I consider a sales playbook to be the collection of necessary tools and knowledge your reps need, specific to your organization. This includes your process, methodology, ideal customer profile, key messaging, competitive landscape, differentiation, value prop, and so much more. It’s really the body of information used to onboard, train and support your sales reps so they have what they need to sell.
I’ve seen, and even created, some very bad playbooks. And some pretty bad playbooks. And some not-so-terrible playbooks. And a handful of good playbooks (to be honest, the good ones are rare—most playbooks are just flat out awful). Along the way, I’ve learned a few lessons and picked up a few sales playbook best practices….
1. Don’t wait for your sales playbook to be perfect.
It will never be perfect. Done is better than perfect, as they say. Just create your playbook and roll it out to the team. No matter how brilliant or horrible it is. Once you have rolled out your playbook, live with it for awhile. See how the reps respond to it. See how it’s used (or not). Evaluate how helpful it is for onboarding and managing your team. Then update it. Make it better through continual improvement. I never would have gotten to my good version if I hadn’t launched, and lived with, some bad versions first.
2. A sales playbook isn’t just for onboarding new reps.
Your audience is everyone on your sales team. New hires and seasoned veterans. BDRs and enterprise account execs. And sales operations too. While we are at it, your playbook isn’t just for sales. Welcome the marketing team into it—this is a two-way street because the information you have in the playbook will help them understand what they need to do to support the sales team and they can be a source of valuable content for the playbook too. Share it with executive leadership, because they need to understand how you sell. And the customer success team as well (it will help them upsell and cross sell their customers!). Of course, there will be sections that may or may not apply to everyone, but develop the content and structure of your playbook with ‘every person’ in your mind.
3. Reference your sales playbook often.
For a sales toolkit to be useful, you need to make it a central part of your culture and that happens when you reference it often and make it part of your everyday vernacular. It should become the resource for anything and everything sales team related. When you find holes in your content or documentation, fill them. And when you are coaching, talking, and training your reps, refer to it constantly. That’s how you engrain it into your culture—you have to keep it top of mind for yourself and your team by using it all the time. It starts with you.
4. Update your sales playbook frequently.
If you create a sales playbook and it sits on a virtual shelf getting dusty, that’s a big fail. A playbook is never really done, it’s just a moment in time. By the 3rd incarnation of mine, I was updating it at least a few times a month as we learned something new about our buyer, uncovered a new tactic that worked, encountered a new objection, had a competitor shift direction, tweaked messaging, changed an approach, etc. Keep it fresh and relevant and it will become the go-to resource for your team.
5. Make the sales playbook your team’s encyclopedia.
Build your body of knowledge. One thing I ask myself to gauge a playbook’s value is, “If I have a skilled sales person who doesn’t know anything about the company, the product or the buyer, and I can give them only the playbook to train them, will they be able to hit the ground running?” Certainly, that is a tall order, but it’s a terrific lens to view your playbook through and ensures you are actually making it useful and valuable. Be comprehensive in the content and resources you pull together for the playbook, so that everyone knows there is a single place to find what they need to sell.
If you are struggling with your sales playbook, the number one piece of advice I can give you is to follow these best practices. And, just use the playbook. Use it everyday, update it to make it better every time you find it to be lacking. Ask your reps what they want in the playbook and how to make it better. The only way to scale a sales team is to have a common frame of reference for how you sell, otherwise you will find yourself in the wild, wild west. Which is fine when you are starting up, but breaks down the second you need to build your team.