What is a Sales Playbook? [Definition]
A Sales Playbook is like your sales team’s bible on how to sell your product or service to customers. It covers everything from educating your sales team on a product, to how to pitch your product to customers and how to handle objections.
Playbooks are used within companies for a range of different purposes, across training up new sales representatives or as an onboarding resource for new employees. They are also used to train employees on how to position new products or services.
Why do you need a Sales Playbook?
How do your teams handle common customer objections? Can everyone pitch your solution or product succinctly? Is your sales messaging consistent?
A sales playbook can drive new sales and educate teams on new products and turn your sales teams into sales superstars. In fact, companies that have a sales playbook are 33% more likely to be high performing organizations compared with not having a playbook in place.
What’s more, top-performing companies are TWICE as likely to use Sales Playbooks compared to their average performing competitors, and research shows that B2B sales playbooks enable companies to develop better customer relationships and increase average deal sizes (Research: Aberdeen Group).
We often speak to organisations who have all of their sales information worked out, but it’s disjointed – sitting in brochures, websites and customer proposals. A sales playbook template brings this information together into one document for a consistent approach to sales success.
What makes a good Sales Playbook?
The main thing that differentiates a great sales playbook from a poor one is being super focused on one question:
What is the point of your sales playbook?
In other words: what is the aim of your sales playbook? Why are you investing all this time (let’s face it, it will take a lot of time to get right) in creating a playbook?
Be laser-focused on your playbook’s aim, and everything else will fall into place.
If you need a bit more support, then you can download our Sales Playbook Template Pack which has everything you need to create your own playbook.
Benefits of a Sales Playbook
- They accelerate your sales cycle
- They onboard your sales reps quicker
- They improve customer service and the customer experience by everyone being on the ‘same page’
- They can increase your average deal size
- They help your Account Teams to better understand your customers’ issues
- They help sales reps qualify customers quicker
What are the different types of playbook?
A Sales Playbook is your crib sheet for your product, service or company. Some organisations have just one Sales Playbook, while some have a Playbook for each product they sell. It is like a simple guide for anyone selling your product or service which educates them on how to position your product, the challenges customers are facing in the market, and how to align your product to those challenges, and manage common objections – plus a whole load of extra useful sales information. (If you need to create your own Sales Playbook, then take a look at our Sales Playbook Template).
A sales playbook can include your sales stretegy, your sales process, your sales methodologies – in addition to product info about how to position your product or service to customers.
A Company Playbook is a guide to your company – basically, what your company does and why. It usually includes a company overview, company history, what you do for your customers, how you engage with your customers, your mission and value statements and how you operate.
An Operations Playbook is all about how you deliver your services to customers. So, for example, an Operations Playbook for a restaurant might explain the steps that waiting staff go through when looking after a restaurant guest, from whether guests wait to be seated, to how you greet new customers. It’s your playbook for how to operate.
Reseller or Channel Playbook
Many organisations create Channel Playbooks for their reseller community to give them the information and tools to go and sell their products – all in one central playbook structure. This can be a mix of a company playbook and a sales playbook – demonstrating how to sell particular products and services and how resellers should engage with the vendor and partner ecosystem.
Let’s take a look at the different sections we recommend for the ultimate sales playbook. PS. If you’re not sure whether you need a sales playbook – check out this article on Why You Need a Company Playbook.
What to Include in a Sales Playbook
We’ve put together a comprehensive step by step guide below to show you everything you need to include in your sales playbook to help you maximise your sales revenues. Follow the outline below to create a framework for your sales playbook.
Sales Playbook Outline:
Who is the Sales Playbook’s intended audience?
It’s important to clearly define how you intend the playbook to be used in the introduction section of your playbook document, covering everything from who is the intended audience, through to whether parts of the playbook are customer viewable, and what sales settings the playbook should be used in.
This provides a framework for the playbook and guides the content that will go into the playbook.
For example, if the intended audience is your New Business Telesales Team, they probably don’t need to know about how to position the more technical elements of the product – whereas if the audience were your Technical Presales team, then they’d need that info.
Likewise, your Account Management Team needs different info to your New Business Team – and the more focused your playbook can be, the more effective.
Here are a few questions to help:
- Who is the intended audience for the playbook?
- When should the playbook be used?
- Is it a company playbook or a product-specific playbook?
- How will the playbook be updated?
- What info will I be able to find in the playbook?
Your Product’s Market Opportunity
What can you tell your audience (sales reps) to get them interested in selling your product?
Give your playbook audience some enticing facts about the Market Opportunity for your product or service. Why now? Why this product? Why this industry?
Give your playbook audience something to get them excited about selling your product. After all, they are going to be investing time, people and resources into learning about your product, then going out and selling it.
Getting your audience to really buy into you and your product is critical, otherwise, they won’t be motivated to go out and sell to customers – even if it’s your own sales staff that you’re training! Think about the carrot, rather than the stick.
Every Sales Playbook needs a killer Elevator Pitch!
No sales playbook would be worth its weight without a good elevator pitch. This underpins your entire playbook and flows through all of your messaging – within the playbook and also your wider sales and marketing activity.
It needs to be short, snappy and memorable – lose the jargon and focus on customer value.
Your pitch should be a 1-minute overview of the solution, product or service you are selling. Think of it as a simple overview that you want your sales team or company representatives to be communicating to customers.
Remember to use your elevator pitch to tell your customers ‘what’s in it for them’ – why should they care about this offering? Give them something to show that your solution has some business value for them.
Customers are being bombarded with new products and services everyday, they are being sold to left, right and centre. Cut above the noise and tell them why this matters to them, right now. Stop thinking about what’s in it for you, and focus on the business value you’re bringing to customers.
If it is a company playbook, then the elevator pitch could be a quick overview of your company and what it does.
Key points to remember:
- Make the pitch last 1 minute maximum
- If people remember one thing about your company/product/service – what do you want it to be?
Identify your customers’ challenges in your playbook
Here is where you talk about your customers’ business challenges. What challenges is their industry or market facing? What are typical challenges being faced by organizations in this sector?
By understanding what our customers’ challenges are, we can better align our products and services to those challenges.
Understand your customers’ business objectives
Once you have listed the key customer challenges, next think about your customers’ objectives.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when filling in this section:
- What are their typical business objectives?
- What metrics are they working towards?
- What does success look like for your customer base?
- In their industry, what are some of the common initiatives and goals that companies are working towards?
Introduce your product…. finally!
So you have a great elevator pitch in place. Now, you need some detail to back up your pitch!
We don’t recommend getting too detailed in a sales playbook – after all, your audience can only
remember so much, so you want to give them a few good pointers and facts about your product or service for them to communicate with customers.
We recommend keeping the product detail pages to 2 pages maximum:
- Overview of your product or service
- Key statistics or facts about your product
- Information to support claims made in your elevator pitch
Key Sales Playbook Section: Handling Customer Objections
Once you have spoken about your product and provided a bit of detail, it’s important to get back to focusing on the outcomes to the customer that your product or service can deliver.
Outcomes can sometimes be split into two levels: direct outcomes (departmental-level benefits) and business outcomes (tangible outcomes that impact on the business).
It’s really important to pick real objections and not just ‘nice’ objections that you’re happy to share.
Identify your ideal customer profile: the focus of your Sales Playbook
Every playbook needs to articulate what an ideal prospect for your product or service looks like – your target customer.
What does the ‘right buyer’ look like? What is their customer profile? Does your audience know what the ‘wrong buyer’ looks like?
Drill down onto the key elements of what your ideal buyer looks like and list them out for your playbook audience.
- What is the prospect profile that you want your teams to be targeting?
- What does a bad target profile look like?
- What does a good target profile look like?
- What customer situations / scenarios lend themselves to customers considering your product or service?
Define your Sales Strategy and Sales Process
Some product playbooks might not touch on the actual sales process – but if this is your company’s only sales playbook, it could be a good place to put details in about your specific sales process and strategy. This could be as simple as listing a few steps, or a more detailed overview of each stage of your sales process and the milestones to move to the next step of the process.
Sections to consider including:
- Sales process
- Sales methodology and approach
- Sales pipeline
- Sales cycle information
Get into the Playbook detail: Buyer Profiles
When we create a sales playbook, we include a range of buyer profiles, usually across different business departments.
How will you sell to different buyer roles across your organization? How will you change your sales messaging to suit each buyer group?
While the target customer profile section looks at your customer at an organizational level, this is about target customers at an individual level.
For example, what motivates a CEO might be different to what a Finance Director is interested in.
Including buyer profiles in your playbook helps your teams to position the right solution
information, benefits and detail, and ask the right questions depending on the buyer role they are speaking to.
Managing customer objections
No playbook would be complete without a section on successfully managing objections. Imagine your Account Manager has successfully positioned your product, to the right target customer profile, and asked appropriate questions to their buyer role.
Then the customer throws out an objection, but your Account Manager doesn’t know how to respond.
Having a set of common objections and their answers helps to prepare your team for difficult customer conversations and head off any objections before they can disrupt the sale.
Try asking around your teams for the most common objections they hear from customers – it’s best to use real, live objections that customers are asking of your teams.
How to Use Sales Plays
Sales Plays are different sales scenarios and use cases for your product or service.
For example, one Sales Play might be positioning your product to a customer experiencing X challenge in X industry sector.
Key questions for your sales team to ask your customer
What questions should your sales teams be asking to get the conversation started with customers? What are the important questions which could uncover customer needs related to your solution? Always include some good business level and product level questions in your playbook to support sales teams in opening up a rewarding sales conversation with a customer.
How to Actually Write a Sales Playbook – Our Process
We thought it might be useful to share our own process for a Sales Playbook engagement so you can apply it to your own project:
Creating a playbook is a lengthy process if you want to end up with a comprehensive and highly successful playbook – and we often get asked about what the actual sales playbook creation process looks like in practice.
We’ve created sales playbooks for some of the world’s biggest brands, and this is a fairly typical overview of the process we go through for our consulting clients:
- We start by interviewing our client to understand what they want to achieve from their sales playbook. It’s a good question, because organizations have different motivators for creating a sales playbook.
For example, are you launching a new product and need to educate the sales team on this product? Are you recruiting for a number of new sales reps and need to quickly onboard them? Or, is it an existing product and an existing sales team, but you want to increase sales and effectiveness? Depending on the answers to these questions, the focus for the sales playbook will vary – and so will the questions we ask.
- We then interview our client’s selected experts – these could be technical contacts combined with sales leaders from across their company. Always try to make sure you get a good balance of views in your sales playbook – not too technical, but also not too light on detail so that your teams have all the info they need when they go out to talk to customers.
- Next, we review any supporting internal documentation that our clients already have that could be integrated into the playbook – after all, it makes sense for your messaging to be consistent across your brochures, proposals and playbooks.
- Then, we pull all of the different interviews and supporting documentation together and start to build the playbook and design the layout.
- When we have a first draft of the sales playbook ready, we liaise back with our client to check we are on the right track and build feedback into the playbook.
The process continues in a cycle of feedback and iterate until we reach a Sales Playbook structure that confidently articulates a client’s company, products and services and helps sales reps with how to engage with their customers to start the sales conversation.
Sales Playbook FAQs
Where can I get a Sales Playbook Template?
We’ve put together a Sales Playbook Template pack where you can get Microsoft Word and PowerPoint Sales Playbook Templates, plus Sales Battlecard Templates – all in 6 different color options, plus a comprehensive how-to ebook on creating your sales playbook which goes through section by section in detail.
Is a B2B Sales Playbook the same as a B2C Sales Playbook?
A B2B sales playbook will have a number of differences compared with a B2C playbook. A B2B-focused playbook will focus on business challenges – and center on topics such as business operating costs and operational risk, whereas a B2C playbook will focus on individual’s drivers and personality-types. Our Playbook Pack is focused on the B2B sector!
What is the role of a playbook in Sales enablement?
A sales playbook is the cornerstone of any Sales Enablement programme as it’s often the core document upon which alot of sales enablement materials are based on (such as elearning, product briefs, presentations and marketing content).
Are there any free resources to help me create my own Sales Playbook?
We’ve put together a free guide on the Top Ten Sections to Include in Your Sales Playbook in the Resources section. These are ten critical areas that every sales playbook needs and it’s free to download.
What does a sales playbook look like?
Because playbooks often contain a lot of confidential company data, you can’t readily find many playbook examples online. However, we wrote a post showing the best and worst of some sales playbook examples we found online, going through what made a playbook good, and what made it really, really bad.
How to Create a Professional Sales Playbook: VIDEO
Here’s a video that takes you step by step through the different sections you need in your Sales Playbook:
Getting Started With Your Sales Playbook: VIDEO
A short intro to Sales Playbooks: