How to Build a Sales Playbook for the 21st Century

In sports, many teams use a playbook to chart out potential in-game scenarios, outlining the teams' strategies, tricks for avoiding common impediments, and tips for reaching goals smoothly. Similarly, a sales playbook template can help sales teams build systematic winning habits and processes.

Integrating sales playbooks into your business strategy ensures better attainment of quota, increased customer retention rates, and improved lead conversion rates.

Back in the day, sales processes were simpler, which led to simpler playbooks. As the sales landscape has evolved, sales playbooks and respective frameworks have expanded as well.

In this article, we go through constructing a sales playbook that helps you decrease ramp-up time, make your salespeople more autonomous, and improve productivity across your sales team.

Creating a sales playbook is a big undertaking. To help you out, we've built a sales playbook framework that helps you get the job done smoothly.

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What is a sales playbook?

A sales playbook is a document outlining your sales process. It should lay out clear objectives, explain roles and responsibilities, including a detailed description of the ideal customer profile(s), list key performance indicators to be monitored, and provide a common sales framework and approach for handling objections and closing sales.

In short, your sales playbook arms your reps with all the content and strategies they need to reach peak selling shape.

Why bother creating a sales playbook?

According to Salesforce via The TAS Group, the companies that follow a well-defined sales playbook or framework are 33 percent more likely to be high performers. The win rate exceeds 50 percent for two-thirds of the companies that have a clearly defined sales process in place.

Although crafting a sales playbook is a time-consuming task, you can find comfort in the assurance that you'll see the result of this document almost instantly.

4 main benefits of a sales playbook:

  1. More time for selling. Left to their own devices, salespeople are forced to develop their own content. According to Salesforce, salespeople spend roughly one-third of their day searching for or creating content. Avoid this being the case in your organization by including ready-made messages, questions, and resources in your playbook. Utilize templates when ever possible.
  2. Training new sales members is quicker and easier. Those critical three to six months of ramping up are, by far, the greatest expense to your company. Not providing your new sales hires with sufficient training, they are forced to learn the job ad hoc–usually shadowing other reps, who may be making mistakes.
  3. Successful smarketing. At many companies, sales and marketing struggle to find common ground. By documenting your sales process and reviewing which team is responsible for what, you can make your two revenue generating teams work together towards common organizational goals instead of bickering.
  4. Disseminate best practices from top-performing sellers. If you notice one rep having success with a specific outreach method, analyze their tactics, and share the insights with your entire team by putting it in the playbook.

How to create a stellar sales playbook

Before you start drafting your playbook, decide who should be involved in the process. Your VP or director of sales, your top-sellers, and product marketers all have the knowledge you need to create stellar sales collateral.

In the sports world, a “play” is an action that serves to reach a specific goal in specific conditions. When you design your sales playbook, you need to define the conditions of your business. Therefore, at a minimum, your sales playbook need to include the parts listed in our sales playbook template in the section below.

Sales playbook template

Business overview

The goal of this section is to get new hires up to speed and familiarizing them with the basic facts about your company. Explain why your company exists and how your company makes a difference to the customer and in the market—and how your sales strategy fits into the bigger picture.

Describe the product(s) and/or service(s) you offer, your key value propositions and use cases. If your sales team doesn't understand your offering inside out, should they possibly be able to guide prospects in understanding the value it brings? If your products are fairly different, sold by different members of your sales team, and require separate sales processes, consider building out a selling guide for each one.

Present your sales department

Review who heads which teams and the role of each of them, ensuring expectation alignment. State who individual team members can go to with their questions. A simple chart outlining who's who will do the trick.

Ideal customer profile

From firmographic data such as industry and location to pain points, and technographic data–sketching out your optimal customer, with as much detail as possible, will help your salespeople quickly and efficiently hone in on the most qualified leads. Be sure to note which buying signals indicate the right time for you to reach out to specific companies. Specify your preferred contact person; at Vainu, we want to discuss our offering with people who are software savvy, and preferably this person has the title VP Sales, Sales Director, Sales Manager, or Head of Sales Operations.

Map out your sales process

This is probably the most critical piece of your whole sales playbook. Explain every part of your inbound and outbound sales process, from the first contact to closing the deal. Go into step-by-step detail on each stage, including everything from email templates, discovery call scripts, meeting agendas, qualification questions—you name it. Strive for at least one example for each stage. For example, include one phone pitch recording, two meeting recordings, and so on.

Most companies use at least one sales methodology. Be it account-based sales, challenger sales, SNAP selling, or some other approach, describe the methodology you adhere to in this section.

Refresh your sales mathematics, what does the typical sales velocity formula “number of leads” x “win rate” x “average deal size” look like in your business? Outline the average time it takes your salespeople to close a deal, the standard hit-rate between each stage in the sales process, and your average or most common deal size.

Describe your smarketing tactics, how you've integrated the sales and marketing processes of your business. If you have a sales and marketing service level agreement in place, include a link to it here.

Objection handling

Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust. The longer your potential buyer holds an opinion, the stronger it tends to become. Encourage your salespeople to always welcome objections and make sure they are equipped to answer–and overcome–them.

Tools and technologies

This is where you'll lay out which tools your salespeople should use to succeed in their jobs (for example, training, documentation, sales enablement, and CRM tools). The enterprise sales playbook should document what tools you have, who the users are, why you use them, and when.

If you want unified CRM usage, describe what expectations you have for your salespeople's CRM reporting. Explain when opportunities should be moved from one stage to the next, which fields are optional versus mandatory, and how to analyze the dashboard.

Sales key performance indicators

Outline which sales metrics your company tracks, and which your salespeople should pay the closest attention to. If there are any baseline numbers your reps should know about, state them in this section. Maybe you've found that salespeople who book a minimum of ten meetings per week are significantly more likely to hit quota.

Your career plan

Does your company have a documented and well-designed career path for salespeople? Spell it out here. Specify what career steps and possibilities you have, what it takes to get a promotion, how long it takes on average to go from one role to the next, the requisite qualifications, and what salary/compensation model you have at each level.

Daily, weekly, and monthly routines

Creating routines and making sure that everyone follows them will allow your team members to maximize their opportunities for success. List all recurring daily, weekly, and monthly events.

Here's how our standard week looks at Vainu:

Monday: Team meeting

Tuesday: Sales training workshop

Wednesday: Meeting booking power hour

Thursday: Team meeting

Friday: Weekly sales wrap up

Tips and best practices

Identify top-performing salespeople and follow which tactics have worked for them where, how, and why. If one of your reps stands out in their ability to find the right prospects to go after, your sales playbook should offer insights into their sales prospecting approach for the rest of the organization. This section should also capture what hasn't worked in the past and associated lessons learned.

Additional resources

Make it easy for your sales reps to find relevant case studies, blog posts, and customer references. Depending on how many of these resources you have, you can either include them in your sales playbook or use this section to tell where your content can be found. When your reps have on-demand and easy access to your material, they are more likely to incorporate it into their sales process.

Treat your sales playbook as an evolving document

Every time your sales process changes, your product line expands or shrinks, your ideal customer profile gets updated, your strategy evolves, or your sales compensation plan is tweaked, reflect these changes in the playbook. Give your team the heads up every time you make a major change, like adding or overhauling a section.

Supercharge your sales playbook

Creating a sales playbook for the 21st century is more like writing a “choose-your-own-adventure” novel than a linear script. You want your playbook to encourage your teams to be creative, therefore ensure that it gives your teams latitude to insert their own personality and flair.

You can create the best sales playbook or framework of all time, but it will be useless if your team doesn't use it. Make it easy to access at any time for your entire team; let it live online. Depending on your organization and budget, you can use sales content software or a group Google doc.

Building out a sales playbook is a big undertaking, but it's a worthwhile investment. Both your sales teams and your results will thank you for putting in the work–especially as your team grows.

Download our sales playbook template to get started with our own!

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Sales Playbook Framework - examples and best practices Erika Granath

Vainu's Content Marketing Manager. Grew up next to Sweden's largest cookie factory. Love cookies (of course), ping pong tournaments and word jokes.