Sales Playbooks

My clients often ask about sales playbooks. Should they have one? What format should it be? What should be included? How many should they have? 

To be honest, I have shied away from playbooks because the word has different meanings to different people. Which got me thinking about what a sales playbook is and why you need one. 

I talked to my good friend and playbook guru, Kevin Quan, (Founder of CloseQuickly, a sales playbook software platform that makes it easier to build effective digital playbooks) and he helped me sort out some of the details. 

What is a Sales Playbook?

A sales playbook is a document compiled either in a document or on an electronic platform that outlines the sales process and provides necessary information and resources salespeople can use at each stage of the sale. It should include questions to ask, actions to take, suggested ways to handle objections, documents, and/or videos that can be used at each stage. 

Playbooks, according to Kevin, can really help reps shorten their sales cycles and are a great way to improve consistency and repeatability across an organization. Once you know the processes that work well in your organization, playbooks make it easy for all existing team members and new hires to learn and leverage best practices quickly.? 

Why You Need a Sales Playbook

Before you start creating a playbook, be clear about what problem(s) you are trying to solve. Sales playbooks can solve issues like: 

  • Inconsistent messaging
  • Mistakes that are the result of failure to follow processes
  • The sharing of outdated or inaccurate information from salesperson to client
  • The length of time it takes to get sales reps on-boarded and using best practices

Once you know why you are creating a playbook, you can make sure that it is designed to do what you need it to do. Some teams create onboarding or training playbooks as well as user playbooks for reps who are already up to speed. 

Sales Playbook Challenges

According to Kevin, the biggest challenge with sales playbooks is not creation, but adoption. It is hard to get sales reps to use them. The reason is that playbooks are designed as long cumbersome manuals, instead of interactive, actionable, and easy to use.? 

Salespeople are inherently social, and they would prefer to interact with potential customers than to read a manual. Keep playbooks simple. Break up complex activities into manageable steps. Use bullet points and multimedia such as videos and podcasts. Make sure it’s easy for reps to access any resources you ask them to use. If it takes multiple steps or they have to go searching for presentations, brochures, and case studies, reps won’t use them.? 

Whatever it is you are creating, start from the user’s perspective. Think about how they are going to use it rather than starting with what you want them to know. Think about when they will reach for it, what they will be looking for, how much time they will have to access it. Make it a simple, accessible, user-friendly tool. One of the best ways to do that is to include your salespeople in the development process. Ask them what they need and how they would use it. 

Reducing friction is key to adoption. Any new sales tools launched should be in the context of the sales playbook: at what stage should they be used? Does it replace tools referenced in the playbook, or provide another option?? 

The second biggest challenge (strongly related to the first one), is keeping your playbooks up to date. As your team continues to learn and improve, your playbooks must also adapt and reflect the latest best practices. Digital platforms have an advantage here, but no matter the format, the key is adopting rhythm and rigor to keep the playbooks fresh. Most organizations update them annually, but Kevin prefers smaller, more frequent updates. 


If you would like to hear more of mine and Kevin’s discussion about creating the Ultimate Sales Playbook, watch our webinar, How to Build the Ultimate Sales Playbook. 

About the Author Liz Heiman

A strategic thinker, sales strategist, Japanist, and Rotarian, Liz is a coach, trainer, and prolific speaker on the topics of sales and sales leadership. Liz loves sales, and enjoys working with sales leaders to create strategies and processes that make sense AND bring in results.

follow me on:
  • Hello,

    Tom Stevens, RSM SOUTH, for Tii Technologies, one of few manufacturers that provide FTTH/GPON passive optical products to Tier 1/2 and 3 Carriers as well Municiapalities that are need of the above. Have been sales for close to 30 years now. Still would like to know more.

    • Liz Heiman says:

      Hi Tom,
      Thanks so much for your comment. I am happy to talk to you more about playbooks. I sent you an email with a scheduling link.
      Liz

  • >