Recent research has proven that organizations with a well-defined sales process perform at a higher level than those without this type of structure. Unfortunately, many companies still do not have a defined sales process, which can hurt them at every selling level, but especially when onboarding new hires. Getting these new sales reps up to speed without a sales playbook can be time-consuming, trying and produce inconsistent results.

Quite simply, the sales playbook is an integral aspect of a high-performing sales process, a necessary element when onboarding new hires and a sales management priority. Here are some important questions to ask about your impending sales playbook.

What is a sales playbook?

In essence, it is a user manual, a written addendum to the sales training that new reps receive.

As an organization grows, managers and employees will begin to figure out what works. This institutionalized knowledge takes time and experience to gain. By compiling this data and information all in one place, it helps to raise everyone to the same playing field and accelerate the ramp up process.

Essentially, playbooks provide visibility and insight into a sales process – crucial for a sales rep coming in and trying to understand that very sales process.

What are the downsides to not having a sales playbook?

Often times, reps remember there is an answer to their questions, but they cannot quite remember what it is. There are three possible outcomes that can occur when a playbook is not easily accessible:

  • Haphazard guessing

  • Asking a co-worker

  • Asking their manager

The third option occurs the least often, despite often productive results. Generally, reps have a limited amount of time with their boss. The time reps do spend with their managers are allocated to big problems or bottlenecks, such as help closing a tricky deal. There simply isn’t enough time to delve into nitty-gritty, tactical details on a regular basis.

The second option occurs most frequently and can have the most dire consequences. Say a new rep asks the person sitting next to them, who provides a wrong answer. Now you have two people incorrectly performing. This creates a wide disparity between what reps should be doing and what they are actually doing.

Can a sales playbook be substituted for training?

Absolutely not.

Training is a crucial element of onboarding new hires and, in some part, has to contain verbal interactions. Shadowing, listening, role playing, coaching – these are all irreplaceable elements. Reps, especially new ones, require a degree of nurturing and feedback. However as a manager, it is impossible to be with any one of your reps 24/7.

A playbook should be a tool the reps utilize as a written reminder and reference to their training. It is available for questions – an additional resource. It is an encyclopedia of information that reps can use to look up supplemental information.

What is the most important aspect of the sales playbook?

In one word – messaging.

Trish Bertuzzi – founder and Chief Strategist of The Bridge Group and renowned thought leader – sums it up when she says, “Above all else, a great playbook has to contain buyer-relevant messaging.”

Sales reps are the front edge of the company. They communicate directly and regularly with prospective clients. These potential customers won’t remember the tactical conversations about your features. What they will remember is how well you were able to understand their problem and provide a measurable solution.

It is important that sales reps have a reference to not only your company’s value proposition, but also understand how to make it relevant to each persona and segment they are speaking to.

What should you avoid putting in the sales playbook?

The biggest trap to avoid is to making your playbook sound like a canned script. You want your reps to be consistent, but not sound like robots. A buyer will know when you are reading from a script; this is a waste of their time.

The ability to incorporate a human element in sales is crucial to reps. It allows them the freedom to interact with the prospects and gain their trust. It is still a good idea to provide talk tracks in the playbook to guide the reps through the sales process, but allowing them some freedoms will improve their interactions.

Just as in football, each player knows when it is going to be a passing play and their respective routes, but once on the field, anything can happen.

How frequently should you update the sales playbook?

This truly depends on what stage your business is in. If you are still in the discovery stage, the playbook is likely to change frequently as you develop the product, learn what works, and expand into new segments. Do not assume your old playbook will work for these new aspects of the business.

However, it is important to remember not to re-haul it too frequently. It is difficult to execute any idea into action and attain widespread adaption. Just as a coach would not change directions halfway through a season, the playbook should not undergo dramatic alterations. As you learn new things, tweak the book and inform your reps of the updates.

Each month it takes your new hires to ramp up into a fully onboarded sales rep is a month of missed revenue. There should be an immediate sense of urgency to get your reps situated and ready to handle any call. While it is unrealistic to allocate 10 hours of week to each rep, there is a viable solution, in the sales playbook. Spend the time to create this invaluable tool for your reps to enforce the best strategies and tactics for greater success.

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