For sales reps, the Sales Playbook is the ultimate guide to the sales universe.

It includes everything a rep needs to do their job, including buyer personas, talk tracks, the structure of day-to-day operations, pricing guides, qualification questions, objection handling techniques and much more. Sales leadership painstakingly and slowly built the Playbook by testing everything and finding the most effective sales tactics and best practices for your company. The Playbook outlines the exact path that is statistically the most likely to win deals in your particular industry with your specific product. But there’s one thing you must remember:

You are not a sales robot.

Even though best practices are a useful guide for your job, sales isn’t one-size-fits all. If you’re completely inflexible and follow the Playbook to a T, you may rub some prospects the wrong way and lose deals you could have won. Each prospect is a unique person who is looking for something different than the last prospect, and should be treated accordingly.

Sometimes, the best way to sell is to toss the Playbook out the window, and get a little creative. Here are 7 off-book plays you can adapt to individual buyers to help you close the deal.

1. Shared Interests

A sales robot would never go off-script, and would only talk about the product and the business exactly the way the Playbook does. Instead, talk to the prospect about his or her life and interests to see if you have anything in common. For example, while chatting casually with a prospect you may discover that you’re both from Boston. That’s a great connection to use to build rapport. With the Super Bowl coming up, you can close a follow-up email by saying, “Go Patriots!” They’ll love that you’re also a fan, and be excited to recap that awesome win with you on the next call.

2. A Handwritten Note

It may sound old-fashioned, but a handwritten note can be the personal touch that pushes a deal across the finish line. If you’ve built a personal relationship with a prospect over a number of calls and interactions, don’t just send them the same old email you’d send to everyone else. Put in the effort to pick up a pen and some paper, and thank them for advocating for your product within the company. This unexpected sales move can sometimes pay off big, and help you stand out from the other B2B reps in the crowd.

3. Send a Small Gift

If you’ve been working closely with an enthusiastic sales champion, you may want to do more than just send a note. If this prospect has single-handedly pushed for the purchase at their company, pick out 2 pieces of branded swag and send it directly to the prospect along with a nice note. If, for example, you send two t-shirts with your company logo, the note should say that one is for the prospect, while the other is for the person you need to sign the final contract. This shows your champion that you appreciate them, and also helps you convince their supervisor. It’s not only a thoughtful gesture, but will also remind prospects of your company each time they use the gift.

4. Visit In Person

Another thing insides sales reps often forget is the power of the in-person visit. Because prospects are so often scattered across the globe, it isn’t always practical to travel to one office to close one deal. However, if you will be traveling for a business conference, for example, you should look up the prospects who live in the area and set aside time to meet with them. Or if you have 3 or 4 accounts clustered in the same place, you can travel to that city for a day to meet with prospect. People will be incredibly appreciative that you put in the effort to come see them. Actually shaking someone’s hand could be the difference between a lost deal, and a Closed-Won deal.

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5. Network, Network, Network

Sales today is all about social selling and using your online network to improve your sales results. While researching a prospect’s business and pain points is still important, it’s also vital to check their LinkedIn for shared personal or professional connections. If you do have a connection in common, reference that person on the call, or reach out to your mutual connection directly. You can ask that person to put in a good word for you, and help push the opportunity along. Now, you’re not just a stranger trying to sell a product, but Joe’s friend and respected colleague.

6. Informal Calls

Sales reps work off incredibly structured calendars, and it’s easy to forget how effective it can be to toss the schedule aside. You may have a call scheduled with a prospect next Monday, but you don’t have to wait until then to get in touch. Give them a quick, informal call and say, “I know we have time on the calendar next week, but if you have a free minute, I just wanted to see if you have any questions.” They may tell you they don’t have time to talk and want to stick with the plan – but sometimes they’ll agree to talk. These informal calls can provide you with invaluable information about the progress on an opportunity so far, and help you solve problems before they come up.

7. Introduce Your Bosses

Sometimes an executive to executive meeting is just what you need to close a tough deal. Offer to introduce your head of sales to their head of sales, or your CTO to their CTO. This kind of peer-to-peer connection can create a new level of depth to the professional relationship, and ease any concerns or worries that may have been holding up the deal at a higher level. Your bosses can meet as equals, and discuss the deal in more detail to – hopefully – sign on the dotted line.
These are all just suggestions for thinking of new sales tactics and strategies that can help you sell more effectively. Take these ideas and expand upon them, and always be looking for new and creative ways to sell to prospects. While your Sales Playbook is incredibly valuable, your personal selling abilities and creative thinking can truly make a difference.
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