How to build your first sales playbook
In 3 easy steps
Most sales leaders are familiar with the concept of a playbook, however I’ve found few teams actually have a written playbook and more often than not the playbooks that do exist are for the benefit of management, rather than salespeople.
Instead, most teams rely heavily on tacit institutional knowledge for moving deals through the sales process. While this works ok when you are small, it starts to hold you back the moment you start adding salespeople.
Getting started on your playbook sooner rather than later gives you several benefits:
It helps your existing salespeople be more efficient and successful.
It helps your new salespeople ramp up quickly.
It creates consistency for managing your pipeline and forecast.
It maximizes the ROI on your enablement library.
It surfaces issues in your process and helps you prioritize them.
Building a sales playbook (or a playbook for any stage of your customer journey) involves 3 steps:
Define your process stages.
Describe the key activities for each stage.
Describe the best practices for each stage.
1. Define your process stages
Most sales teams have stages in their sales process, however the key is to define the goal and exit criteria for each stage, in a table like this:
Defining the goal makes it clear what you are trying to accomplish at each stage. This is valuable to both your salespeople and sales managers because it helps them figure out if they are trying to move too fast on a given deal. For example, a deal shouldn’t be in Prescribe (where demos are typically given) until you know your buyer’s pain point(s) and the impact they are looking to achieve from solving them.
Defining the exit criteria helps you measure your sales process and identify where to focus improvement. For example, if you have 3 deals in Proposal and are about to send out a contracts but have not identified the Procurement contacts (such as legal, infosec, procurement etc), for each you can quickly see that those 3 deals should be moved back to Prescribe.
Getting the goals and exit criteria accurate is the key to building the rest of your sales playbook, as it informs what comes next.
2. Describe the key activities and enablement materials for each stage
The next step in building your sales playbook is to write down the key activities in each stage and the enablement materials used to execute them. The goal is to give your salespeople a plan to maximize the likelihood of achieving the exit criteria for the stage.
For example, your Discover stage can be broken down into 3 groups of activities; Preparation, Connecting with all buyer personas and Updating the CRM. Each of these groups then has a set of activities and enablement materials. To some extent, you can think of these as “plays”.
Here’s what it looks like in practice:
The Enablement Materials section links directly to the relevant decks, docs and individual slides, which eliminates questions around which version of which artifact to use and reduces the need for salespeople to waste time recreating existing decks for each customer.
You’ll want to build out a similar slide for each stage in your sales process. For example, the key activities in your Prescribe stage would include things like rehearsing your demo to tie it to the impact your buyers are looking to achieve, selecting appropriate pocket stories of other customers who have achieved the same impact, identifying a critical event and identifying additional buyer stakeholders.
3. Describe the best practices for each stage
The final step in building your sales playbook is to write down the best practices for executing the key activities in each stage. They serve two benefits; helping your salespeople prepare for calls and helping you coach your salespeople on individual deals.
For example, here is a set of basic best practices to follow during the Discover stage:
The Learning Resources section links to materials that go into more detail on skills. [Cheat code: many of these materials are in fact posts on this blog :)]
As before, you’ll want to build out a best practices slide for each stage of your sales process. For example, if you are in a competitive market your Discover best practices may also link to a “battle card” that lists the pros and cons of your primary and how to position effectively against them. Likewise, in your Trade stage, you will want to document your best practices for trading.
That’s it! The final thing to remember is that your sales playbook is a living document. Each time you find a new way to move deals more efficiently, you need to add it to the playbook, ideally replacing an existing activity or best practice so that the playbook remains constrained and actionable. This is why I like creating them in an accessible format like Google Slides (vs in a dedicated tool) because it’s super easy to tag in members of your team to update and create a shared sense of ownership.
If you are looking for help building your first sales playbook, or for feedback on your current playbook, please get in touch!
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