Research has shown that reps are better set up for success with a comprehensive sales playbook tool at their fingertips.
The Aberdeen Group, a strategy and research company, found that 54% of reps using sales playbooks are likely to meet their sales goals versus 46% of reps who do not have an accessible playbook in their organization.
Let’s get into the fundamentals first...
Chapter 1. Fundamentals: Sales Playbooks vs Running Sales Plays
Having standardized sales playbooks that promote a set of sales plays is paramount to the consistent success of a sales organization.
- Speed up ramp time
- Increase win rates
- Prepare your team for scaling
While every seller needs to incorporate both sales playbooks and sales play strategies, there are foundational differences between the two.
What are sales plays?
Running a sales play means using a series of repeatable steps during a particular stage of the sales process. It can also be customizable to a certain type of prospect or client.
For example, let’s say you are preparing for an initial demo call. This sales play would include a breakdown of how to strategically approach the product presentation. Your sales play would also include client-specific data.
Additionally, sales plays can include common questions and objections that typically occur during a particular part of the sales cycle.
“Successful Sales Plays start with concrete objectives and goals. Such as what is the end result you are looking for? Is it a meeting set up, a demo conducted or closed won business?” - Sally Duby, Chief Sales Officer and Partner at The Bridge Group, Inc
What are sales playbooks?
Sales playbooks act as a personalized and centralized hub of information.
They are informational guidebooks often used during training, onboarding, and to support your sales narrative. Playbooks are usually stationary documents that act as a step-by-step manual for a sales rep.
Sales playbooks tend to include pertinent information like:
- Sales cycle stages
- Company information
- Overall mission
- Call scripts
- Battle cards
- Team KPIs
Playbooks allow reps to spend less time preparing for meetings and more time focusing on closing the sale.
Chapter 2. Benefits of implementing standardized sales playbooks
Integrating playbooks into your sales process will help your team enhance their skills and cultivate their client relationships. Not to mention the additional benefits to the success of the organization overall.
Here are some of the reasons why you should implement sales playbooks within your company:
1. Reduces ramp time
A quality sales playbook acts as a resource guide for all reps. However, having this resource available for a new hire from day one means they can onboard much quicker. They have a step-by-step guide for selling while also getting a deeper understanding of the product and its sales cycle.
2. Enhances onboarding and training
Centralized resources that are user-friendly help make the onboarding and training processes more streamlined and efficient. It also ensures that everyone is learning best practices when it comes to selling your product.
3. Increases team’s productivity
Comprehensive playbooks for sales teams are not only a helpful sales resource. They can also increase the productivity and performance of your reps. When a sales playbook is comprehensive enough to have all necessary selling information, they can spend less time on admin tasks and more time on increasing their win rates.
4. Improves effectiveness of sales calls
Teams that use sales playbooks or a defined sales strategy are 33% more likely to close sales at a higher rate.
“We have to enable the salespeople to have the information they need at the moment they need it. When we go to digital types of playbooks, we can really save a lot of time.”
5. Keep consistent messaging
Reps are more likely to maintain a cohesive narrative throughout the sales process with a playbook. With a centralized resource, you know they are using best-selling practices while keeping a consistent message.
6. Get a stronger feedback loop
Teams are better equipped to work together successfully when they have a solid communication loop. By creating an accessible and team-built sales playbook, there is a more streamlined system for communicating needs across different departments.
7. Increase deal sizes
Aberdeen research shows that companies who used a sales playbook ended up seeing an increase of 3.9% in their average deal size.
If you want to build the most effective tool for your team, then you will first need to understand the proper guidelines and best framework for creating a playbook.
Chapter 3. Guidelines for creating your playbook
Using playbooks to run your sales plays is the bedrock for your team's success. When a team has centralized access to a comprehensive playbook, they are more likely to run effective plays and close more deals.
Here are some general guidelines for creating your sales playbook:
1. Include all relevant departments in the planning process
When creating your content, make sure to include sales enablement, marketing, and product teams to make sure the content is well-rounded. This will also enhance the selling narrative by ensuring it is cohesive and consistent.
“First, identify what salespeople need to do their jobs, and then determine what marketing can do to relieve those pain points.” - Jordan Wahl, Content Marketing Manager at G2
In fact, when marketing and sales teams are aligned, organizations can see a 15% increase in their win rates.
2. Centralize the content
By making your playbooks and sales plays centralized, your teams can have full access to the content and edit when necessary.
Accessibility is not just for your sales team. Centralizing the content means teams like enablement, marketing, and customer success can also access the materials for additional support and resources.
Based on a Salesforce survey, 81% of sales reps believe it is important to have a connected view of data across the entire customer journey. Keeping your playbook centralized means this connected timeline is easily viewable throughout the entire client history.
“Leverage a content management system as your single-source-of truth repository to house your playbooks. This will ensure reps can quickly and efficiently access the info they need, when they need it.” - Brittany Manopello, Director of Revenue Enablement at Glassdoor
3. Make it scalable and adaptable
Your sales playbooks should be user-friendly and easy to adapt. Reps will need to be able to customize their playbooks as needed, so the easier it is to edit, the more likely sellers will utilize the tool.
A playbook that also integrates seamlessly with your tech stack makes it a more effective resource when your team is scaling. Your sales playbooks need to grow with you as your organization expands and develops.
Helpful questions to consider when creating your playbook
Versatility and flexibility are some of the most important aspects of a dynamic playbook. This enables reps to customize for their prospects accordingly.
- What’s the purpose of this meeting?
The purpose of your meeting will dictate the focus of your conversation and how your playbook will be structured. If the main goal of the call is to qualify the lead, then what will you need in your playbook to assist in confirming the demo pitch? When you determine the goal of the meeting, then reps can tailor the playbook accordingly.
- What are the customer’s main pain points?
Depending on the stage of the sale, the pain points will either need to be discovered through prepared questions or will need to be addressed head-on through a demo. Include a template in your playbook where reps can note these points and refer to them when discussing the solution (your product!)
- How do you need to structure this meeting?
Always tailor your playbook structure and content to your customer and their specific business. Not to mention, you are allowing more space for a two-way conversation. Then, there is more chance to progress the sale further.
- How can you use your playbook to increase customer engagement?
Review your customer engagement data and adjust what may not be working. In addition, take note of what has worked for other reps in their calls — did they incorporate visuals, websites, or other interactive tools into their presentations?
Implement these techniques into your playbooks to encourage these actions across your entire team.
- How can you prepare for objections?
Including battle cards in your playbooks with FAQs will ensure reps are prepared in advance for objections raised by the prospect. Additionally, reps should allow enough time for questions and then track these queries in your playbook as a post-call reference. This way common objections and hurdles are shared internally across the sales team.
- What information do you want from the customer at each sales stage?
Your playbooks should break down each stage of your sales cycle and what the reps need to focus on during that particular meeting. This means preparing discovery questions before every call. Reps can then use these questions to keep the call focused and on track.
We will talk about the specific content that you should include in your sales playbook for different sales stages later, here.
Chapter 4. Content to include in your playbook
When you begin building your sales playbook framework, you want to consider the content you are including and how it can assist reps with having valuable conversations with their clients. Not to mention, the playbook needs to act as a go-to sales resource for reps so they can onboard and ramp up quicker.
“The more specific and detailed the Sales Play info the better the team is able to execute. Not only is it important to identify what's in it for the Rep but what is in it for the prospect/customer?” - Sally Duby, Chief Sales Officer and Partner at The Bridge Group, Inc
Here are some examples of what to include in your playbook:
Your playbook should clearly lay out the specific stages of your product’s sales cycle. In addition, this section should also provide guidance, tips, and support for your reps throughout each stage.
This section offers a quick product reference for reps to utilize throughout their training and selling experience. It also ensures that there is consistent product messaging coming from all of your sales reps.
Include speaker notes in the playbook throughout each individual sales stage in your cycle. Notes can include qualification and discovery questions, as well as strategic approaches, common objections, and client-call templates.
Reps are more likely to have smoother and more effective meetings when they are proactively ready for objections and questions.
Our sales team uses Demodesk Battle Cards during their meetings. Whenever the question about competitors comes up, sales reps can access the battle cards in real time during the call without having to open their notes somewhere else.
Prepare the collection of battle cards for different questions and objections to support your sales reps during their sales meetings:
- Competitor info
- Pricing Information
- Case Studies/Storytelling
- General FAQs
Chapter 5. How your first sales playbook template could look
Regardless of your situation, you can still build an effective sales playbook even without a large number of internal resources. Consolidating the key points will help you create a playbook that your team can use to sell successfully right away.
Already think you have the basics down? Jump to the next chapter to get playbooks for different sales stages.
Here is a breakdown of the essential slides to include in your sales playbook:
1. Start with cameras before moving to slides
If your team starts their sales calls with a natural flow of conversation, then they are more likely to engage the customer from the very beginning. Have them get used to building a rapport with their prospects and clients for a better relationship in the long run.
Plus, instead of just “pitching” the product right away, reps are establishing their goal of working towards a solution together. This is also a great time for reps to get in the habit of confirming the meeting times and attendees, as well as asking for consent to record the call.
2. Ask the question: Why should I buy your product?
The first key slide dives right into why your product can be the answer to their specific problem. A prospect’s focus is on the result, so getting right to answering that question grabs their attention up front.
3. Product Demo / Overview
The demo portion of your playbook is when the prospect is seeing the product in action. This is an essential stage of your sales cycle since you are actually showing them how you can solve their main problem.
4. Relevant case studies
Inserting real client feedback and case studies is another way for your reps to show prospects why your product can solve their problem — because it’s been done before!
5. End with a call to action
Your final essential slide should always be a call to action for the next steps. This will ensure that your reps get the customer to move to the next stage while they still have their engagement and attention.
By including a call to action in your playbook, you are also creating accountability for both your reps and the prospect.
Chapter 6. Sales stages and key slides
Every stage of your sales cycle requires a specific sales play. Reps need to know how to properly showcase their product, ask the right questions, and handle objections during sales calls.
Playbook 1: Intro call/qualification
The main goal of a qualification or a discovery call is getting to know the prospect and determining whether they could potentially benefit from your service or product. This means setting up your playbook with the right questions for reps to ask the prospect.
This playbook should include key slides and notes like:
This slide should be at the front of the playbook so the prospect can know what to expect during this conversation.
2. Framing the conversation
During this section of your playbook, have notes prepared to give a quick, high-value overview of the product.
3. Customer’s website or camera view
This slide should act as a reminder to keep the rep focused on the customer. Reps can use this slide to analyze what they are currently seeing on the prospect’s website or from their product.
4. Book next steps
If the prospect and rep have mutually determined there is a potential fit, then having a scheduling link built into your playbook will help improve the conversion rates, shorten your sales cycle, and keep the momentum going in your deal.
Remind reps to send a quick recap of the meeting to their prospect after the call has ended. This keeps everyone on the same page and solidifies clear communication.
Playbook 2: Discovery & product overview
During this sales stage, reps actually get to show their prospect your tool and how it can work for them. Reps will also need to be prepared for additional discovery to have a complete understanding of the goals, challenges, and priorities of all the decision-makers at the company.
This playbook should include key slides and notes like:
1. Framing the conversation
The agenda will be dependent on a few conditions. Most commonly, whether this demo is coming from a previous SDR qualification call or if it was self-scheduled by the AE.
2. Context and recap
Here is where reps can include a brief customer recap to remind all parties of previous information. It also opens up the conversation to any updates or changes that may have occurred in the meantime.
3. Product overview
The number of slides that break down the product’s beneficial features will be dependent on several factors, like your client’s needs and your distinct offerings. Reps should only show what is relevant to the prospect and show what they need to know.
While this is not necessarily a call to discuss pricing, reps should be prepared to talk about the different options as part of the prospect’s potential investment.
5. Schedule next steps
This slide should include the next steps in the sales cycle. Reps should include their personal booking link here as well, so the prospect can lock in a time again while they’re still on the call.
Playbook 3: Pricing/mutual outcome plan
At this point in the process, the prospect is already familiar with the product and how it can help achieve their goals or solve their problem. So this stage is all about the rep finalizing their sale and getting deeper into the pricing details.
This playbook should include key slides and notes like:
1. Pricing breakdowns
This is where you present your pricing options. Really focus on the different options you have available and the benefits of each while keeping in mind any past concerns that the prospect may have raised.
2. Mutual outcome plan
Also known as a joint execution plan, this slide assists the rep with confirming the need-to-know details so both parties can move towards a positive outcome, together.
Let prospects know what the onboarding process will look like if they end up signing the deal. This is especially useful if your internal process means passing them onto a Customer Success Manager or Account Manager.
4. Case studies
Reps can maintain a prospect’s engagement by finding a common ground between them and a success story. If reps are feeling like their prospect is still on the fence about the pricing, then these studies will be a great confidence booster for why they should buy your product.
Playbook 4: Customer onboarding
Don’t forget to make a post-sales playbook for your Account Managers/Customer Success Managers! The AMs/CSMs are crucial to the continued success of the sale. They are responsible for maintaining the client’s happiness, keeping churn rates low, renewing contracts, and even upselling when possible.
This playbook should include key slides and notes like:
1. Camera view
Since this will be a new face greeting the client, create a template for AMs/CSMs that includes an option for the rep to weave in some introductory information about themselves.
2. Success plan
This template should include your company’s criteria for success, it should also act as a guide for the AM/CSM to open up the conversation so clients can share what success looks like for them as well.
3. Business review
The business overview slide is where the AM/CSM can ask questions about the company and get to know more about its mission, strategy, and goals.
4. Internal processes
This is where reps can learn about which aspect of the customer’s business and internal processes will be impacted by your product’s solution.
5. Revenue motion
One of the main roles of the AM/CSM position is to always know their customer’s current health status — meaning, are they satisfied and are they doing well? This slide can help the rep determine the growth capabilities of the company.
6. Scheduling link
This is a great opportunity for the AM/CSM to book a time to go through the actual setup of the product. It’s also helpful for the client to have access to their specific rep’s scheduling link upfront.
Slides should not be oversaturated with text or imagery. Remember that you want to keep prospects interested throughout the entire call, which means reps need to ensure the presentation (and conversation!) remains engaging.
Here are some layout suggestions for your playbooks and presentations:
- Have a max. of 1 slide every 2 min. (if slides are necessary)
- Contain a font bigger than 30 pt.
- Keep text and design to a minimum
- Include websites, apps, or other interactive aspects to engage
Chapter 7. Tips for improving your sales playbook
When it comes to enhancing your sales enablement strategy, you need to consistently find ways to develop and adjust your playbooks. Here are some tips for improving your playbooks as your team grows:
1. Simplify & connect all the tools in your tech stack
When it comes to using your playbook to run sales plays, having a stable tech stack will be a huge advantage.
Here are the features you should look for:
- Real-time customization: Reps need to be able to adapt the playbook to their specific client’s needs and goals. During customer calls, you should make it as easy as possible for your reps to shift the narrative based on the discussion. Ralph Grimse, a partner with the sales consulting firm The Brevet Group, says the following about the lack of complexities within the traditional sales playbook:
“Reps say many sales playbooks come across as too superficial. The basic sales process is illustrated, with maybe a few case studies or features. But detailed guidance around how and when to use specific messages, collateral, and strategies is missing.”
- Collect call data automatically: Before any sales meeting, you should always have speaker notes connected to your playbook to guide reps through the call. These notes can include templates and tips to reference while discovering information about the prospect. After you finish your call, all the notes and data you have inserted into your tool should automatically sync to your CRM system. This will help you and your team save time.
- Engaging content: Aside from being easily accessible, make sure the tool you are using allows your playbooks to contain interactive and engaging content. Nobody likes to sit through a static Powerpoint presentation. Include websites, apps, or other interactive content to create a more relevant pitch every time. Demodesk’s playbooks are a great example of a centralized, digital option that is also user-friendly, quick to learn, and easy to edit!
2. Listen to feedback
According to the American Marketing Association, sales reps never use up to 90% of marketing content. This is mainly due to a lack of alignment between the teams.
Sales reps are the best resource to give feedback on the enablement materials. Establish a consistent feedback loop between the sales, marketing, and enablement teams to ensure the content they are producing are the most beneficial resources available. This is imperative during the review process since reps are seeing the real-time impact of these sales materials.
It’s also important to bring in your leadership team for additional insights and to help diagnose any missing resources or to clarify specific sales points.
3. Track customer engagement
Break down the engagement data from the individual sales calls to see which aspects of your playbook are resonating with prospects.
When the enablement team can have more visibility into sales content usage, it’s been shown to yield a 33% higher lead acceptance rate.
4. Analyze market data
To keep your sales playbook information as accurate and helpful as possible, you need to analyze the market data that supports your resources. Find the time to consistently review the industry updates around your product.
Make note of any new competition that has entered the market — how does this impact your value proposition? How have any market shifts affected your product offering?
Scaling your sales team with standardized playbooks
Sales playbooks are one of the most important tools for your sellers. In fact, 42% of best-in-class companies use sales playbooks which in turn led to better quota attainment, greater customer retention, and higher lead conversion rates.
In times of growth, leaders need a playbook framework to support their team with important resources to run efficient sales plays with confidence.
Sales playbooks also ensure your reps are maintaining a cohesive voice by utilizing best practices when it comes to onboarding, training, and selling your product.
That was a long one...
Hope you learned something new about playbooks today.
Now it’s time to take the next step & put your playbooks into action! Want to build world-class sales playbooks? Hop on a free strategy call. We look forward to talking with you.