What Is a Sales Playbook and Why Is It Important?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 29, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When a business discovers strategies that prove effective with its customers, it makes sense to formalize those strategies into official procedures. One popular way of doing this is through a sales playbook containing several standardized approaches to different sales situations for employees to follow. By learning how to create and use a playbook yourself, you can establish sales relationships quicker and more effectively for yourself and the sales team members. In this article, we explain the basics of sales playbooks, review the benefits they provide, and list the recommended steps to make your own.

What is a sales playbook?

A sales playbook is a guide full of strategies and tips to help salespeople achieve their goals. It usually combines straightforward industry-wide advice with further insights from a company's senior salespeople to keep it updated and in a state of constant improvement. It may contain benchmarks to aim for, scripts to encourage specific customer actions, and detailed explanations of various elements of a company's model. While a playbook may include some abstraction and theory, it usually focuses on direct advice that a salesperson can quickly implement into their approach to improve their efficiency.

Are sales playbooks important?

While some companies may choose not to use playbooks, a well-developed playbook has very few downsides. For a moderate initial investment of time and a much smaller one when updating its playbook, a company gains many benefits. Playbooks are excellent tools to help onboard new salespeople, as they can give direct, proven advice that isn't always immediately apparent. This is especially true when company models may work differently in practice than an academic setting might usually teach.

A company can also customize its advice to a level that otherwise isn't always possible. For example, even when hiring senior salespeople, there are typically certain nuances in a company's model that they may not find immediately apparent. A customized playbook helps new hires at all levels understand what strategies work and where a company sets its benchmarks. A company might even develop books for different experience levels, presenting industry newcomers with the basics and senior employees with more advanced material.

The benefits of a sales playbook

Playbooks can have many different benefits, depending on a company's goals and what they choose to put into them. Some of the most common benefits include:

Rapid onboarding

A strong playbook can work as training material, helping newcomers obtain actionable advice and better understand company expectations. Playbooks can reduce training time significantly and help an employee learn while working rather than needing to memorize the bulk of the material. Employees can often perform many of their duties following the playbook until they're comfortable enough to work without referencing company materials as frequently.

Related: 9 Onboarding Best Practices to Increase Work Productivity

Improvement of sales representatives

In addition to helping with onboarding, a playbook can also serve a similar purpose for pre-existing sales representatives. Usually, these employees can benefit from reading about proven strategies, providing insights they may not have considered. Many employees can fall into certain habits that work well but may miss areas for improvement. A playbook can highlight those potential improvement areas and help with clear advice on advancing their abilities.

Organized reference material

A playbook can also group important reference material, such as sales scripts or product descriptions, into an easy-to-use format. This can help sales representatives more efficiently and smoothly perform their duties, especially when talking to potential leads. Therefore, a playbook is more than an onboarding tool. It is multi-purpose. Once employees understand their responsibilities, the playbook can still quickly provide them with necessary information that they're unlikely to memorize completely.

Standardization

One less obvious benefit of playbooks is that they can standardize the sales process, which helps make a company more approachable. Many customers prefer a similar approach when talking to various company sales representatives. This is typically important for repeat customers. When a customer is happy enough in their first experience with a representative that they then conduct further business with a company, it's usually best practice not to offer too different an experience the second time.

Related: Relationship and Effect of Customer Service in Sales

How to create a sales playbook

You can follow the steps below to develop and customize a playbook for an organization:

1. Identify your goals

First, it's helpful to discuss the goals of your playbook with your development team. While most companies seek to increase profits and grow a larger customer base over time, you can boost the efficacy of your playbook's goals by ensuring they're specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Also known as SMART goals, creating sales objectives with these elements can help prepare the sales team for success. For example, if your team's goal is to enhance the quality of product demonstrations to boost sales, an effective playbook might include effective presentation techniques.

Related: 10 Sales Associate Skills and How to Improve Them

2. Check your current sales process

A playbook is an integral part of a company's sales process. Reviewing the company's sales process can help the development team identify, add, and update elements, such as current business goals, selling techniques, or new product features. A process review often means evaluating the daily operations of the company's sales team to discover which strategies the top sellers use, what average sellers do every day, and what kinds of materials they reference to help them close sales.

3. Update customer profiles

As a business scales, it may offer a more extensive range of products to reach a wider customer base. Evaluating and frequently refreshing customer profiles can ensure your playbook helps sellers understand leads more deeply. This can help them identify the correct information for a customer about a product or service and answer questions effectively. For example, a commercial soap seller might begin offering other hygiene products to expand its audience from corporate offices to retail businesses. By including customer profiles in the playbook, you can help the sales team align the sales process with customer needs.

4. Revise sales enablement materials

Once you've developed an up-to-date understanding of the customers the company serves, consider reviewing its sales enablement materials to ensure they align with customer desires. For example, if a technology company has added a product feature that appeals to a younger demographic, it may ask the sales team to research the types of resources that younger leads respond to most. Then, the marketing team can adjust existing materials to appeal to a broader audience and select the most effective format for new resources.

5. Develop sales plays

Companies can implement a variety of sales plays to sell a product and achieve business goals. Top sales representatives often consider a customers' needs and the perceived value of a particular product to help them choose the most effective sales play. The topics you cover in your playbook may vary based on the organization you work for, its qualified leads, and the products it offers. A strong playbook usually combines generally proven sales techniques with the more specific insights observed by a company's sales team.

An important element of detailing sales plays is noting the circumstances in which they are most effective. A company may have different preferred plays for established clients and new leads or even different approaches based on traits like a customer's income or political ideology. This is also one of the most important sections to keep updated, as market and cultural shifts can alter which plays are most effective. A sales team may also discover new techniques that work better than established techniques. Regular updates can ensure they make it into your playbook.

6. Prepare representatives to engage with leads

After choosing which plays to include in your playbook, consider holding targeted training for sales representatives who aren't on the development team. In this training session, you may cover a particular product or service, a new product feature, or revised enablement materials. You can also demonstrate new sales plays and customer engagement strategies, such as answering frequently asked questions for optimal results. This also allows sales representatives not on the development team to offer other insights that the first draft of the playbook may have missed.

7. Deploy your playbook

After a training session, you can implement your new playbook. To encourage the sales team to learn new strategies and use them on the job, consider adjusting sales quotas for a specific period, offering additional one-on-one training and ensuring representatives feel comfortable asking follow-up questions. You can also record the results of the new playbook and use the data to update it regularly.

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