Does Your Sales Playbook Need a Makeover?

July 30, 2014

When B2B SaaS businesses reach the expansion-stage they’ve typically started piecing together the framework of what will become one of their most important sales assets — their sales playbook.
These playbooks, asset packages, and training guides (whatever you want to call them) are typically a collection of sales and marketing assets (sample call scripts, case studies, buyer personas, value propositions, etc.) that — when sewn together — create a robust resource. In fact, when done right, a playbook can get sales reps in front of the right prospect, with the right message, at the right time.
The problem, however, is that most businesses don’t do it right.
In my experience, most sales playbooks (particularly at startup or growth stage B2B SaaS companies) are arbitrary, outdated collections of random documents often haphazardly thrown into a PDF, Power Point presentation, or hard copy binder.

Why is that an issue?

Static playbooks don’t exactly make it easy for sales reps to find, tweak, and implement content on the fly. Sure, they are great for training, but as a sales manager, director, or VP, you want your team to refer back to the materials post-training. That’s obviously not going to happen when your buyer personas, messaging, product features, and go-to-market strategies are changing on an annual, quarterly, even weekly basis
Then there are the issues of access, versioning, and latency. When a sales playbook is just a scattered collection of resources housed in some random folder on some old network drive, sales and sales reps aren’t likely to invest the time needed to sift through the sludge to find exactly what they need, when they need it. That’s particularly true if those resources haven’t been updated to address new verticals, personas, strategies, or approaches.

There Has to Be a Better Way…

Thankfully, there is.
Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jeff Boissoneault, VP of Sales at Highspot, a cloud-based knowledge-sharing platform that helps sales organizations build, organize, and implement sales playbooks.

Jeff Boisseneault’s Tips for a Stellar Sales Playbook

Jeff Boissoneault
CeCe: Thanks for jumping on a call, Jeff! Could you start by sharing your thoughts on the purpose of a sales playbook and its importance to expansion-stage sales teams?
Jeff: Absolutely. I think a sales playbook serves a dual purpose for growing expansion-stage software companies. First, it can be a great resource for newer or lesser-experienced reps who might need assistance learning about a product, customer, market, or industry. And second, it can be incredibly powerful in a highly transactional/large volume setting where reps need a framework to facilitate execution.
In both cases, a well-organized sales playbook can make the sales process a little bit more prescriptive, and improve reps’ ability to quickly and relevantly address what prospective buyers really care about.
CeCe: Totally agree. Now, whose responsibility is it to create and manage a sales playbook? Typically, it seems to fall in the lap of sales managers and executives, but I think it needs to be an organization-wide initiative.
Jeff: I agree. The B2B sales process tends to be very complex and buyer journeys can run the gamut. Sometimes, B2B SaaS companies need to involve IT, HR, marketing, tech support, and customer success teams to close and implement one sale, so why wouldn’t you involve those teams in creating the sales playbook, too? For a sales playbook to be truly useful and effective, the right cast of characters must work together in creating and managing it.
The reality is that B2B sales reps typically encounter a wide range of players (CEOs, CMOs, VP of Engineering, etc.) in each sale, and they need to know how to communicate with each of those stakeholders. That’s one big reason why a static or totally prescriptive sales playbook just doesn’t cut it. Playbooks must include the ability to highlight material that applies to the target customer and the sales stage, even if that material isn’t part of the prescribed process. They also should include messaging and resources for each vertical, buying process, buyer persona, and stakeholder pain, and sellers need to have a grip on the competitive landscape — who they’re competing against and what those solutions offer. There’s no way sales can create comprehensive resources like that without the rest of the organization pitching in.
CeCe: How do you suggest companies organize their playbooks, and where should they host them?
Jeff: Obviously, I’m biased — but I genuinely believe there’s no better place to host a playbook than in the cloud. Ultimately, that medium allows your team to access, edit, and manage any resource from any device at any time. There are so many moving pieces in a great sales playbook, so housing it somewhere that is easily accessible and editable is critical.
The other benefit of the cloud is that most B2B SaaS businesses are already familiar with it and already use it as a repository for sales and marketing information (CRMs, marketing automation, etc.). By using some sort of publishing or knowledge sharing platform to host your playbook, it makes bringing everything together much easier and more seamless.

checkYour Sales Playbook Checklist

Now, what exactly does an effective sales playbook look like?
Ultimately, it should mimic your sales process and the buyer’s journey — starting with the basics (competitive landscape, organizational charts, sales territory breakdowns) and following a somewhat linear path to close.

Create Your Own Sales Playbook

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 9.07.33 AM Dive in with this guide from Highspot

Here’s a sample “table of contents” to consider:

  • Internal Org chart
  • Sales territory breakdown/alignment
  • Value propositions
  • Product demos
  • Competitive landscape
  • Market segments
  • Target verticals
  • Vertical specific buyer personas (including objections, pain points, journeys, etc. for each one)
  • Vertical specific user personas
  • Use cases
  • Customer profiles
  • Content overview (how it relates to each persona)
  • Marketing, sales, & product content
  • Sales and Marketing SLA (if there’s an SLA with inbound leads, what’s the cadence?)
  • Salesforce/CRM training
  • Lead statuses and definitions
  • Funnel stages and definitions
  • Lead handoff process
  • Prospecting best practices
  • Expectations

Try to think of each bullet point above as a series of stepping-stones. If each stone is in place, it should be easy for reps to efficiently move buyers through the chronological steps of the sales process. If just one stone is missing, however, the journey becomes much more difficult and fragmented.

Does your B2B SaaS company have a sales playbook? What best practices do you employ to implement and manage a sales playbook strategy?


Additional Resources

Looking for more tips for establishing and growing your sales team?

Image by Guernsey Sports


<strong>CeCe Bazar</strong> is an Associate on OpenView's investment team. She was previously a Sales Strategist also at OpenView.