How To Build Your Sales Playbook

Drew Williams

October 20, 2021

Your business has processes, procedures, and protocols for approaching each sale. Whether it’s how you develop leads, handle objections, or hand off new customers, your company follows specific steps to sell your products or services.

The challenge is communicating how to sell what you sell to your sales team. That way, they know the best practices that will actually close each sale, and you can feel confident they’ll help you grow the business. With a sales playbook, you can do both. 

As the founder of Sales Playbook Builder and a Trainual certified consultant, I recently hosted a webinar all about this topic. In the session, I shared the challenges that come from not having your top plays documented, what you gain once you do, and the best way to build your sales playbook today:

What is a sales playbook?

A sales playbook is where you document and house your sales team’s standard operating procedures (SOPs). AKA the common framework they use for approaching and closing every single sale. And it’s usually housed in a digital business playbook software like Trainual, so your team can easily access and update all that good information. 

In other words, a sales playbook keeps all your salespeople (whether they’re a veteran or a newbie) reading from the same script. That way, everyone references the right resources and leverages the most up-to-date methods. And, as a result, your sales team is more effective, consistent, and successful in selling your products or services. 

Your sales playbook might include (but is not limited to):

  • Sales-specific training and onboarding
  • Your ideal customer persona and pipeline stages
  • CRM procedures and protocol
  • Call, voicemail, and email etiquette 
  • How to handle objections
  • Individual and team-wide sales KPIs

What if you don’t have a sales playbook?

When you don’t have a sales playbook, you can’t communicate how to sell to your sales team. Meaning, chances are good that everyone is approaching deals a little differently. And it can manifest into 3 major challenges for your team: your sales team has no direction, they’re misaligned, or they miss opportunities. 

1. Your sales team has no direction

I compare not having a sales playbook to planning a road trip without any direction. He says your sales team might have a map (AKA employee onboarding), but they don’t have any directions (a sales playbook). Meaning, they can’t arrive at their destination (hitting your company’s sales goals). 

While it might make for an adventure on the road, the same doesn’t go for your sales team. They need your direction to be consistent, close leads fast, and continue growing your business. Otherwise, it’s just a free-for-all, and there’s no method to the madness.

Plus, without any direction, it can take a long time to get new hires ramped up. That’s because they have to rely on existing team members or trial-and-error to get the knowledge they need, and that eats up time that could otherwise go toward sealing the deal.

2. Your sales team is misaligned

Without a shared consensus on priorities, there’s no way to align your sales team on the right sales opportunities. Maybe you want to align your business with one segment of the market, one vertical, or one sales motion. But some people might be working at getting all the wrong leads.

For example, say you’re a B2B company that focuses on enterprise-level companies. You don’t want your sales team focusing solely on transactional sales. But unless you have this information documented somewhere, there’s no way for your sales reps to know that. And a few team members might be going after any deal that comes their way (even small businesses that your product wasn’t built for). 

In other words, without a sales playbook, you leave your team’s priorities up to chance. And while they might know the annual goal is to hit $1M in sales by the end of the year, there’s no alignment on how they get there. As a result, it might take longer to hit your target (or you might never hit it at all).

3. Your sales team misses opportunities

Finally, there’s no way to hold your reps accountable for taking all the right steps without a documented sales process. And that leaves a lot of room for mistakes and missed opportunities.

For example, someone might fail to follow up because they don’t know how. Or, they might let a potential partnership slip through the cracks because they don’t respond professionally. Either way, it’s a big loss for your company.

And while no business wants to miss out on a sale, small businesses especially can’t afford to miss those opportunities. That’s why documenting every step of your sales process is essential, so you can ensure everyone follows the same winning plays.

Why do you need a sales playbook?

Now that you understand the challenges of not having a sales playbook, let’s talk about the benefits. Specifically, what you can expect for your sales team.

Set a solid foundation

Having a documented sales process provides a solid foundation for your sales team. Because it acts as a central source for all sales reps to reference and makes updating your sales process a whole lot easier. 

For example, if you decide to change your email templates, you simply update the language in your sales playbook. That way, everyone has access to the most up-to-date approach. And your sales reps use the same messaging with every new lead.

Once you have a foundation for your sales process, it’s much easier to start building and scaling your sales team. And it’s no big deal to add new people, sales motions, or partnerships because you have all your sales knowledge in one easy-to-access (and easy-to-update) place.

🔥 Tip: When you document your sales playbook in Trainual, it automatically notifies your team whenever you make updates. That way, you know that everyone is aware of your best practices – without having to reach out to each sales rep individually. Try for free. 

Help new reps hit the ground running

Employee onboarding takes less time once your sales process is documented in your sales playbook. Because it puts all the company knowledge a new reps needs in one place, so they can hit the ground running faster. 

Plus, your existing employees don’t have to lead the new-hire training when you onboard with a sales playbook. So, they free up a lot of time to focus on what they do best: closing sales. 

🔥 Tip: With Trainual, your sales reps can search for the information they need in seconds. So, whether they’re on a call or in the middle of writing an email, they have the answers they need without killing the momentum. Try for free. 

Be confident your team knows what they’re doing

Having a documented sales playbook gives you total confidence in your team because you can hand it over to anyone in the company. And regardless of their experience – you know they’re equipped with the SOPs they need to succeed.

As a result, you can separate yourself from this part of the business. Meaning, you can finally step away from training on the sales process (or just answering the same questions over and over again). And you can focus your attention on growing and scaling your business instead. 

🔥 Tip: Trainual makes assigning your sales playbook easy and automatic. You simply add a new employee to the system, assign their sales training, and they take it from there! Plus, you can use quizzes to hold them accountable for what they should know. Try for free. 

4 steps to build your sales playbook

Before we jump into this four-step process, be sure to download the free sales playbook worksheet. It’s an excellent resource for organizing this information as you read through the following four-step sales playbook building process. 

👉 Download the free worksheet. 

1. Audit your existing sales process

First, you need to audit your existing sales process. Or, in other words, layout how you actually sell what you’re selling. On the worksheet, you’re going to start in column one and list any examples of your sales process. 

Your sales process includes any repeatable steps, like your:

  • Sales-specific training and onboarding
  • CRM procedures and protocol
  • Call, voicemail, and email etiquette 
  • How to handle objections

Basically, you want to write down whatever you do to generate and close sales. These are the top plays that make up your sales playbook. And once you have them documented clearly, you can hand them off to anyone on your team. 

Next, move to column two and list out your existing sales resources. This includes your product list, lead list, email templates, call scripts, training .pdfs, or video recordings – really any resource a salesperson should reference for answers.

Finally, go to column three and identify where these resources live. Whether it’s in your head, scribbled on a piece of paper, or living in a Google Doc, it doesn’t matter. You just need to write down where someone can currently find the resource.

2. Put your processes to larger buckets

Now, we’re going to put the resources from column two into larger buckets. These are broader categories, which make organizing your sales playbook much easier. 

For example, your buckets might include:

  • Company and product overview
  • Ideal customer persona(s)
  • Sales processes and protocols
  • Demo process
  • Any templates or messaging
  • Relevant marketing context
  • Communication best practices

Then, put all the resources from column one on the worksheet into whatever bucket they fit in. (Feel free to change these buckets to reflect your business). 

For example, breakdowns of your product offerings would go under “company and product overview.” And your phone scripts or email templates would go under “communication best practices.”

When you’re done, jot down how each bucket in your system works to help your team find what they need. Looking at the example above, you might note that “communication best practices should include any tips and templates related to communicating with leads.”

3. Assemble your sales playbook

Now, you need to assemble your sales playbook. AKA put it together and house it somewhere. Whether you try to use Google Docs (spoiler: it’ll be a hot mess) or house everything in Trainual, you need a central place for everyone to reference.  

Start by creating a section for each broader category (company and product overview, sales training, and so on). Then, start adding each resource you aligned to that category. For instance, you’d add the product list and lead list to your company and product overview section. 

When it’s time to add SOPs, list the actionable steps and link to any relevant information. For example, write out your follow-up process step and by step. Then, link to your email templates or phone scripts (documented in the playbook) for easy reference.

Once you’ve finished putting it together, have one of your experienced sales reps go through the sales playbook. That way, they can spot any steps you missed and fill knowledge gaps. 

4. Accelerate your efforts by updating regularly

Now that you have a reliable resource to share with your team, it’s time to accelerate your sales playbook. AKA make it better and more effective – as you grow and change your sales tactics. 

For this step, assign a red light, yellow light, or green light to each process. Meaning, if you no longer use a process, give it a red light. If the process is clunky, confusing, or you need to test it again, give it a yellow light. And if the process works seamlessly, give it the green light. 

In essence, you accelerate your sales playbook by continuously improving it. But that doesn’t mean it has to fall on the business leader or team lead. In fact, even new sales reps should be encouraged to share their thoughts. 

That’s it! You’ve built your sales playbook! And now that you have your top plays documented in a central location, every rep has access to the latest and greatest sales methods. So you can keep your sales SOPs relevant and consistent, win more deals, and continue to grow your business. 

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