For all the sports metaphors you hear in business — we call groups of coworkers “teams” and our leaders are sometimes “coaches” — only certain kinds of organizations go as far as issuing a playbook for their sales teams.
Sales playbooks have become fairly common in large organizations, for example, where there’s a recognized need to have consistent, repeatable processes for processing purchase orders and essential market research. In contrast, Canadian small and medium-sized businesses might consider the idea of a sales playbook premature, if the numbers those actually getting in front of customers and prospects is still small. They might also be daunted by the resources required to write one — this is a project often farmed out to marketing communications or other functions in a big company.
Even if you don’t call it a playbook, though, pulling together information that makes sales pros more prepared for their next call or in-person appointment is a great way to evolve from an ad-hoc to a strategic approach to growth. No wonder Aberdeen research published a report a few years ago that suggested best-in-class companies are twice as likely to have a sales playbook.
Try breaking the concept of a sales playbook into a few pieces to make it a bit more feasible if you’re an SMB. Like this:
Start With Vision, Values And Your Core Offering
Some of the content in sales playbooks might seem like common sense, but it’s always useful to document the things that are core to your identify as an organization. SMBs may communicate some of these things during the hiring process — it makes sense to ensure your recruits understand your mission statement, for instance — but such details need to be communicated to outside parties such as prospects when you’re trying to build a relationship. Some of the following could be bullet points that sales teams can memorize over time:
Continue With The What, The How And The When
Sales playbooks should not be confused with employee handbooks. While there may be HR policies that could be applied across the board in an SMB, sales teams thrive when they have more specifics around the way they conduct their day-to-day jobs:
Keep Iterating As Though It’s Always A New Playbook
If any of this sounds like a long exercise, don’t be intimidated. A sales playbook can (and probably should) take many forms and doesn’t have to be created as a finished, final product. In fact, it’s far better for SMBs to treat sales playbooks as an ongoing work in progress -- almost like an internal marketing campaign for your team. These are just a few of the possibilities:
Sales playbooks, formal or otherwise, can also be refreshed as part of annual performance reviews to remind the team of where they’re accountable. They can be edited in real time as post-mortems of a major deal closing (or not closing) are discussed. The more employees are engaged with the playbook as part of their actual work (and the more digital and malleable it becomes) the more they’ll use it. SMBs are just like large firms in wanting everyone on the same page. A sales playbook ups the ante by filling multiple pages that ensure you’re playing to towards a more certain victory.
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