How to Build a Sales Playbook: Step-by-Step 2022 Guide

How to Build a Sales Playbook

Without a cohesive sales playbook, you’re sending your sales team out onto the field in blinders.

Imagine this: you get one chance to send one team to the Super Bowl. It’s your only opportunity for success and it all comes down to your leadership skills. You have two choices.

  1. A team made of your pick of all-star players from any team in the league BUT, they don’t get a coach or any practice reps.
    A middle-of-the-road team, but they all know each other AND you get to assign them the best coaches in the country.
  2. Who are you sending? Who has better odds?

Of course, you can probably see how this translates to the sales industry. And no matter how badly we all want to play with the Peyton Manning of sales, the truth is the majority of companies could use a better process…and a lot less flash.

In 2021, 46% of sales and marketing professionals didn’t feel well aligned. And rather than improve company resources, communication, and cohesion in the interim, sales leaders have actually managed to fall further behind—non-alignment is up to 58% in 2022. (1) Whichever way you look at it, those industry numbers are alarming.

A team that doesn’t play by the same rules has no chance of winning, no matter how good individual players are. The only way a company can keep its sales reps consistent and keep every single team member on task is with a streamlined sales playbook.

What is a sales playbook?

A sales playbook is a cohesive document that includes your company’s best customer sales strategies, tactics, templates, and resources based on your previous successes and failures.

In other words, it’s your company’s bible. Looking for your pitch deck? Look no further. Sales team breakdown? Flip to Chapter 25 Section B. How to stop your coworker from chewing with their mouth open? Well…some things remain a mystery.

Most things, however, just need a bit of analysis and documentation. Organized analysis and documentation, that is—you can’t just throw a jumbled-up overview of outdated call scripts and information together haphazardly with a loose paperclip. Forget productivity—at that point, you’re losing even more time as your reps search through bundles of “helpful” material.

Instead, the ideal sales playbook is an organized, up-to-date, trustworthy manual that can guide your company to a 6-20% increase in sales. (2)

Why is a sales playbook important for your team?

I get that a step-by-step playbook sounds like holding your sales rep’s hands on the way to daycare, but everyone in high-performing professions needs mentorship, organization, and knowledge. You can be certain that Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t get to the size of a tank by showing up to the gym every few days and winging it.

The playbook is there because it works. They fine tune the process by saving time, saving money, speeding up new hire training, and ensure your reps are using your proven industry best techniques.

If you’re coaching a racer and you know one road is easier than another, why on earth wouldn’t you guide them down the faster path?

Additionally, creating one, clean list of rules and information gets everyone in your company on the same page and on the same team. You don’t have to watch Succession or House of the Dragon to know that nothing takes down an empire like in-fighting—especially between departments like sales and marketing.

Market expert Ann Handley said it best: “[Sales and marketing] have got to stop spilling each other’s beers!” (3)

She’s right. A successful company doesn’t tear itself down; it builds itself up. The best way to do that is with a sales playbook that defines the process so clearly that no one can go rogue and make up their own.

What should a sales playbook contain?

Company overview

You’ll start with the bare facts. Your company overview might be the simplest section of your playbook, but it’s often the most important. It usually includes your core company strategy, mission, and values along with a simple hierarchy chart so that everyone understands who to reach out to with questions. Simple, but necessary.

Sales methodology

Marc Wayshak once said, “When you are perceived to be like every other salesperson, the protective walls of the prospect go up.” (4) In other words, you can’t just roll up to a potential customer and go, Hi, I’m a salesperson who’s trying to sell you things. It doesn’t work. Your sales process give your sales reps a starting point for relating to their prospects. They define the way your reps approach sales and keep your company standards consistent. Do you want hard sells? Soft sells? Challenger sells? Choose your methodology and build out the rest of your playbook strategies from there.

Product overview

In 2022, consistency is key. Consistency across marketing and sales needs to be your first defensive line to stop customer disputes in their tracks. No more, But on the website it was this price! or, Well I talked to this salesperson and SHE told me that… No. Lay out all the information in clear black and white for your sales reps and your customers. This means full pricing breakdowns, accurate feature lists, and accurate functions. You’ll build trust and your customer service team will cry a lot less by providing these resources.

Sales process and definitions

Not every sales process is straightforward. If you’re an international B2B company, you might have multiple sales processes for different regions or partners. It’s hard to keep it all memorized sometimes. The best way to alleviate that worry is to just write it down. Keep detailed breakdowns of your sales process stages and what they mean. When your reps have access to this information, they can make sure they’re taking the correct steps without needing to improvise for different accounts.

Buyer personas

The best piece of cliched sales advice you’ll ever hear? Know your audience. It doesn’t matter how suave or researched you are, you can’t please everyone with a single pitch. If you try to sell a pet Halloween costume to a cat by telling them it’ll make their owner call them a “good boy,” you’re in for a killer scratch. That’s a dog pitch. Cats need a different strategy for the same product (I suggest marketing it as a terrifying addition to their already intimidating appearance). Keeping basic buyer personas in your playbook tells your reps exactly how to approach different prospects.

Sales plays

This is the source of all your genius. Every single time you’ve rammed up against that cold, concrete wall of rejection, it gave you a crisp nugget of wisdom for your sales plays collection. Best practices often come from experienced salespeople reflecting back on what didn’t work. That’s the core of the sales stage. You try, you fail, you try, you fail, you learn, you try again, you succeed. Your sales plays should include every strategy and tactic you have to offer your sales team, from discovery all the way to sealing the deal.

Differentiators

There’s a fine art to throwing competitors under the bus. You can’t blatantly come out and call your industry rival a piece of garbage, but you also can’t praise them and accidentally send your prospects running to the other side of the street. Instead, you rely on differentiators—the juicy little facts that make your company stand out just enough from the crowd of advertisements.

These are gold mines for your sales team because they give reps a consistent way to approach objections from a customer. “Well, everyone’s recommending big brand fancy pants—” Doesn’t matter. You can easily hit back with, “Did you know we’re the only company that offers fancy pants with sequins?” Countering objections with a positive comparison is one of the best ways to snag that sale.

What else is included in a sales playbook?

Messaging and positioning

Branding and messaging are crucial parts of the sales process, and there’s typically enough to say about these areas that they’re given their own mini playbook within the giant bible.

According to Business 2 Community, here is a list of 12 essential elements of a messaging playbook: (5)

  1. Purpose: WHY does your brand exist? And don’t say “to increase revenue” unless you want me showing up looking like a disappointed dad.
  2. Vision: WHERE are you trying to go? If your goal is simply to exist as a business, you’ll never find the next steps.
  3. Mission: WHAT is your game plan as a brand and a company?
  4. Values: WHY are you motivated to do what you do? More importantly, why should your employees feel the same way?
  5. Problem statement: WHAT problems are you trying to solve in the world? Hint: this should be more than “every household needs a toaster.” A better problem statement might be “Despite advances in food delivery and grocery quality, few households have the time to experience the true joys of freshly toasted, motivational bread.”
  6. Value proposition: WHAT you bring your customers. Plain and simple. Don’t overcomplicate it.
  7. Brand story: HOW did your company come to be? Again, if you say “we needed money” then disappointed dad will find you.
  8. Elevator pitch: WHY anyone should care about your company in 30 seconds. Yes, literally 30 seconds.
  9. Boilerplate: WHO your company is, but this time in a press-release-sized paragraph. This might include an overview of your vision, mission, story, and key facts.
  10. Key messages: WHAT your audience should walk away with. Just a few essential points you need your audience to understand. Focus on what makes your company stand out. If you’ve sold more toasters in the last year than any other company, there’s your selling message.
  11. Tone of voice: WHO you are as a company. This one gets overlooked, but people think of companies as people these days—especially on social media. If you’ve ever liked a sassy Wendy’s tweet, then you know what I mean.
  12. Style and vocabulary: HOW you want to be perceived. What styles or grammar are you using in your promotional materials? In your sales emails?

Onboarding and HR materials

There are different schools of thought on this one, but your sales playbook goes out to every single employee—and employees new and old always have questions about HR policies and compensation plans, especially if they work on commission. Make your life easier; Include the information at the back of the playbook. Your managers will thank you, trust me.

Tips for building a successful sales playbook

An ideal sales playbook lets you take an in-depth look at every aspect of your pipeline’s success, while still showing you actionable ways to fix mistakes along the way. This ideal sales playbook is rare and takes time, but it’s also crucial to any sales team’s training process and overall growth.

It’s certainly intimidating, but obtaining this holy grail of sales tactics is just a tad easier than sprinting away from a runaway boulder with your trusty whip at your side.

All it takes is keeping seven best practices in mind while you’re escaping the temple:

1. Thoroughly identify your buyer.

The first step you need to take before you even think about putting words down on a page is to take an exhaustive look at your buyer persona.

I’m not saying you need to follow one of your prospects into their local diner and peek at them behind a newspaper with some dollar store disguise on. That’s a surefire way to get a restraining order.

However, it’s important to get as much information about your potential customer as possible. Sift through your contacts and find patterns between similar prospects in the same role. Check with your sales team to see what they’ve noticed when they’re talking to them. Interview similar clients yourself if that’s what it takes.

When you find what makes your prospects tick, it becomes easier to personalize a sales strategy around their needs.

2. Hone in on your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

Now that you know exactly who you’re selling to, it’s time to focus on what you’re selling.

If I’m your client, and you tell me you’re selling advanced computer software, cybersecurity, or even Girl Scout cookies, you’ve already lost my attention (though I’ll take a box of Thin Mints for the road).

What you’re selling to your customers is the catch-all solution to their problems. You need to put your sale in terms of what your product can do for them. After all, they don’t care if you meet your quota—they care if your carpet cleaner actually works on Crayola markers.

Or, as Mary Kay Ash historically said, “Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.” (6)

In order to figure out your angle, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  • What does my company offer that no one else can?
  • What does my target customer look for in a product like this?
  • What problems could they have that would make them look elsewhere?

Once you can answer these questions, your sales funnel transforms into a much more compelling process for your prospects.

3. Iron out the all-star plays in your sales funnel.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Parts of your existing sales funnel work—otherwise, you wouldn’t be in business. Maybe you’ve really gotten the timing down on some of your touchpoints. Or maybe your sales funnel gives your customer a CTA that they just can’t refuse.

Now, you can’t just “copy+paste” those aspects of your current funnel and assume they’re magically going to work, but understanding what sales tactics work for your company gives you a baseline template to work from. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, you just have to make it better. Once you figure out your key tactics, learn how you can personalize them for each prospect.

Keep in mind, though, it’s never enough to simply run the play—you need to know why it works. You might have a killer email marketing campaign, but if you don’t understand why people are responding to it, you won’t know the right follow up to land the score.

Break it down, assign the right players, assess your opposing team, and bring home the win.

4. Investigate every play that’s lagging behind.

For every stellar tactic in your sales pipeline, there are bound to be some plays that just clog up the drain. Take a look at your retention rates for each step in your sales funnel. Even the most subtle drop-offs can mean that your team hasn’t tapped into their full potential.

I can’t tell you that a perfect sales funnel exists, but I can tell you you’ll never find it with deadweight plays holding you back.

5. Keep tabs on your competition.

Again, I’m not telling you to stake out your local competitors with a pair of binoculars to find out their ace in the hole (trust me, I’ve tried), but you do need to understand what your clients might leave you for.

What can your competitors do that you can’t? In sales, you always need to play to your strengths, but if you’re advertising top-of-the-line quality when your competitor is Microsoft, you’re fighting a losing battle, my friend.

Sometimes, it’s better to get creative. If you can’t offer the most value for your clients, maybe you can focus on your best-in-class customer service. There’s always a USP to take advantage of, it just might not be the one you’re using right now.

6. Make. It. Repeatable.

I’ll say it again. I’ll say it again. I’ll say it again. This is the most vital step to creating a sales playbook. What’s the point of going through this effort and market research if you can only use it for the next year or so?

If you’re Procter & Gamble, you can’t rely on someone going viral trying to down a container of Tide Pods every few months…hopefully.

Find plays and processes that fit into a quarterly or yearly pattern that you and your team can rely on. What months are going to bring you the most prospects? What months are easiest to close the deal for your specific product?

When you can create repeatable patterns in your sales playbook, you’ll find much more stability in your sales cycles in no time.

7. Always keep an eraser handy.

Never set your sales playbook in stone—unless you like the look of charcoal on granite tablets, in which case, get with the times already.

The “best” playbook doesn’t exist because nobody can predict the future. The key to sustainable growth in sales is the ability to adapt your sales playbook to whatever comes your way. Keep an ear to the ground and a pencil in hand—it’ll take you farther than you can imagine.

Create a successful sales playbook with a successful sales consultant

Creating a sales playbook is a long, intricate process and you might not get it right the first time. That’s okay. You can always try again. You can also ask for help.

Contact my team today to learn more about how to revolutionize your sales playbook into a winning tool.

 

  1. Outfunnel Revenue Marketing Report 2022, https://outfunnel.com/revenue-marketing-report
  2. Snigdha Biswas, SaaSworthy Sales Enablement Statistics, https://www.saasworthy.com/blog/top-sales-enablement-statistics/
  3. Ann Handley, Marketing Expert and Wall Street Journal Best Selling Author
  4. Marc Wayshak, Game Plan Selling: The Definitive Rulebook for Closing the Sale in the Age of the Well-Informed Prospect
  5. Pete Winter, Business 2 Community, https://www.business2community.com/branding/vision-to-vocabulary-what-to-include-in-your-brand-messaging-playbook-02405006
  6. Mary Kay Ash, Miracles Happen