is a sales play?
A sales play refers to a set of repeatable steps, actions, and best practices for sellers to use during a specific customer scenario. A sales playbook is a collection of many different sales plays. Sales plays can be created to support different regions, product lines, or buyer personas; this ensures that your sellers’ tactics match different customer needs. Sales play content should provide context around what you are asking sellers to do, show sellers how to take that specific action, and inform sales managers how to coach against that action.
What is a sales kit?
Like a sales play, a sales kit is a set of collateral about the company, product, or service that aids sellers in the process of selling. A sales kit narrows in on “what to know” and “what content to show” buyers – such as talking points for sales calls, Linkedin outreach, and email templates. Sales kits operate as a one-stop shop to help salespeople navigate the buyer across the sales cycle.
Why are sales playbooks important?
Sales playbooks are important because they empower sellers to put your sales strategy into action during customer interactions. No matter how your strategy changes – whether that’s selling something new, deploying a new methodology, or entering a new region – sales playbooks ensure that sellers know what to do, and how to do it effectively across the entire buyer’s journey.
To get a better understanding of their impact, let’s imagine you are rolling out a new product line. How should sellers talk about this product line? What value does this new product provide to the existing or potential customer? What new content exists for a seller to send the customer?
If sales plays didn’t exist to provide clear, codified guidance, salespeople would be left to pick and choose which actions to take (or not take!) on their own. This will lead to uneven results as each sales team member would position the product differently to meet (or not meet) customer needs. Some sellers may find their own way to sell the new product; others will struggle and fail to meet targeted sales goals.
Instead of letting sellers guess and check what works, you can codify best practices by updating your sales playbook with a new sales play that supports the new product line. As sellers begin to sell the product, they can access the sales play to understand what actions they need to take to be successful at every touchpoint, from prospecting and lead qualification to selling, outreach and closing. More importantly, it saves them time from creating new sales content since everything is readily available.
With best practices laid out for them, it is much more likely that all your seasoned and new salespeople will succeed, and that your business will hit its revenue targets.
What are sales motions?
The term sales motion refers to the particular method sales organisations use to bring a product or service to market. In simple terms, it’s how your sales team operates — how it is structured, how territories are determined, how pipeline is generated, and so on. Sales motions are defined by your larger go-to-market strategy.
What should be in a sales playbook?
A sales playbook should comprise of your company overview and many different sales plays and sales kits to support specific scenarios. Cumulatively, this knowledge should guide sellers through any customer conversation, at any stage of the sales funnel.
While your sales playbook should be specific to your company, a good rule of thumb is to make sure the following sales plays are included:
- Persona: Tailored to your ideal customer profile and specific buyer personas
- Compete: How to handle common objections and recommended objection handling skills to land competitive differentiation
- Prospecting: Recommended inbound and outbound discovery questions and elevator pitches
- Demo: Details demo best practices for different buyer personas and tips for handling Q&A sessions
- Product: Details on a specific product line like price points, use cases, case studies, core value offerings
- Region/Territory: Supports regional activities, such as field events
- Closing: Guides sellers on how to close deals, including working with intra-company functions like legal and deal desk
- Post Sales: Details the post-sale handoffs and CRM follow-ups
- Renewal/Cross-Sell/Up-Sell: Supports post-sale motions, with updated messaging for existing customers
- Customer Win-Back: Addresses reasons for customer attrition and implement strategies to re-engage lapsed customers through incentives or promotions
- Sales Technology: Guidance on using sales tools and integrations for efficient workflows and enhanced customer experience
Download our sales playbook template to land the modern sales playbook format.
How do you roll out a sales playbook to the field?
The key to rolling a sales playbook out in the field is sales enablement.
First, your sales enablement platform should house your sales playbook. Sales enablement platforms come in many shapes and sizes but the one thing they all have in common is their ability to operate as a single source of truth for reps to find the content, guidance, onboarding, and training they are looking for. A great sales enablement platform will allow you to build your sales playbook in-platform. For instance, Highspot enables sales enablement professionals to quickly build richly formatted sales plays via our SmartPage technology.
Second, your sales enablement team should orchestrate the creation and maintenance of your sales playbook. Acting as the essential link between sales and other stakeholders, like Marketing or VPs, enablement practitioners should work to align the entire organisation on sales goals, and then codify how the business will meet them in a playbook.
Your enablement function is also responsible for socialising your playbook with your sales team and achieving seller buy-in. Enablement practitioners can do this by communicating this level from the top down, leveraging executive voices to explain the value proposition for sales reps. But they should also create accountability through frontline managers and empower these leaders to lead and coach against the best practices in your playbook.
Seven steps to craft the perfect sales playbook
Ready to build a sales playbook that’s sure to set reps up for success? Follow these seven steps to get started.
1. Align your go-to-market (GTM) teams
Before you even begin to write down best practices, you must first understand what it is that you are trying to achieve. Most businesses have an idea of their sales strategy and key peformance indicators (KPIs) such as “hit X million in revenue” or “enter a new market”. However, when it comes to creating sales playbooks, you’ll need to be more specific on how you intend to achieve that.
You want to include a framework for helping both your sales and marketing teams align to identify, target, and convert qualified leads to achieve targeted goals. If your goal is to sell a new product line, then your initiatives should be based around sales content, marketing needs, and new behaviours and skills sales teams need to be successful in the field.
2. Speak to your salespeople
It is essential that you involve sales reps in the process of developing your sales playbook. After all, their success rests on the value of the playbook’s content. Great enablement teams should regularly source and incorporate seller perspectives into their work.
For instance, at the start of any playbook, play, or kit development, ask sellers for insight into where they are struggling. Perhaps they are missing a piece of content or maybe messaging isn’t resonating with customers. Let their perspective guide how you think about the initiatives, training new hires, and evolve your sales playbook. You can achieve this formally through advisory groups or surveys.
3. Use a sales methodology
Sales methodologies are integral to creating a sales playbook. That is because your sales methodology typically prescribes an overall approach to selling – from your messaging to your sales process.
If you don’t already have a sales methodology, it’s time to select one. To do so, think about the type of product you sell and the type of customer you sell to. Whether you’re an innovative startup looking to break through the status quo or an industry giant selling complex solutions, who you sell to and what you sell will determine the best methodology for your business.
If you have a sales methodology in place, consider bringing it into your sales enablement platform. Modern platforms offer marketplaces that allow you to install your chosen methodology into your platform. This ensures that ellers only ever have to access one solution – your sales enablement platform – to find the guidance, training, and content they need. It also means it will be easier than ever to integrate methodology content into your sales playbook.
4. Create a detailed outline of the sales process
While some sales reps may have a grasp of the basics, it’s common to forget the next steps in the midst of the sales process. This is a great opportunity to weave in your sales messaging to guide them from start to finish. Use scripts from emails, pitches, and other outreach materials to ensure consistency.
5. Develop sales playbook, play, and kit content and training
Once you have a clear idea of what you are going to do, it’s time to make it real by developing content, current and new rep training, and coaching materials to support your initiative. A word of caution, however: Often, organisations feel that new things demand new everything. But doing more isn’t necessarily a viable path to developing effective playbooks. Instead, it can have the effect of overwhelming sellers.
Rather, start this process by auditing what you have. A heatmap analysis of your current content can reveal which of your sales assets are performing well and which aren’t. Likewise, in-platform dashboard reporting from your enablement solution can deliver similar insights for your training materials. Use this data to inform your own best practices on which formats, messaging, and tactics are currently working. From there, invest wisely to develop resources that put quality over quantity.
6. Socialise your sales playbook
Landing your sales playbook with your sales organisation requires buy-in from the entire team – your sales leaders and subject matter experts all the way down to your field sellers. If you followed the steps outlined above, your sales org should have been included in some of the development processes and will have an idea of what’s going on. Still, you want to launch the final product strategically to ensure adoption in the long run.
Prepare to take your playbook on a roadshow of sorts – start by announcing changes through top-level leadership. Leaders should communicate why it matters and what’s in it for sellers. You should meet with managers to walk them through changes, and train them on how to coach against new behaviours. Finally, use your tech stack to reinforce your message by surfacing your new playbook front and centre in your enablement platform.
7. Measure the impact and optimise your efforts
Sales playbooks act as living, breathing documents that are updated routinely as new information is collected. To measure the impact, you’ll want to review:
- Volume metrics = These can speak to adoption: how many people have viewed the sales playbook? How long have they spent looking at it? Which content asset is being used the most?
- Sales impact and effectiveness metrics = These demonstrate mastery of a new behaviour: seeing recorded videos of discovery calls or role-playing sessions.
Armed with a modern sales analytics platform, sales managers can leave comments for sellers, based on what they’re hearing from buyers, allowing teams to improve content in the playbook in near real time.
Mistakes to avoid in your sales playbook
Even with the best intentions, there are common mistakes that organisations often make when creating their sales playbooks. To ensure yours won’t fail, be sure to avoid the following:
1. Several floating versions
Managing multiple versions of a sales playbook can lead to confusion, inefficiency, and counterproductive strategies. Imagine if every sales rep follows a different set of guidelines. The result? Inconsistent messaging, confused clients, and a disoriented sales team.
Apart from implementing a centralised sales enablement platform, you can avoid this by establishing a system for tracking changes and updates to maintain a single source of truth. Conducting regular training sessions also ensures your entire team is on the same page regarding the latest playbook version.
2. Lack of customisation
Every sales team is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. A one-size-fits-all approach may hinder rather than enhance your team’s performance. That said, tailor the playbook to address the challenges and opportunities specific to your organisation, industry, and market. You may also add modular sections that allow teams to adapt strategies based on their needs without compromising the structure.
3. Overlooking regular updates
Market dynamics, customer preferences, and industry trends change, and failing to update your playbook accordingly can render it obsolete. This can result in missed opportunities and poor productivity.
Set specific intervals for reviewing and updating the playbook, considering market trends, industry changes, and feedback from the sales team. Having feedback loops can also allow you to make timely adjustments and keep your playbook up-to-date.
Scale Success with Effective Sales Playbooks
With a strategic approach to building, landing, and optimising sales playbooks, you are sure to have everything you need to empower your sales team to navigate any customer scenario and close more deals.
Go deeper into the world of sales playbooks, plays, and kits with our expert-led guide to strategic sales enablement. You may also request a Highspot demo to see how our platform can help you get the most out of your sales playbook and improve sales performance.