Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Playbook – Sales Playbooks

I was speaking with a client this week who would like to revise their sales playbook and it got me thinking about what makes a good playbook. But before we go there we should probably define the term.  Just like in football, a playbook outlines a series of moves that will help us reach our goal – but in this case we’re talking about an order instead of the end zone. A sales playbook describes the stages of our sales funnel and the steps required to move opportunities from one stage to the next.

The best sales playbooks not only describe what the selling organization is doing at each stage of the funnel but they also go into detail on what actions the customer is taking at each stage and what resources are available to the salesperson. So how many funnel stages is the right number and what are the right actions? Like so many other issues in complex selling, the answer lies with your customers. What does their buying process look like and how complex is it?  In general, the longer the buying cycle and the more complex your solution is, the more funnel stages you will need. I have seen some sales playbooks that were summarized eloquently on a single slide and others that are described in a 20 page document.

Another issue to consider is how your sales playbook will be used once it is complete. Will it be a high level tool that helps to guide sales strategy?  Or is it a detailed blueprint for how you expect the sales team to operate on a daily basis?  There are multiple benefits to having a strong playbook. First, it helps you to leverage best practices across the team and can help make the salesforce more efficient.  It can be very valuable in onboarding new team members and getting them up to speed quickly.  Second, it is a great tool for driving alignment between your sales and marketing functions as well as other supporting groups in the company.  Finally, it can dramatically improve your sales metrics and reporting.  The ability to identify problem areas or where deals routinely get stuck is valuable input to improving your sales process and thinking about where you may want to focus resources so that they have maximum impact.

How is your team using sales playbooks today?  I’m interested to hear about your success stories and challenges.

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