What is a sales playbook and why is it important? Sales playbooks are a synthesis of sales process, best practices and the tactical steps that should be adhered to as part of an effective sales engagement. Think of it as a blueprint for sales success, which allows for creative tailoring based on situational needs but the core underpinnings should remain consistent. Every company and sales manager wants to “clone” certain sales reps-think of the 80/20 rule. How can we improve the other 80% of our sales reps sales contributions so that we aren’t always relying on the 20% of your top producers to generate 80% of sales results? The issue becomes more pronounced as your sales team expands and you need to “hit on all cylinders” to achieve your overall sales goals as a company. You simply cannot sustain high sales growth rates if you are stuck in the 80/20 sales productivity mode. Sales playbooks are a tool that can be leveraged to help improve the overall sales productivity and consistency of your results. One clear symptom of being stuck in the 80/20  sales productivity mode is the roller coaster quarterly results where you exceed quota and then miss quota the following quarter. This is largely attributable to having only the top producers close in the good quarters and then effectively rebuild their pipeline the next quarter without other sales reps picking up the slack. By interviewing a good cross section of your top performing sales reps as well as your bottom performing sales reps, you can develop a better understanding of what is working well in your sales engagements, what isn’t working well and why. Combining that with general best practices allows you to craft a road map for sales success, also known as a sales playbook.

In many cases, it is just as important to incorporate what you should not do as sales rep in to a sales playbook as what you should do. That could include many things like whom you should be engaged with and selling to as opposed to whom you shouldn’t be selling to or investing time with. What sales tools should you use and when in the sales process? How do you orchestrate the sales process to build to a crescendo and the optimal outcome? What resources should you leverage and when in the sales process? Sales playbooks always should include properly setting expectations and managing them with the prospective customer, also known as earning the right to the next step in the sales process and ultimately earning their business.

Sales playbooks should always include a go/no go stage at the end of each step in the sales process along with criteria that assist in making informed decisions about whether to continue to invest your companies resources in the opportunity. Most sales reps never consider walking away from a sales opportunity even though the odds for success are slim or if it’s simply not a good deal to win. Strategic sales reps always are assessing whether to continue investing their resources or not-qualifying is ongoing not a discrete step at the very beginning of the sales process.

The discovery stage of developing a sales playbook is always enlightening in terms of what is really happening in the field; good, bad and indifferent. It also highlights sales tools, process steps and refinements in the sales process that are needed to sell more effectively. Lastly, it’s something that should be revisited and updated every 6 months as the market evolves and demands improvements in the way that you sell.