The Real Reason Your Sales Playbooks Fail

Many sales playbooks don’t get used – and here we’re going to look at the common reason why playbooks end up failing.

Sales playbooks continue to be very popular: they seem an easy way to inject a bit of oomph into your sales teams. If you’re launching a new product, then a sales playbook seems like the natural next step: you’ve launched the product, now let’s show the sales team how to go and position in and what to do at every step of the sales cycle.

Except, that’s not how it goes sometimes.

If your sales playbook project has run out of steam, then carry on reading – we think we might know what’s going on.

Did anyone actually speak to the salespeople when you started creating the playbook?

Very often (and we’ve been involved in projects like this), nobody actually goes out and asks salespeople what they actually need, what they’re struggling with, what they think works, what they don’t think works – and so on. Instead, marketing, sales management, product management and everyone who won’t be involved in selling the product get together to create a sales playbook.

We guess what salespeople will be thinking. We write pretty descriptions and pitches that make our product sound great – hey, we sound like absolute superstars here!

What’s that? The customer is a big supporter of your main competitor and they’ve come into the meeting completely opposed to your company, regardless of your fancy new product? Let’s just gloss over that, it’s not in the playbook.

Or maybe – the customer has done a bit of research and found that your product scores quite badly on some environmental metrics? Nah – let’s just ignore that, it’s not in the playbook.

Well – your salespeople have to sit in these meetings, go on these calls, stand up and present your products, and they’re likely coming across these tough objections and scenarios.

If your playbook doesn’t accurately represent the situations that salespeople will actually face, then it won’t work. You’ll still have to do all the work of creating a playbook, but you won’t get the reward of your playbook delivering on higher sales, quicker sales cycles or happier customers. Sales playbooks are an integral part of any sales enablement program – but they need to be done right. (We have a free guide on everything Sales Playbook related).

Your sales playbook is a fairytale

Unfortunately, many sales playbooks become fairy tales. They tell wonderful stories and sell your products amazingly – they make you look fantastic. Reading through it, everything flows beautifully. Sales Management approve, Marketing are happy and Product Management are pleased with how well their product comes across in the playbook.

You launch it enthusiastically to your salespeople – they look through it, then…silence.

During future deal reviews with salespeople, you uncover that no one is actually using your sales playbook.

And it’s because the playbook doesn’t contain real life, useful, actionable, applicable information that salespeople can use in live situations.

Let’s think about that for a moment.

If you had a booklet that contained loads of juicy info, and answers to the actual sales objections your customer is asking, and key facts that have been proven to work with customers – then why wouldn’t you want to read it?

But, I bet the playbook you’ve created doesn’t do that.

Don’t get scared off from the useful stuff

The reality is that everyone gets a little intimidated by playbooks. Putting all that honest info out there, written down, is pretty scary. What if your competitors get their hands on it? What if customers somehow see it? The natural feeling is to hide away the real objections, and to bury your concerns about what competitors might do or say when competing with you – and instead put some fluffy marketing speak in place of useful, actionable content.

But there’s no point even creating a playbook if you don’t set out with the aim of putting in useful, actionable content that salespeople want to read.

And here we loop back to the first point: you can’t guess what salespeople want to know, you need to go and talk to them. Try it, they’re not that scary. Ok, some are – but that’s what makes them good at their jobs (or that’s what you tell yourself).

Get salespeople in on the process. Interview them, get them to review your plans and drafts. Ask them why they hated and ignored your other playbook efforts. Ask them what would be super useful to them in a future playbook.

You might not be able to solve every problem or answer ever request, but I bet you’d get a whole lot closer to crafting a sales playbook that has real substance.

Try it just once – then compare that playbook to your other sales enablement content. Give it a go.

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