18 Key Components of a Successful Sales Playbook

As many companies have found out firsthand, hiring salespeople with great track records doesn’t guarantee your sales team will hit their targets. Even if you’re filling your team with talented sales reps, they won’t be able to deliver their maximum value unless you train them to be experts on selling your specific products to your specific target market.

A 2018 study shows that the average tenure for a salesperson is only around 1.5 years, so chances are you’re regularly onboarding new salespeople. The faster you can get them up to speed and selling effectively, the more value you’ll be able to get from your limited time with each rep. 

The key to training reps better and faster is to create a sales playbook. This asset outlines your company’s particular sales processes and best practices so everyone on the team can refer to and learn from it. The sales playbook should include all the resources new reps need to start making sales.

Whether you’re building a playbook from scratch or upgrading an existing asset, this post will show the resources your playbook needs to include to set your sales team up for success.

Why is a sales playbook important? 

Sending reps into sales conversations without sufficient training and support can lead to issues that stunt your business’s growth, such as:

  • Time wasted on the wrong prospects
  • Giving prospects a disorganised or disjointed sales experience
  • Potential sales stalling at the first objection
  • Losing opportunities by mis-matching the pitch to the persona
  • Getting stuck in high-level conversations that fail to convert
  • Mis-selling of products, leading to customer dissatisfaction
  • Losing prospects to competitors

All of these issues lead to fewer closed won deals and missed sales quotas. However, you can avoid these kinds of issues by giving comprehensive training on your sales processes and tools. 

A sales playbook is at the core of efficient sales training. It collects together all the processes, assets, tactics and knowledge your sales team needs to carry out their role effectively. Having all this in a single, clearly organized document minimizes the time reps spend searching for the right resource, so it frees up time they can spend selling instead. The playbook is a way to share the best practices your sales team has built up, and steer reps away from common pitfalls.

A good sales playbook will also make life easier for your marketing team. It’s quicker for them to update this single document with new processes and content, rather than having to update multiple files individually and risk missing important documents. Plus, building a sales playbook highlights where there are gaps in sales enablement content and new assets need to be created. 


The 18 key components successful sales playbooks include

  1. Company Overview
  2. Sales Team Structure
  3. Messaging and Positioning
  4. Product Overview
  5. Differentiators
  6. Buyer Personas
  7. Use Cases
  8. Sales Methodology
  9. Sales Plays
  10. Lead Sources
  11. Sales Process and Definitions
  12. Sales Collateral
  13. Case Studies
  14. Competitor Battlecards
  15. Pitch Deck
  16. Objection Handling
  17. Tools and Software
  18. Dashboard and Metrics

 

1. Company Overview

If your sales team isn’t sure how their roles connect to those of other teams, they can end up missing opportunities to collaborate and leverage company expertise. For example, if salespeople understand the role marketing plays in generating leads, they might be able to suggest ways to target specific customer types.

To help orient your sales team to the larger organization, start your sales playbook with a company overview that shows what each department is responsible for.

This overview is particularly important if your company has multiple product lines or business units. The sales team needs to know whether they are working with central marketing and technical support teams, or separate teams that support each product, geography, or vertical. A company overview shows sales reps who to speak with for accurate information on specific topics or functions, so they don’t waste time trying to track down the right person or department.

The company overview should include:

  • A diagram showing how the organization is structured, including all product lines.
  • The key responsibilities of each department, to ensure accountability and transparency.
  • The point of contact for common questions or feedback. 
    • This may include:
      • Feature requests
      • Billing issues
      • Product knowledge
      • Renewal requests
      • Customer testimonials and case studies
      • Lead source/marketing campaign questions
      • IT support
    • Include the name, job title, and contact information of the person in question.
    • Include a back-up contact in case the primary contact is unavailable.


2. Sales Team Structure

Whether your sales team structure is an assembly line, pod, or island, having a visual representation of the structure will make the chain of responsibilities clear at a glance. This helps reps understand how each role contributes to the sales process and at which points the prospect is passed to a different team member. Laying out the structure also gives clarity on which metrics each role is responsible for. 

The sales team structure should give more detail than the company overview outlined above. It should include: 

  • An organization chart of the sales team.
    • Include each role that will be involved in the sales cycle.
    • Include the name of the employee currently in each role. This can be helpful to orient new hires and build team relationships.
    • If you use external contractors as part of your sales process (for example, if you outsource some of your lead qualification), note this in the chart so reps can get a complete picture of everyone involved.
  • Outline the responsibilities of each role.
    • Note which stage of the sales cycle they own, e.g. making first contact with leads or closing deals.
    • Include the key objective of each role, e.g. qualifying leads for Account Executives or communicating opportunities to upgrade to existing customers.
  • Identify which team members have expertise in key areas, e.g. working with niche verticals or in-depth understanding of a particular product.

 

3. Messaging and Positioning

This section should briefly outline the core benefits your product offers and why people should buy it. This summary will help reps focus on the most important points and communicate the value to prospects even when they have very limited time. 

Establishing core messaging and sharing it with both marketing and sales also helps align their approaches, so potential customers have a smooth experience from awareness to purchase. 

The messaging and positioning section should include:

  1. Value proposition
    • What are the tangible benefits of using your product?
    • What does your product provide that sets it apart from similar products?
  1. Product positioning
    • Where does your product sit within the competitive landscape? 
      • Is it the lowest cost solution? 
      • Is it the most easily scalable? 
      • Does it offer a premium experience? 
      • Is it the only established solution for a particular niche? 
  1. Elevator pitch
    • Short, compelling summary that includes:
      • The problem your product targets
      • How your product provides the solution
      • Two or three main benefits
      • USP or main differentiator against competitors

 

4. Product Overview

To help your salespeople communicate in a way that is authoritative and informative, the sales playbook should give reps an understanding of what customers can do with the product. This section should include the basics they need to explain what the product offers and to confidently answer customer questions.

This does not need to be an in-depth explanation of how the product works or give unnecessary technical detail. Instead, it should cover what the product does and why these features matter. This frames your product in feature-benefit language that speaks to customer needs.

For example, if the product overview details how your software uses API to connect to other platforms, that requires your sales team to have technical knowledge, and it doesn’t highlight the benefit the feature actually delivers. Instead, the product overview might state that the data sharing feature shows accurate data from all the customer’s platforms in an easy-access dashboard.

If you have multiple products, include an overview for each product in this section, as well as explaining how they work together. Even if each salesperson only sells one product line, giving them an understanding of all your products helps them to identify leads they can pass to other product lines. 

The product overview should include:

  • Key features and functionality
  • Integrations and plugins
  • Services you provide to customers, for example:
    • Onboarding
    • Support
    • Training and education
  • For some companies, it may be possible to mention features that are in the roadmap for the coming months.
    • This can help deal with objections prospects might have about the current range of features, and show that you regularly update the product.
    • Encourage salespeople to not make promises of specific launch dates to prospects, in case development is delayed. 
    • Assign a team member to update this section if plans for features change.

 

5. Differentiators

Include a list of differentiators to help your salespeople show prospects why they should buy your product instead of similar options on the market. 

Equipping your salespeople with evidence of 3-5 specific differentiators gives them a compelling argument for why your product stands out from competitors. These may include:

  • Price
  • Established company
  • Specialism in niche
  • Superior support
  • Additional features
  • Software that is more frequently enhanced

For each differentiator, include:

  • Links to supporting assets like case studies or pricing pages on your website.
  • Talk tracks that explain the difference in a concise way

To make it easier for reps to pick the right differentiators to discuss, list some of your main competitors and note which of the differentiators they should highlight when facing each.

 

6. Buyer Personas

For new team members who may not be as familiar with your target market, profile your ideal prospects as ‘personas’ in the playbook to help reps direct their pitch to a prospect’s likely concerns and responsibilities. These guidelines will also help your reps identify when a prospect doesn’t fit these personas and so may not be a good fit for your product.

For each persona that your salespeople are likely to speak with, include the following: 

  1. An overview of the buyer persona:
    • Role
    • Seniority
    • Company type
    • Company size
    • Internal challenges
    • Personal drivers
  1. Tips and suggestions for how to sell to each persona:
    • Whether they have purchase authority or need buy-in from another team member
    • Particular features to highlight
    • Benefits of the product that are specific to their department
    • Main concerns reps may need to reassure them about
    • Assets specific to this role that reps should share


7. Use Cases

You can help your sales team understand and demonstrate the tangible impact of the product for customers by sharing use cases. These give practical examples of how the product can be used to solve specific challenges. By referring to these use cases in their conversations, reps can help prospects see the value to their particular business.

Create a list of the most common ways customers use the product to address a challenge or problem. For each, include real customer examples your reps can use to prove the benefit.

If the use cases vary for different personas and verticals, make a note of the types of customers each use case applies to. This will make it easier for salespeople to choose a use case that is relevant to each customer and tackles pain points they can relate to.



8. Sales Methodology

To guide the way your reps apply the sales process, define your sales methodology in the playbook. Making sure all salespeople are following the same methodology helps deliver a consistent customer experience and makes it easier for your team to scale.

Some people may not be familiar with the names of frameworks like Challenger, Sandler, or SPIN, and each business puts them into practice in a slightly different way. To ensure everyone is on the same page, include: 

  • The basic principles of the methodology
    • How to approach sales within this methodology
    • Why this is effective for your target audience
    • This helps reps understand the communications styles they should use and the way they should direct conversations
  • How the methodology should be applied to selling your product
    • Best practices
    • Types of conversations to have
    • Examples of the methodology being used successfully
  • Assets that support the salespeople in using this methodology
    • For example, a slide deck showing how to apply the methodology at each stage in the sales process.

 

9. Sales Plays

From the accumulated experience of your existing sales team, you’ll likely have great insight into the techniques that work for each customer type or situation. To save new salespeople from going through time-consuming trial and error and potentially losing deals, share some of the sales plays your team has found effective in your playbook. If a salesperson finds themselves in one of these situations, this section will give them a step-by-step guide to keep the sales process moving forward.

Only include plays that have had proven success and can be repeated for multiple companies. You may want to include sales plays for each industry, each company size, or each buyer persona. Organize these plays however will make the most sense for your company, so reps can quickly find the most appropriate play. This might mean categorizing plays by solution, industry, or buyer.

For each play, ensure that it’s clear who the target audience is, why it works, and what steps to take. 

  • Outline the situation this play should be used in
  • Include a profile of the play 
    • Main pain points of the buyer persona
    • The insights to share with the customer
    • Value propositions to highlight
    • Key messaging
    • Common objections 
    • Most common competitor 
  • Link to tools that will help reps execute each play
    • Talk tracks
    • Scripts
    • Email templates
    • Note the recommended cadence

10. Lead Sources

By educating salespeople about the types of leads that come from each source, you can help them tailor their pitch to be more effective. The source of a lead can suggest details like what industry they’re in or what stage they’re at in their decision-making, so reps can customize their approach to suit these factors.

In this section, list the lead sources and note the proportion of leads that come from each source. Suggest what each source might show about these leads and the recommended sales approach. 

Include:

  • An extensive list of every active lead source. This might include:
    • Affiliate/partner programs
    • Blog posts
    • Downloadable assets
    • Email campaigns
    • Paid search
    • Paid social ads
    • Events
  • How ‘sales ready’ leads from each source are 
  • What can be inferred from the lead source 
    • Are they struggling with a specific challenge?
    • What type of company is it?
    • Where are they based?
  • A link to the landing page they converted on 

11. Sales Process and Definitions

Whereas the sales methodology informs reps about the approach they should take to selling, the sales process shows the stages a prospect is taken through to result in a closed won deal. It is focused on actions rather than principles, and gives reps clear objectives and steps to follow to keep the sale progressing.

Map out the stages of the sales process and briefly define the milestones and roles involved in each stage. If your team uses shorthands like MQL and SQL, define what those terms mean to ensure complete clarity. 

12. Sales Collateral

Even if you have powerful sales collateral in your library, if salespeople aren’t able to find what they need when they need it, it isn’t providing value. In this section of the playbook, list some of the assets you have to support specific circumstances and include links so that reps can access them instantly. 

Organizing the list of assets by sales stage or vertical makes them easy to sort through. This helps make sure that salespeople are using the appropriate sales collateral for each situation and persona, without wasting time searching for it in a content library.

Include: 

  • Product brochures or one-pagers
  • Service brochures or one-pagers
  • ROI calculators
  • Buyers guides
  • Industry or geo specific one-pagers
  • Slide decks
  • Battle cards
  • Talk tracks

13. Case Studies

Case studies are powerful tools because they provide proof of the benefits you’re selling. So that your reps can give real-world validation of how your product helps, supply them with a list of ready-to-use customer examples, including metrics. 

For each case study, include key points that reps can refer to at a glance. This not only helps them identify which is the right case study to use, it also highlights key pieces of evidence they can share with prospects. For each case study, include: 

  • Key data on ROI 
  • Why the customer chose the solution
  • Main benefits they’re seeing from using the product

Case studies are most effective when they deal with companies that are similar to the prospect and have pain points they can relate to. To organize your case studies in a way that makes it easy to identify appropriate examples to share, break down your case studies by:

  • Product 
  • Persona
  • Industry
  • Use case

Categorizing your case studies according to the various personas and verticals also identifies segments where you may need more case studies to support sales. For example, if hospitality was a high volume vertical for this company, this would suggest that there is a need for case studies that CMOs in the hospitality sector can relate to. 

 

14. Competitor Battlecards

If a prospect is seriously considering your product, they’re likely to be weighing it up against your competitors. Your sales reps need to be able to explain how your product is superior to the other tools the prospect is considering. Without sufficient competitor content at their fingertips, salespeople may struggle to make a compelling argument and are more likely to lose customers on the verge of purchase. 

Include battlecards that summarize the ways to win against each competitor so your reps won’t be caught off guard when a prospect challenges them with a competitor solution. 

For your top 3-5 competitors, put together battlecards for each that include: 

  • Their products
  • Pricing comparison
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Potential challenge
  • How to win

 

15. Pitch Deck

Pitch decks give reps an opportunity to present your company and solutions at length. However, presenting them effectively isn’t just a matter of showing the right slides. In this section of the playbook, prepare reps to deliver the three main aspects of pitch decks:

  1. Visuals - the slides 
  2. Speech - the words the salesperson uses to expand on the deck
  3. Presentation - the presentation style the salesperson uses, their tone and approach

Make a list of your major pitch decks and note the ideal audience for each, including the vertical and persona. For each pitch deck, include:

  • A link to the deck
  • Talk tracks for each slide
  • A recorded video of your top rep or sales manager presenting the deck

 

16. Objection Handling

Preparing your sales reps for common objections can help them turn these situations into positive customer experiences. Dealing with objections promptly and professionally can prevent them from bringing the sales process to a halt, and the way salespeople deal with the objections can also build their relationship with prospects. With training, objections can be an opportunity for salespeople to show the prospect they understand their concerns and to share content that addresses them. 

To build this section in your playbook:

  1. Review your sales team’s experiences to outline the common objections they have come across. 
  • These objections might include price, features, integrations, current contracts or budget obligations. 
  1. For each objection, list the sales plays and talking points that have been most effective for handling them.  
  • Use the expertise of your existing sales team to include tips for getting in front of the objection before it becomes a roadblock.

 

17. Tools and Software

Particularly if you have a complex tech stack, it’s important to have a central place that lists all the tools and software that salespeople should be using. Include this in the playbook to avoid confusion and help reps start using the right software in the right way from the beginning. This prevents duplicating work to fix incorrect software use and helps ensure your salespeople are recording accurate data on sales team performance. 

Provide a complete list of the tools and software that the sales team will be using, including CRM, CRM integrations, call recording, deal forecasting software, and shared drives.

For each software, outline:

  • What the tool is used for
  • The individual rep’s responsibilities for each tool
    • The data they should be entering or updating
    • How often they should add their updates
    • Any reports they need to present based on this software
  • How to access the tool
    • Do they have an individual login or a shared team account? 
    • Does the login use single sign-on or is it stored in a password vault?
  • Who to speak with if they have questions about using this tool
  • Link any user guides or process docs you have for each software

 

18. Dashboard and Metrics

Make sure that data and KPIs are a priority for all sales reps by including metrics and performance tracking as part of the onboarding process. If salespeople have a clear picture of their performance against targets, this will help them identify which areas they need to ramp up. It also gives accountability for each sales stage and visibility into what each role contributes to the team’s performance.

For each sales role:

  • List the KPIs. Depending on the role, this might include:  
    • Number of converted opportunities
    • Number of calls booked
    • Number of accounts closed
    • Dollar value of revenue booked
  • Link to sales dashboards 
    • Note where reps can see their individual performance, team performance, and performance of the company
    • Note how often these dashboards are updated 
  • Include any additional competitive elements
    • Leaderboard
    • A bell they can ring for closed won deals
    • Incentives like spiffs

 

Maximizing the Success of your Sales Playbook

A comprehensive sales playbook will help keep your team aligned and train new reps in a way that’s tailored for your product and target market. However, to get the full value from your playbook, this document needs ongoing work to be:

  1. Accurate 
  • Regularly update the playbook to reflect any chances to sales processes.
  • Update the organization and sales team structure sections to reflect changes to your teams.
  • Assign a member of the marketing team to oversee all the sales enablement assets in the playbook. They should regularly check that all the links to assets are working, and add new key assets as they are produced.
  1. Usable
  • Make the playbook easy to access. 
    • Save a copy to a location everyone can access, such as a shared drive.
    • Include the playbook in your onboarding process.
    • Encourage salespeople to bookmark the link.
  • Make it easy to use. 
    • Organize the playbook in sections that make it quick for reps to find what they need. 
    • Include a table of contents so they can jump to the relevant section.

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