Victoria Yu is a Business Writer with expertise in Business Organization, Marketing, and Sales, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of California, Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business.
Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.
Updated on June 1, 2023
How to Create a Sales Playbook
What’s a Sales Playbook?
Benefits of a Sales Playbook
How to Create a Sales Playbook
Starting and running a sales department can be quite difficult, and once you’ve got more than one sales representative it’s all but impossible to oversee every little action. It’s understandable if you’ve been dreaming of a hands-free way to manage your growing sales team.
A sales playbook does just that, outlining your sales strategy and how to implement it in an effort to boost cooperation and productivity. Writing a playbook might seem daunting, but don’t worry – this handy guide walks you through the process to ensure your team has the instructions it needs to succeed.
A sales playbook is a collection of practices, resources, and information that guides sales professionals through the sales process.
Sales playbooks aim to reduce sales training time, increase employee productivity, improve customer experiences, and enhance a company’s strategic agility.
To create a sales playbook, a company should consider its target audience, consult employees, set goals and methodology, map its sales pipeline, and examine its processes and materials. Once it’s been adopted, the playbook’s impact should be monitored.
What’s a Sales Playbook?
So what exactly is a sales playbook? If you’re a sports fan, you’re probably familiar with the word. In football, for instance, the playbook is a collection of all of the various plays a team might run, highlighting who goes where and so on.
The concept is much the same when it comes to sales.
A sales playbook collects a sales department’s funnels, key processes, best practices, and resources in an effort to ensure that the whole team is on the same page throughout the sales process.
The playbook tells sales reps what they need to know, say, show, and do, from internal procedures such as using the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) platform to answering customer queries.
But the most common resource in a playbook is, of course, the plays: instructions on what to do during specific selling situations such as prospecting, nurturing, or pitching a specific product. Some companies have a sales playbook for each product line or brand. But we’ll keep it simple and assume you’re running a small business and writing your first playbook for one product or product line.
Benefits of a Sales Playbook
If you only have one sales rep who does a stellar job, do you even need a sales playbook? You might, as there are several reasons a playbook could still come in handy.
1. Reduces Rep Training Time
Even if your first sales rep is amazing, the next one will need to be taught about the company, customers, and products, if not the entire sales process. With a sales playbook, new reps can study this information on their own time, greatly reducing the time spent training and handholding as your company scales up.
2. Makes Reps’ Jobs Easier
With a sales playbook, reps know what to do, when, and how to do it across the entire customer journey, giving them confidence in every situation. For example, a sales playbook for a specific product might describe potential customers, their pain points, and the best approaches and pitches.
The collected resources in the sales playbook enable reps to act more quickly during the sales process. The less time spent hunting for instructions and content means more time for selling!
3. Improves Customer Experience
As a customer, you’d probably be put off if every sales rep you interacted with had a different personality and sales approach. A sales playbook standardizes reps’ actions, providing a smoother and more personalized customer journey, and boosting the company’s brand and reputation.
Plus, as the playbook consolidates and refines the most effective sales techniques, it ensures the sales team only improves over time.
4. Increases Company Agility
If a company changes its sales strategy, there’s no need to train all the sales reps one by one. With a digital sales playbook, the department head can simply update the playbook, give reps time to learn it, and send them on their way.
Plus, with each rep having direct access to the playbook, there’s no risk of a telephone game effect, with information being altered and misunderstood as it spreads.
How to Create a Sales Playbook
With all these benefits in mind, you might be eager to get a playbook yourself. Here’s how to create a sales playbook for your company.
1. Know Your Target Audience
The first step is to nail down your ideal customer profile or buyer persona. This describes your target customer’s demographics, psychographics, socioeconomic status, motivations, and purchasing habits.
With this knowledge, you’ll better understand what tactics and approaches will work best for your customers.
2. Consult Your Employees
There are two elements to this step: deciding who will help develop the sales playbook and soliciting their advice.
First, in the planning stage, determine who should be on the development team. You could involve sales reps, sales and marketing directors, and subject matter experts.
Next, speak to your sales reps and get their perspective on the existing sales process. What are they struggling with? Which elements should be emphasized? Are they missing any resources? What might be improved?
Their responses will shape the next step.
3. Set Your Goals and Methodology
Next up is establishing your goals and sales methodology. These will be partly guided by what your sales reps said in the previous step and partly by your overarching business strategy.
Though a playbook covers the entire sales process, there should be a specific goal it’s based around, such as improving lead conversion or appealing to a certain target market. The procedures and materials in the playbook should then focus on achieving this goal.
Reps will be more receptive to a focused, targeted, and relevant playbook than a vague overview of their existing practices and procedures.
While a buyer persona is a personification of your ideal customer, your sales methodology is a personification of your company and the character you present to customers. This defines your sales team’s approach to selling and sets the tone for messages and actions.
If your buyer persona is shy and introverted, for instance, you might choose a quicker and more efficient sales methodology that ensures conversations get straight to the point while also maintaining a casual and relaxed tone.
4. Map Your Sales Pipeline
Now that you’ve set your buyer persona, goals, and sales methodology, you can consult your sales reps and map out your sales pipeline, which is a sequential overview of actions your reps will take to close a sale.
If you already have a sales pipeline, take a closer look to see if it needs to be altered to meet your goals.
Jot down the type of guidance potential customers might need at each key point along the pipeline, and the steps reps should take to ensure a lead is qualified and ultimately makes a purchase.
5. Gather Current Procedures and Materials
Your sales pipeline provides an overview of whatyour clients and reps should do, but it still needs to be filled in with how they should do it – i.e., the plays and reference materials.
Start off simple by gathering the current procedures and materials your reps approved in step two and fill out your sales pipeline. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, and reps will be faster to adopt the playbook if they’re already familiar with some parts.
6. Develop Your Playbook
Now comes what’s probably the hardest part of the process: developing new plays and content for the parts that couldn’t be recycled.
A single sales playbook should cover:
Ideal customer profile/buyer persona
Prospecting and lead qualification process
Plays for each stage of the sales pipeline
Common objection handling techniques
Sales enablement materials such as case studies and product pages
Instructions for internal resources such as the CRM
Best practices for demonstrations
Sales closing techniques
Post-sale rep handoff and CRM instructions
Post-sale renewal, cross-selling, and upselling guides
KPIs sales reps will be measured on
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it does touch on all of the basics. Now it’s time to delegate each element to an appropriate team member and piece it all together to build an excellent playbook.
7. Adopt Your Playbook
Now that you have your playbook, the next step is to ensure full buy-in. Meet with your sales and marketing heads and walk them through the playbook’s key elements, takeaways, and benefits.
You could also train them on how to coach their reps and associates through each of the plays. From there, they can determine their own approach on how to achieve team buy-in.
Before rollout, give reps at least a week to learn the new material and practice the new plays to make sure everyone’s on the same page and knows what they’re doing. The last thing you want is reps unsure and bumbling when making their first pitch.
8. Measure and Optimize Your Playbook
Finally, once the playbook’s been adopted, gauge its impact based on key performance indicators (KPIs) like total sales, conversion rate, and customer feedback, and make improvements as needed.
Few playbooks are perfect right off the bat, so it’s OK if you need to make some adjustments in the early stages. Remember the goals you set in step three? Your playbook evaluation should measure your success in achieving them based on KPIs directly related to those goals.
You could also gather customer reviews and employee feedback to see how people are responding to the new plays. With the right metrics, decision-makers can clearly see the most and least effective elements of the sales playbook and change as needed.
The industry is always changing, so your sales playbook should be kept up-to-date with the latest information, strategies, and plays to get the most out of each market. Luckily, after your first sales playbook, creating or updating the next one should be a walk in the park.
A well-designed and thorough sales playbook saves reps precious time and effort they could be using to make more sales, improving their productivity and your sales numbers. And as your company grows, those benefits will only compound, transforming your sales team from unorganized to unstoppable.
FAQs on Creating a Sales Playbook
How is a sales playbook different from a sales script, sales play, and sales kit?
Sales scripts, plays, and kits are all tools used to guide sales reps during the sales cycle but differ from sales playbooks in their scope. Sales scripts are templates for sales pitches, sales plays are guidelines for rep actions in different scenarios, and sales kits are collections of reference materials to aid sellers. All of these deal with a specific medium or situation.
Meanwhile, a sales playbook brings together all of a company’s sales scripts, plays, kits, and more, covering everything reps need to know to do their job. It’s much more comprehensive than the other tools.
Should I use a sales playbook template?
If you’re writing your first sales playbook, using a sales playbook template could help organize your efforts and make sure you don’t forget anything. CRM providers HubSpot and Zendesk provide free sales playbook templates.
How do I distribute my sales playbook?
In the old days, sales playbooks were huge binders full of pages. Nowadays, it’s easier to post your playbook online, such as within your CRM or on an online dashboard or cloud-based drive. By storing it digitally, you can easily update and disseminate your sales playbook.