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The Ultimate Sales Playbook: How to Create Your Own with Examples for Success

Sales reps looking at a screen together: sales playbook
A sales playbook is like your team's game plan, guiding them through the most common sales scenarios. [Studio Science]

Help your team succeed with the sales plays they need to close every deal.

As a coach, it’s thrilling to see your game plan executed to perfection on the field. But it takes careful planning to get to the end zone. If your strategy is too complex, the team may get confused and fumble at a critical moment. Too simple, and you might not be ready when things go awry. What you need is an easy-to-understand sales playbook to guide your team to victory. We’ll walk through everything you need to know to create the right mix of winning plays that guide your sales team to big wins.

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What is a sales playbook?

A playbook is a comprehensive guide that outlines your team’s approach to selling. It compiles best practices, strategies, and tactics specific to the team and spells out roles, responsibilities, and objectives. The playbook also provides guidance and examples to help sales teams navigate through every stage of the sales process effectively.

What are sales plays?

Sales plays are specific strategies or steps that your sales team can follow during different parts of the selling process. Think of them as practical, easy-to-follow recipes for sales success. Each play is designed to handle a particular situation or challenge in sales, helping your team know exactly what to do and when.

Say you’re trying to engage a potential client who’s shown interest. An example of a sales play might be sending a personalized email, followed by making a phone call and then arranging a meeting. This straightforward, step-by-step approach can guide your reps toward higher chances of success.

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What’s included in a playbook?

Just as every coach has their own playbook, a playbook is unique to every organization. That said, there are often common elements. Here’s what’s often included:

Sales strategies and tactics

This section is the heart of the playbook. It includes detailed methods for engaging with customers, such as how to approach cold calls, effective emailing techniques, and tips for successful face-to-face meetings.

Customer personas

Here, you’ll find detailed descriptions of your ideal customers or buyer personas and insights into their buying habits. This information helps sales reps understand and empathize with potential customers’ challenges and pain points and form personalized solutions.

Scripts and templates

To maintain consistency in communication, your playbook should include scripts for calls and meetings, email templates for various scenarios, and guidelines for social media interactions.

Product information

A thorough overview of your products or services should also be included, showcasing features, benefits, pricing, and competitor analyses. This section is crucial for ensuring your team understands what they’re selling. It can also help when handling objections from prospects.

Sales process

This is where you detail how your team should engage with potential customers from initial contact to closing a deal. This is crucial as it provides a clear, company-specific roadmap, ensuring all team members follow a consistent, effective sales strategy.

Supporting training materials and best practices

To help new and existing team members, your playbook should have training resources, best practices, and tips from top performers — a mix of learning materials and real-world wisdom teams can emulate.

Tools details and resources

Information on CRM systems, sales enablement tools, and other technologies that support the sales process are important inclusions in your sales playbook. This ensures everyone knows how to use the tools at their disposal effectively.

Key performance indicators (KPIs)

This is a collection of all metrics and goals that sales reps should aim for. This includes targets expected of sales reps like total sales closed, the number of calls per day, conversion rates, or average deal size.

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Benefits of a playbook

A playbook provides a structured approach to achieving sales goals. Here’s what a playbook brings to the table:

Assists with training for new reps: Your playbook becomes a time-saving tool in onboarding new team members. It provides a clear, step-by-step guide on everything from conducting sales calls to closing deals, significantly reducing the time it takes for a rep to ramp up to peak efficiency.

Makes selling more straightforward: Your sales team won’t have to guess the best way to handle different selling situations. A playbook gives them ready-to-use methods and tips so they can spend more time selling and less time figuring out their approach.

Supports a consistent approach: Companies often want reps to use specific messaging and competitive responses. If you don’t outline this for sellers, they may just make it up as they go. Sales playbooks help everyone on your sales team talk about your products and deal with customers in a similar way. Customers have a consistent experience, which is good for your brand because it instills confidence.

Shares success secrets: Sales teams can collect trade secrets from top sellers and share the most effective methods. That way, everyone can learn from them, which helps boost the performance of the whole team.

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Sales plays to include in your playbook

When considering which sales plays to include, consider the specific challenges and opportunities your sales team faces. Examples include:

Prospecting plays

Develop a comprehensive strategy for identifying and reaching out to potential new customers. Focus on innovative techniques like using social media and crafting personalized outreach messages. Highlight the importance of understanding your target audience and tailoring the approach accordingly.

Lead qualification plays

Provide a detailed guide for evaluating whether a lead is likely to convert. Include a set of qualifying questions and criteria that sales reps can use to assess a lead’s potential. Emphasize understanding the customer’s needs and readiness to buy.

Ghosting plays

Equip sales reps with strategies for handling unresponsive clients. Offer examples of follow-up messages that show understanding, emphasizing empathy while suggesting actionable next steps.

Product demo plays

Outline strategies for effective product demonstrations. Emphasize tailoring the demo to the customer’s needs and interests and preparing to address common questions or concerns. If any employees are new to presenting, this is a good chance to outline best practices and tips for public speaking.

Follow-up plays

Highlight the best practices for follow-up communications. Include references to previous interactions and continually add insights for each contact while addressing any new changes or developments that might affect the customer’s decision.

Closing plays

Outline steps and techniques to help your team close deals effectively, whether creating a sense of urgency, addressing last-minute objections, or getting the deal through procurement.

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How to write an effective playbook

When drafting your playbook, think of it as setting up a game plan that ensures every player on your team knows the plays, understands their roles, and sees the path to scoring sales. Here are the steps to follow to ensure your playbook covers everything you want your sales team to know:

1. Assemble a diverse team

Form a group that includes sales leaders, frontline sales reps, marketing experts, and customer service staff. This team should represent different aspects of the customer journey and sales process. For example, sales leaders can offer insights on overall strategy, while frontline reps can share hands-on experience with customer interactions.

2. Define your sales philosophy

Clarify your company’s sales approach and values. Involve top management in this discussion to ensure the playbook aligns with broader business goals. Asking “What values should drive our sales interactions?” and “How do we differentiate our approach from competitors?” can help crystallize your sales philosophy.

3. Create customer personas

Work with the marketing department to develop detailed customer/buyer personas. These should be based on market research and existing customer data. For example, a B2B software company might have personas like Tech-Savvy Startup Owner or Cost-Conscious SME Manager.

4. Document the sales process with reps

Collaborate with sales representatives to outline each stage of the sales cycle. This process might include steps like lead generation, qualification, proposal generation, negotiation, and closing. Document tactics that have been effective at each stage, such as using case studies in proposals or specific negotiation techniques.

5. Develop strategies with team input

Use brainstorming sessions to develop sales strategies and plays for specific products and scenarios. This could include handling objections or unique selling propositions for different products. For instance, you might create a strategy for upselling additional services to existing clients.

6. Craft templates, scripts, and outlines

Develop practical tools like call scripts, email templates, and proposal outlines. These should be based on successful past communications and refined through team feedback. For example, create an email template for follow-ups after initial meetings.

7. Create tools enablement materials

Select the most effective tools and resources, such as CRM systems or sales enablement platforms, to enable your reps to sell and draft enablement materials to help them use these effectively.

8. Integrate training resources

Incorporate educational materials and training resources into the flow of work. This might include online courses, internal training sessions, and materials from top performers. Ideally, fold these into your CRM so they’re easily accessible as your reps go about their work. Also, determine the best ways to facilitate continuous learning and skill development.

9. Set goals with management’s insight

Work with sales leadership to establish clear performance metrics and goals. These should be specific, measurable, and aligned with both individual sales role objectives and the company’s broader objectives. Goals might include sales quotas, conversion rates, or customer satisfaction scores.

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How to keep your playbook up to date

Your playbook shouldn’t be static. It needs regular tune-ups to stay relevant and practical. Like a coach tweaks a team’s playbook for every season — sometimes even mid-way through a game — you should regularly refine your sales strategies to align with changing market and customer needs. Set times for regular playbook reviews, like at the beginning of each quarter, to ensure it stays in step with the market.

Keep a close watch on customer behavior and preferences, adapting your sales approaches and personas to reflect the current landscape. Above all, keep your playbook accessible, user-friendly, and well-organized, making it an effective tool for your team’s success.

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7 playbook types and examples

Creating a playbook from scratch can be daunting, but you don’t have to start with a blank page. To help you get the ball rolling, here are examples of some different types of sales playbooks. Think of these are starting points, which you can customize to fit your team’s unique needs and sales goals:

1. Classic playbook

Envision this as the comprehensive guide for your sales team. It includes everything from identifying target customer personas to detailed strategies for each stage of the sales cycle. For example, if your product is an educational app and your target audience is busy parents, the playbook might include specific conversation starters for parent-teacher meetings, tailored email templates for follow-ups, and objection-handling techniques specifically addressing common parental concerns.

2. Start-up playbook

This one’s tailored for emerging businesses, focusing on fundamental sales strategies and innovative marketing. For a new coffee subscription service, the playbook might suggest leveraging social media platforms for brand awareness, using influencer marketing to reach a broader audience, and guerrilla marketing tactics like pop-up events or collaborations with local businesses to create buzz.

3. Product-specific playbook

This playbook zeroes in on effectively selling a particular product, like a high-tech home appliance. It would detail the appliance’s features, benefits, and competitive advantages. Sales strategies might include a comparison guide (a side-by-side look at your product vs. competitors’ products), case studies of satisfied customers, and tailored scripts for in-store demonstrations.

4. Account-based playbook

This is perfect for targeting high-value accounts such as large corporations or specialized sectors, as these accounts typically require more attention. It would outline methods for identifying and engaging key decision-makers, tips for personalizing pitches, and strategies for nurturing these relationships.

5. Solution selling playbook

Designed for complex, consultative selling scenarios driven by an overarching problem. This playbook would guide sales reps in diagnosing the problem, presenting a tailored solution, and navigating lengthy decision-making processes. It could include questionnaires to uncover client needs, presentation templates for solution proposals, and strategies for effective follow-up.

6. Social selling playbook

This is ideal for teams incorporating social media into their sales strategy. A solution selling playbook might include best practices for engaging potential customers on platforms like LinkedIn, tips for creating compelling content on Instagram, and strategies for using Facebook ads to generate leads. It could also cover how to transition online interactions into sales opportunities.

7. Remote sales playbook

Essential for teams that operate primarily in a virtual environment, this playbook covers techniques for effective video sales calls and virtual engagement, including how to set the scene for a professional backdrop during video calls, how to use engaging presentation tools, and how to build rapport over a screen. It might also include recommendations for CRM and sales tracking tools suited for remote teams.

Remember, these are just starting points. The most effective playbooks are tailored to your team’s unique selling environment, market conditions customer profiles, and sales goals.

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Sales playbooks fuel future wins

Crafting and refining your playbook is not a one-time play. It’s an ongoing effort that must adapt to shifting markets and the growth of your team. Regularly updating your playbook keeps your sales strategies fresh, relevant, and ahead of the competition. Continuous refinement and adaptation will also keep your team agile, focused, and prepared for whatever the sales field throws at them.

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Michael Windeler, Honeywell
Michael Windeler Senior Operations and Business Transformation Leader, Honeywell More by Michael

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