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How SMBs Should Write A Sales Playbook

Sales Playbook

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.

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:

  • The company’s unique value proposition: the key customer problems its products and services are designed to solve
  • The top three things that customers should remember about your products, services and support and how they differ from the competition (including pricing!)
  • The most common objections customers might make from a pitch, and how reps should respond. This is where the use of data analytics can play a transformational role

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:

  • Target personas by product or service category, geography or any other aspect that’s relevant: Even a few distinguishing characteristics based on your biggest or best customers could provide a model for future prospecting.
  • The use of data for driving demand, forecasting and building the funnel: This could include how marketing automation ideally connects to the sales process, for example, or tips on taking advantage of predictive intelligence for staying one step ahead of larger rivals.
  • The lead nurturing process: The best customers use CRM throughout the sales cycle, and they explain and reinforce behaviours that exploit its power. What does your typical buyer journey look like in terms of time, number of decision-makers involved and the information-gathering that helps make each stage more effective.

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:

  • If you have an intranet, use an employee blog to write a series of posts that detail areas of a sales playbook chapter-by-chapter. Encourage the team to share their own suggestions for additional tips and strategies.
  • Send brief paragraph-style chunks via e-mail on a weekly basis, almost like a newsletter designed and delivered straight from the boss. Suggest the team bring their feedback to the next in-person meeting rather than the dreaded “reply-all.”
  • Experiment with social media tools designed to work within companies rather than the outside world, starting conversation threads that answer frequently asked sales process questions. Ensure new hires see this discussion first as they’re getting trained on such systems.

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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