“A collection of everything a sales team needs to sell.”
Clearly, that is open to interpretation. It implies that what’s included in a sales playbook can be different for each team, or each company depending on what and how they sell.
I know what’s in my ideal playbook, but yours may take a different shape or form.
I also really love Hubspot’s definition, which is more specific and aligns with how I like to create my playbooks:
“A sales playbook is a document outlining your sales process; buyer personas; call scripts and agendas; sample emails; discovery, qualification, demo, and negotiation questions; proposal guidelines; and/or competitive intelligence guidelines. In other words, your sales playbook arms your reps with all the content and strategies they need to close a deal.”
Launching my first really complete sales playbook was a turning point for my approach to sales leadership. It was when I really came into my own, felt like I was on solid footing, and had a foundation on which we could now grow and scale. It came with a feeling of, “Oh, OK, I’ve got this.”
By committing to our process, our methodology and our key messages, I was able to stop reinventing the wheel and start leading from out in front. I’ve heard the same from other sales leaders as well.
Research from Aberdeen Group supports my personal experience:
- Best in class companies are 3x more likely than laggards to deploy sales playbooks.
- Playbook users report 15% more sales reps achieving annual quota, compared to non-adopters.
“The days are long gone—or they should be—when contemporary sales professionals are sent into the field of business battle without proper training, messaging and content they they can personalize for each buyer interaction.” – Aberdeen
Teams without sales playbooks are less effective
When I meet a sales team running without a playbook, they are typically characterized by:
- Lack of cohesion—Everyone running a slightly different, or even wildly different, sales process with various methodologies. Rep A sells this way, Rep B sells that way, and Manager C coaches this way. Without the cohesion of a sales playbook, everyone is doing things their own way. It’s hard to steer a ship and set a course if everyone is paddling in different directions.
- Lack of efficiency—Sales reps and managers wasting time by constantly reinventing available content and resources, or digging around looking for it in a million different places.
- Unpredictable results—With everyone paddling in a different directions, it’s impossible to know what is working, and what isn’t. And because of that it’s hard to make lasting changes that lead to improvement.
How can teams like this improve? How can they test new approaches in a meaningful way? How can they hold everyone to a common standard? How can teams like this stop spinning their wheels and actually grow?
These teams are operating in the wild, wild west. A fun place to visit, and fine for 2-3 people, but no place to scale and grow.
A sales playbook can be an indicator of a leadership style that extends beyond the playbook itself. It speaks to how well a team is run and managed. It demonstrates alignment, repeatable processes, accountability, expectation management. It guides the culture and coaching and ongoing investments into skill development of the team.
The biggest benefits of a great sales playbook
- New reps onboard faster—With everything new reps need to know, including learning paths, in a single destination, learning is accelerated, and expectations for ramping are clear.
- More effective ongoing training & skill development—By having the educational resources for every skill you want to coach in a single destination, it is easily referenced again and again. Each time your team completes a new training or skills-based refresher, the content should be incorporated into the playbook so it’s top of mind and reinforced.
- Consistent processes—Documented processes can easily be referenced by reps, managers and leadership. And with the entire team on the same page, it’s much easier to evaluate aggregate data & results, for ongoing improvements and refinements.
- A more efficient salesforce—This one is a no-brainer, right? A sales playbook should save everyone time. With content and resources that are easy to access and search, everything a rep might need to know should be at their fingertips. No more hunting around, or making things up on the fly.
- Supports the team culture—I think great sales playbooks are a culture tool. The people that make up a company and a team shape the culture, but a playbook that is useful, and used frequently, can be a very helpful tool in supporting & reinforcing that culture.
For sales leaders, a playbook forces mental clarity around the most important aspects of running a high-performing team. You can’t vacillate on your sales methodology when you have to put it in writing for your team. You aren’t wishy washy on what makes a qualified lead when it’s documented in your playbook. The act of creating, and maintaining, a sales playbook is incredibly clarifying and liberating.
Sales playbooks help create a high performing team with repeatable processes and more predictable results. And that’s why I love them so much. The benefit is two fold. Yes, for reps it gives a single destination for everything. But it also forces you to have discipline around how you manage and lead your team.