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How To Create (And Use) A Winning Sales Playbook

This guide covers essential elements in a sales playbook, such as the team structure, product overview, differentiators, buyer personas, sales methodology, lead sources, sales collateral, and objection handling. Additionally, it provides tips on creating a customized sales playbook and getting started with what you already have on hand.

Phil Forbes

Everyone in your company is busy, but it’s your sales representatives that always seem to be doing a million things at once. And if you sit down and talk to them, you’ll quickly find that many of those things aren’t exactly related to selling. In fact, Forbes found that modern-day sales reps only spend a little more than 30 hours a week selling products or services. 

And considering your sales reps' role in generating revenue, that number is far too low. Working more efficiently means that sales teams can spend more time closing. Process improvement, adequate training, and product knowledge help, too. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was one go-to document that new, experienced, and veteran sales reps could go to?

Behold: the sales playbook. 

What Is a Sales Playbook?

A sales playbook provides a set of best practices, guidelines, and tips for your sales team to follow when prospecting for and closing deals. Inside a sales playbook, elements like communication strategies, terminology, common objections, and value propositions are documented for a sales rep to turn to when needed quickly. 

Elements Of a Good Playbook 

There needs to be a significant amount of information in a sales playbook if it’s to be a go-to source of truth for an entire sales team. That is to say, it’s not a one-pager PDF. Here’s a brief look at parts that we feel are critical to a game-changing sales playbook.

  • Company overview

A simple visual diagram that shows the hierarchy and structure of your business helps ensure that the entire sales team knows with whom and how to collaborate more effectively.

  • Sales team structure

Who’s involved in the sales cycle? Where do the responsibilities of each role begin and end? Are they internal or external? Who’s more experienced with one persona than another? The answers to these questions can help guide new SDRs. 

  • Product overview

A detailed summary of products and services on offer helps ensure a smooth transition (for the customer) from marketing to sales. This overview will also help them communicate with more authority, empowering them to close better deals. 

  • Differentiators

Most industries are flooded with competition, so there’s a very high chance that a lead has already compared your company to a competitor. Knowing why your company and products differ can help a sales rep control objections. 

  • Buyer personas

Personas are arguably the foundation of your sales playbook. Having their role, age, common barriers, budget, and so on can help an SDR fine-tune their strategy and work more effectively. 

  • Sales methodology

Your sales methodology lives in your playbook. A reason why this methodology is being used for this persona or this product enables clearer communication between two parties but also makes selling much more efficient. 

  • Sales plays

These plays are the meat of your playbook. This is where you document ‘what to do with customer X in situation Y when they do Z’. Remember to document examples, insights from past experiences, value propositions, and key messaging. 

  • Lead sources

Reps can communicate better and build a better rapport with your lead much quicker if they know where they’ve come from. A lead that’s come to you from a piece of bottom-funnel blog content compared to an outbound marketing campaign will have different objections, personas, and motivators. 

  • Sales collateral

Depending on the length of your sales cycle, a lead might need more content (or collateral) before they’re willing to commit to the purchase. This is where brochures, one-pagers, calculators, case studies, and buyer guides should all be on hand. 

  • Case studies

Speaking of case studies, they’re probably the most effective sales collateral. Case studies don’t ‘sell’. They show. A case study has a narrative that makes the reader think, ‘I’m having these problems, and this is how it can be solved’. They show how a customer of yours had a problem that they were struggling to solve and how your product solved that problem. 

  • Competitor battle cards

It’s a competitive world out there, and as mentioned earlier, your lead has probably already compared you to your competitor. Competitor battle cards highlight why your business and product are not only different but better. It should highlight their products, pricing, strengths and weaknesses, and how your sales rep should navigate talking about them. 

  • Objection handling

There will inevitably be some resistance, if not outright refusal, to buy your product or service. So how do you handle that? This section of your playbook should document common objections, how to handle them, and how to steer conversations away from those objections in the first place. 

How to Create a Sales Playbook?

Don’t copy/paste ready-to-use templates.

A wide range of online sales playbooks brags about being ‘ready-to-go’. While that’s very much the case in that they are ready to go, they’re not always good. What’s even more true is that copy/paste playbook templates aren’t relevant to your business.

No one knows your product and how to sell it like you and your team. So while it pays to be influenced and get guidance from existing playbooks, take it with a grain of salt. The most effective sales playbook is the one you and your team create from scratch. 

Start with what’s on hand

Start building your playbook by reviewing all the existing content your sales team has used. If you’ve got some form of sales playbook that you’ve turned to in the past, it will pay to use this as a starting point. 

Look at how your team is already doing sales enablement and identify how it can shape your sales playbook.

The truth is that creating a sales playbook isn’t really about creating anything but rather about documenting what you’re already doing. Your ultimate goal is to get this knowledge out of the heads of your sales reps, structure it, and then document it in your sales playbook. 

Include some real examples from your company

Everyone learns differently. Those that learn by reading will be at an advantage with your new sales playbook, but some learn by watching or doing. The best way to engage those that learn in ways other than reading is to use real-life examples to help them piece together what a winning sale looks like. 

If your company has been around for a while, there’s more than likely a sales rep that can recall a situation like the ones documented in your playbook. A real-life example of a winning play is not only going to help the sales team benefit from past experiences, but it’ll also make that play significantly easier for your team to memorize. 

Invite your team to work with you during the preparation

Creating a sales playbook isn’t something that’s done by a VP or head and then passed down. Well, it can be, but that playbook is only going to contain the experience of the individual that wrote it. 

Creating a proper sales playbook is one that’s a collaborative effort, calling on the summed knowledge and experiences of the entire team. 

Check Your Team's Knowledge of The Playbook

The old adage goes, ‘Knowledge is power’. While that’s true to an extent, knowledge is only really effective if you can recall it on queue. When it comes to your sales playbook, it’s only effective if it’s on hand but also memorized by the team - at least partially. 

It doesn’t have to be memorized word-by-word for the entire team, but the general plays and strategies should be easily recalled by most of your team. It might pay to allocate some time every Friday afternoon to pop-quiz your team about the playbook. Make a game of it, and such a concept will become more engaging and effective. 

Track the effectiveness of your playbook

While this point is later in the list, the effectiveness of your playbook really depends on tracking how useful it is. All the workshops and brainstorming sessions will amount to nothing if you and your team aren’t giving and taking on feedback about the playbook. 

After several weeks of the new playbook being live, check with sales reps to see how useful it is - and if it’s actually helping. See how many times they’re using it per day, which play is best, which isn’t helping, and a range of other things. This way, your playbook will stay relevant for the entire team. 

Update the playbook at least once a year

As the environment in which your customers operate changes, so will their needs and desires. Your product or service might be slower to adapt to these changes, but your sales playbook can change a lot quicker. 

Whenever a new resistance or barrier appears, liaise with your team to see how it’s being overcome in the sales process and document it. Then go and update the playbook accordingly. This will ensure that your sales team is prepared in what can be a quickly changing environment or even quicker changing industry. 

In Summary

Creating a sales playbook isn’t an easy task. It means having to activate your sales team and get them involved from the very get-go. What’s more, once it’s been created, it requires regular updating, and your staff needs constant training around it. 

Your sales playbook is a knowledge base for your team to revert to in times of need. However, you can have the best sales playbook in the world, but if you’re not getting quality leads, it won’t amount to much. 

Using a click-to-call tool like CallPage makes it easier to turn your website traffic into leads and use your new sales playbook on those leads. Reach out to our team to see how we can help you

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