How to Build the Right Sales Playbook for Your Team

June 15, 2016

The difference between a high-performing sales team and a sales team that struggles to meet its numbers is process. With only 46% of forecasted deals closing, the importance of a trackable and repeatable sales process is paramount. Teams with a clear and consistent process are more likely to move deals through the pipeline consistently and close them cleanly.

A successful sales playbook is a living document that serves as a roadmap for sales leaders and teams throughout the sales process. It’s also a valuable tool for onboarding new salespeople, a central repository for ongoing training, and a guide for handing off new customers to post-sale teams.

Deciding which sections to add to a sales playbook is critical, and there are five subjects that every playbook must contain: a company’s sales process, discovery call details, standardized messaging, an ideal customer profile and call cadence. Each of these subjects is foundational for sales development and account managers, and can help sales teams improve the buyer journey.

Identifying Your Sales Process

Not every product or vertical has the same sales process, and identifying your sales process is the first step in guiding salespeople toward how to successfully engage prospects. Adding your company’s sales process to the playbook lays out a clear path for salespeople to take (especially during the onboarding process), highlights which stages of the process are most important, and takes the guesswork out of next steps.

Start by examining your current sales process and asking the following questions:

  • Is your team’s process missing any steps, or does it have extra steps that slow down the sales cycle?
  • Does each stage clearly address customer needs?
  • Does your sales process include the post-sale handoff procedures as well?

This section of the sales playbook can help sales leaders 24 hours a day and bolster any weekly training or coaching sessions. Make sure the sales process clearly answers each of the above questions.

Perfecting Discovery Calls

A discovery call provides sales development team members the opportunity to determine the basics of a prospect’s needs. This stage is vital: once a prospect’s problem is identified, a personalized presentation of a solution can be created.

There’s both art and science to conducting successful discovery calls. While salespeople may be able to identify a prospect’s problem, too many of them stop there without digging more deeply into why the problem exists and determining that problem’s personal impact on the prospect.

When crafting this portion of the sales playbook, make sure salespeople address the following questions with prospects:

  • What do your current solutions look like now?
  • How does leadership drive adoption of those solutions?
  • What are the gaps in your solutions, and how do they currently affect you?

It’s especially important that this section is as prescriptive as possible. Left to their own devices, salespeople would create their own discovery processes, leading to a patchwork of messages. Give salespeople enough freedom to personalize discovery for prospects, but provide a foundational set of questions to gather the most relevant information in the early stages of the cycle.

Standardized Messaging

It’s easy to underestimate the power of consistent messaging. Today’s prospects and markets move quickly, which makes steady but personalized message one of the most pivotal elements of a sales playbook.

Training sales teams on message must include answer these questions:

  • How does executive leadership position your product and your market – and is it a message easy for sales teams to translate to prospects?
  • Does this messaging match and build on top-of-funnel messaging from marketing?
  • How often will salespeople receive training on messaging?

Consider engaging marketing, client success and other teams when crafting this section of the sales playbook to ensure messaging is consistent across the organization, and evaluate messaging with those departments on a regular basis to establish and maintain alignment.

Crafting an Ideal Customer Profile

Working to create an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) doesn’t just help sales teams identify the best leads; it helps them weed out less-than-ideal leads that would consume valuable time and resources. Because ICP will shape messaging, start by working with marketing leadership to define your company’s perfect customer; this messaging should also help focus prospect outreach. Then, answer the following questions:

  • Is it getting to have a larger pipeline or two weed out leads that are unlikely to close?
  • Is your product capable of solving problems for a broad range of companies, or is it more specialized?
  • Does this profile fit both inbound and outbound prospects?

The answers to these questions can help salespeople personalize conversation and content to fit the needs of prospects that fit the ICP. It also provides guidance on how salespeople should prioritize prospects to engage day-to-day.

Setting a Call Cadence

There’s no specific order to follow when crafting sections of a sales playbook, but setting a call cadence should be one of the final elements addressed. Many of the previously mentioned sections can guide sales leaders toward how, when, and why sales teams engage prospects.

With the right call cadence, sales teams can gauge prospect interest and move them along the sales process. Answer these questions in the “call cadence” section of your sales playbook:

  • How much autonomy should salespeople have in setting their own cadences?
  • How diligent should salespeople be before letting go of a potential opportunity?
  • What channels (phone, email, social) should be included in the cadence?

Prescriptive solutions here are best: giving salespeople clear guidelines and encouraging them to be persistent can streamline cadences while allowing room to personalize.

Sales playbooks offer sales leadership an opportunity to set each sales team member up for success. By including each of these sections, sales leaders can also help set a tone of clarity and collaboration for an entire organization.

VP of Sales

Scott Cramer is the VP of Sales at <a href=""></a>. Cramer has spent more than 20 years in executive level sales management helping a number of technology companies formalize sales methodologies for aggressive growth.