Writing a Killer Sales Playbook

The Sales Playbook, Defined

A sales playbook is a collection of tactics or methods that characterizes the roles and responsibilities for you (and your sales team), lays out clear objectives, identifies metrics for measurement, and provides a common framework and approach for closing sales.

The playbook helps you implement a common sales methodology that leverages the processes used by high performers. The outcome? You can sell more effectively and handle different selling situations, position against a particular competitor, or communicate the value proposition to each person in the buying process.

The 30,000 Foot View…

In the big picture, a good playbook needs to do several things:

  • Define your sales process and methodology — not only what you need to do but how to make it happen

  • Identify how your process maps to your customer’s buying process

  • Tell you how to engage with a prospective customer

  • Diagram the engagement experience

  • Accelerate sales effectiveness and accuracy.

The Components of the Sales Playbook, Explained

In the sports world, a “play” is an action designed to achieve a specific purpose in specific conditions. When you design a playbook you need to define the conditions. Therefore, at a minimum, the following knowledge needs to be integrated into the playbook:

1. Customer analysis – Identifies the market, key trends, key buyers and influencers, a profile of the ideal customer, the customers’ pain points and preferences and the critical business issues customers are trying to solve.

2. Buying process – Identifies conditions or events that trigger consideration, evaluation, and purchase. What are the behaviors of a qualified lead?

3. Company offer and value proposition – Describes and clarifies what your company offers and the ways in which your products and services address the customer’s pain points and business issues.

This is the place to explain why your company exists and how your company makes a difference to the customer and in the market. This section of the playbook is not complete until it clearly answers two questions. First, “Why should people buy this product from you?” Second, “What is the value they receive buying this product from you?” Part of this section should be dedicated to giving examples of questions that draw out the customer’s business needs and pain points. This section is also a good place to include use case scenarios.

For great information about how to write value propositions, check out Jill Konrath’s blog.

4. Competitive analysis –  Details how competitors position themselves in the market, their selling process, typical moves by each competitor, and recommendations on how to counter these moves.

For more about competitive analysis:  Think Like the Competition

5. Sales methodology – Maps the customer buying process, and outlines your sales process, that is, the standard set of critical steps that moves the customer to buy.

While this section should outline the sales cycle stages and responsibilities, it should go beyond just describing the steps in the sales cycle. It should provide instructions on what information needs to be collected at each stage in the process, identify the players in each step, and how to assess the opportunity.

The opportunity assessment information should recommend standard methods and tools that help determine where customers are in the buying process, enable them to analyze the situation, and anticipate what they might do next. This section of the playbook should also provide the guidelines for entering and exiting opportunities and a list of the resources, skills, knowledge, and tools needed for each stage in the process.

6. Countering objections – Gives specific instruction on how to address each common objection sales might encounter. Tom Reilly takes a look at this topic in his book, Value-Added Selling : How to Sell More Profitably, Confidently, and Professionally by Competing on Value, Not Price.

7. Best practices – Lists proven tips, techniques — and under what circumstances to use them. This section should also capture what hasn’t worked in the past and associated lessons learned.

8. Your Buyer Personae — A section (perhaps an appendix) that answers the question, “Who is my ideal prospect?”

For more on creating personae, we have created a slideshare.

A Worthwhile Investment

While developing a sales playbook is an extensive investment of your time, it has a big payoff in that it surfaces customer pains and preferences, improves sales effectiveness and productivity, and exposes and corrects weaknesses in the way you currently operate.

When completed, your playbook becomes a living document of your sales methodology and provides tactical guidelines and instructions that enable you to discover important ways to address the vulnerabilities of both your company and competitors. With a practical sales playbook, you can leverage strengths, differentiate offers, prove business value, and ultimately improve your win/loss ratio.

For more specific guidance and help in crafting your  playbook, check out Using the Customer Buying Process to Align Sales and Marketing & Create 3 Key Enablement Tools

Laura Patterson is President of VisionEdge Marketing — Improving Marketing Effectiveness and Creating Marketing Centers of Excellence.

9 Comments

  1. Very nice article, this is exactly what we have in our Account and Opportunity Playbooks generated from Strategy Mapper. Our playbook are dynamically updated from the meetings you are having with customers and prospects.

  2. Very helpful. Tank you.

  3. Tom, glad you found this article helpful. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great article!
    Thanks so much for sharing this very valuable piece of knowledge.

  5. Tim Reynolds says:

    Interesting article. How would you go about building a playbook when the solutions are very technical, often nuanced proposals across a wide range of technologies? Would you build playbooks per technology (we have about 8), per customer segment? Also in a highly matrix organisation, how do you get consistency across the technology formats when the value proposition for each is completely different?

  6. Thank you Luca. Tim, excellent questions. A large number of our customers face this issue since they are B2B technology, life science, and manufacturing companies. Still need a playbook:) Come see us if you need help.

  7. Rhonda Dishman says:

    Has anyone pushed out Playbooks in a “topic”-type/series fashion? I’m considering this because our company, culture, and sales talent, harken back 40+ years (not that there’s anything wrong with that! Lol – indeed we have a strong reputation for good work in the region in which we operate). I’m facing a group of people who would probably take a large playbook and stick in on the shelf. If I deliver small, consumable pieces, I think I’ll get more adoption. We happen to be in an industry that is critically important to safety in schools, municipal systems, hospitals and general business, where technology keeps moving forward – and we keep up! – however, no real sales acumen was established and remains so today. We are missing opportunities left and right, even though we make a sale, that stem from not asking questions, not relaying our entire offering (aka cross-sale), and having no tools with which to do so; therefore the sale is much less robust than it could have been. I’ve come aboard to enable the sales force, manage social media (to date “meager” would be an understatement), gain control and produce programs that draw potential customers, etc. My first thought was: put a process in place – a GTM strategy. People will balk at this – I’m sure of it. Wouldn’t it be better, knowing the GTM myself, to gain adoption and herd the crowd by providing tools/playbooks by topic that will show impact and get the koolaid flowing? My first thought is “Using Our Social Media and Web Sites” – I’ve got all these nailed down now. People need to use them, why? Because engagement can be tracked and then used to further relationships / traction leading to opportunities. I think this may be the quickest way to demonstrate how this is helping THEM. Ok, warm fuzzy…..”Maybe this new gal knows something…..I might just pay attention”. Next, I’ll develop talking points (NOT SCRIPTS) so sales people are armed with the right questions and answers that will lead to greater share-of-wallet on any sale. “Hmmm……Yep, there’s something here; if I hadn’t had this information, I would have walked away with a deal half the size.” Now that I have their attention, and have demonstrated goodwill, I can begin to educate and measure. Long process? Maybe. It took 41 years to get to a place where someone like me was brought in; it will not change overnight, and overwhelming the sales team (while maybe impressing leadership) is not going to produce results! Any thoughts on this scenario? Sorry so long-winded!!

    Rhonda Dishman
    Director, Marketing & Sales Operations
    CES

  8. facebook@peakperformancesalestraining.us says:

    I appreciate the detail in this article. Well written and too the point!

    http://peakperformancesalestraining.us/ceosolutions/roleoftheceo

  9. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

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