This article is part of a larger series on Sales Management.
Creating a sales playbook requires you to define its purpose, provide a company and product overview, outline sales processes and goals, and define your ideal audience. Once created, you get a simplified sales guide to help reps expedite their training and streamline their day-to-day activity. In this article, we explore sales playbook components, how to create them, and provide examples as well as software tools you can use to create your own.
Here’s the step-by-step process for crafting an excellent sales playbook in nine easy steps:
1. Define the Playbook Purpose & Objectives
Since different playbooks are used depending on the circumstances, it’s best to identify first what those circumstances are. While this may seem like a title section of your sales playbook, it acts more like a statement of its purpose. You could indicate the stage in the sales pipeline and/or your objective.
For example, you might make a playbook specifically for the introduction stage of the pipeline where you’re looking to make a pitch to gauge the lead’s interest in learning more. In this case, your “play” would state something like:
To be used in the introduction stages, this playbook is designed to help fulfill the following objectives:
- Establish initial contact and ensure you’re connected with the right decision-maker
- Learn about current providers or solutions the lead is currently using
- Schedule a time in the future to present a full-scale sales pitch
It’s essential to set multiple objectives or goals for each playbook as value can be at least minimally attained even if all the objectives are not met. For instance, in this example, you can acquire information to store in your customer relationship management (CRM) software by completing the first two objectives—even if the lead declines a meeting.
Pro tip: Use a CRM to collect information about your leads and track the success of your “play.” CRM systems like HubSpot have both lead and deal management capabilities so you can organize data on various sales opportunities while also monitoring your progress on them within the pipeline.
2. Provide Company Information Overview
A company overview should be included in all types of playbooks, regardless of the actual “play” itself. This is because at all points in the sales process, a lead may inquire about various aspects of the organization or the conversation may go in that direction. Having a section like this in your playbook also offers a great training tool to let new reps understand the company’s goals and purpose.
At a minimum, this section should contain talking points about the founding story, mission, unique selling proposition (USP), brand identity, and overall purpose. You may also include information about the company hierarchy and how the sales department is structured.
The example below is for an IT management company’s sales playbook:
Mission: ABC IT Corp was founded in 2007 with the purpose of providing a worry-free IT management experience to small businesses with minimal resources.
USP and Brand Identity: We stand out for our scalable pricing structure, where you only pay for the total number of users you have based on the service package you select. This method makes us known as the most cost-effective IT management option in the DC metropolitan area.
This information is typically used to address a sales objection or answer questions asked out of curiosity by the lead. For an objection, a lead may say that they are happy with their current provider. So, a sales rep can cite the unique selling proposition in response. Additionally, if a lead is curious about the process of client onboarding, you could use the hierarchy to explain they’d be assigned an account manager.
3. Explain Products & Services
It’s important to have an overview of the solution you are selling so a sales rep can have it for reference at anytime. Furthermore, your playbook may need to be tailored for specialized product or service sales. For instance, one sales rep at an insurance agency may only be tasked with selling life insurance while another is responsible for property and casualty insurance. Different products require a unique selling process and specialized playbooks.
Make sure to include estimated pricing in this section as that will likely come up in a sales conversation. It’s also a good idea to have quantifiable value information, such as return on investment (ROI) or cost-saving estimates. Lastly, basic use-case scenarios of what you sell will help guide the conversation and allow the lead to better understand your solutions. Using the same ABC IT Inc example above, here’s how a product or service overview might look:
IT Management Service: Organization, strategizing, implementation, and operational support of a client’s IT assets and infrastructure
Solution (End) Users: IT directors, business owners, and employees
Pricing Packages: Base rate of $120 per user (seat), per month plus add-ons
- Cybersecurity Supplement: $30 per user, per month for 24/7 system monitoring and automated response services
- Annual Audit: $5,000 per year for annual technology review and cybersecurity vulnerability and risk analysis
- Security Awareness Training: $900 per session for two-hour training session
- Small businesses save on average of $2,300 per year by switching to our service
- IT directors get an average of five hours per week back from subscribing to our services
Pro tip: Keep everyone on the same page by storing your sales resources in a CRM system. Pipedrive, for instance, offers a document management system for you to store informational resources such as sales playbooks, pricing, and marketing materials for everyone to access. There’s even a SmartDocs tool that helps streamline the creation of documents and templates.
4. Outline Your Sales Process
It often helps newer sales reps to understand the sales process so they can easily understand and explain what stages the lead is in and what the end goal is. This section should also include any client onboarding steps or the stages where a product is delivered to a customer. For the sake of consistency, here’s what a sales process might look like for ABC IT Corp:
Prospect Research: Seeking out potential small businesses fitting our profiles and preparing for the next stage by adding data into the CRM
Lead Qualification: Either done during the introduction stage or during the sales presentation, it attempts to see if the lead is a good fit for our services based on their budget, authority, needs, and timeline of purchase (BANT)
Sales Presentation: 15- to 30-minute presentation conducted for the lead to explain our services, pricing, processes, and answer their questions
Lead Nurturing: Can be done after introduction, sales presentation, or proposal to remind lead of your business offerings and send company updates via email
Business Proposal: Formal contract with pricing and scope of services sent to the lead for review
Onboarding: Upon engaging into a service contact, account manager and IT engineers begin initial evaluation for ongoing support services
5. Include an Overview of Sales Goals
Adding individual sales quotas to your sales playbook lets reps see what their activity and production requirements are. To keep in line with the idea of having unique playbooks for each stage, consider adding specific goals for one stage compared to others. For example, the introduction stage might state an activity goal of 50 cold calls per day, while proposal goals could be to send out six new quotes per month.
It’s also an excellent idea to provide a roadmap toward revenue goals if you only listed production-based sales quotas. Let’s say you want an individual rep to acquire 20 new clients this year and you know your introduction to sales presentation rate is 5%, while sales presentation to proposal rate is 40%, and proposal to closed-won rate is 20%.
This means over the course of the year, 5,000 introductions through cold calling or emailing need to be made to get 250 presentations. Of those 250, 100 will request proposals and 20 of those will become new clients.
6. Define Your Sales Audience
For sales targeting purposes, indicate in your playbook the customer profiles or personas you’re going after. These are descriptions of demographics, behaviors, and priorities of categorized leads. For business-to-business (B2B) leads, list the job title or position of the leads you’re targeting. The ABC IT Corp example would likely be something like this:
The main purpose of understanding customer profiles or personas is to determine their main priorities or problems they want solved. This helps drive the conversation to be more valuable to them and lets you customize a solution to their needs.
7. Add a Lead Qualification Checklist
A lead qualification checklist is used during conversations with a lead and contains questions indicating whether or not they are a good fit. Use this to learn which leads or opportunities to keep top of mind.
For this checklist, we recommend using the BANT method of identifying qualified leads to organize the information on your playbook. This stands for budget, authority, need, and timeline and is considered a strong methodology for factoring in important elements of a purchase decision. Below is an example of a lead qualification checklist:
While talking with the lead contact, include other more detailed questions in your checklist to understand their purchase needs in-depth. For example, when evaluating their needs, include questions about things they like or don’t like about their current provider to see if your offerings fill in those gaps. Furthermore, ask them about their procurement process of making a buying decision while discussing their budget.
8. Link to Additional Sales Resources
Once the main sections of the playbook are created, you can add another section that is strictly for linking to other resources. The purpose of this section is to limit the size of your playbook while still having easy access to other information.
You might link a guide to emotional selling, detailed product catalogs, or other marketing assets such as videos, e-books, whitepapers, case studies, articles, or marketing brochures. If your sales process is full of detailed procedures, you might link it to another comprehensive sales process document.
9. Make Your Sales Playbook Visually Appealing
The final step is to take all of the information you’ve provided your sales team and turn it into an aesthetically pleasing, simplified document. Make it your own by adding your company logo and branding. For the most effective use, limit the number of pages so a sales rep can easily navigate through the guide while on a sales call.
Advantages of Using a Sales Playbook
A sales playbook is a document that outlines information about the company, its products and services, best sales practices, tactics, and other resources sales team members can use during their daily sales activities. Just like in sports, you ideally have multiple “playbooks” for various situations, strategies, or stages in the sales process.
One of the most advantageous aspects of a playbook is that it expedites the sales training process and reinforces knowledge reps learn during sales onboarding. Plus, these documents serve as a guide for salespeople as they encounter prospects and converse about their products or services. Keeping a detailed playbook also allows sales team members to be on the same page in terms of what and how they communicate with leads and customers.
Using a sales playbook makes sales management more effective as you can reinforce sales knowledge and improve the performance of each sales rep with a comprehensive document. Relevant to a sales operation, each of these sections serve different purposes, such as guiding conversations with leads, monitoring goals, and providing an in-depth understanding of the solutions you sell, the company you sell for, and the customers you sell to.