What’s a Sales Playbook, and Why Do I Need One?

Jerry Rackley

There’s a saying: “nothing happens until someone makes a sale.” This observation has been attributed to various business luminaries, including former IBM CEO Thomas J. Watson, Peter Drucker and others.  Regardless of who actually uttered these words, they are true.  Having the most innovative product, the best location, the slickest website or any other perceived marketing advantage means nothing, until someone leverages these assets to create revenue.  That person is almost always a sales representative. Corporate success ultimately comes down to making sales.

Sales is often viewed as an art, whose most successful practitioners ooze charm, are freewheeling, outgoing and even assertive, and who have mastered negotiation skills.  It’s true, there are personal traits and characteristics that lend themselves to success.  But it takes more than these things to sustain a successful sales effort that consistently helps the organization achieve its goals.  It takes a process, and if you’ve ever studied business processes, you know that they must consistently produce the desired outcome.  For that to happen, it requires process owners to precisely define the process steps, get buy-in, and then provide training to the people who carry out those steps. 

Enter the Sales Playbook – a resource that first helps design the ideal sales process and then helps communicate how it works and execute it well, including detail about the assets and resources to enable it. 

Laura Patterson, president of VisionEdge Marketing, writing for the Nimble blog, defines a sales playbook this way:

A sales playbook is a collection of tactics or methods that characterizes the roles and responsibilities for you (and your sales team), lays out clear objectives, identifies metrics for measurement, and provides a common framework and approach for closing sales.

All organizations with a sales team need a sales playbook.  Why? Because sales playbooks help create success for the sales team, and success means revenue.  If you’re counting on your sales team to improvise a process and “ad-lib” their way through it to succeed, then you’re counting on luck.  Luck is not a strategy. You need a process, defined and driven by a sales playbook to consistently meet or exceed your revenue goals.

The revenue impact of an effective sales playbook is accelerated revenue, a larger share of the customer’s wallet, or simply more sales to new customers.  Any of these outcomes are highly desirable, and a sales playbook essentially maps out the path to achieving them.

If you don’t have a sales playbook and you have the opportunity to look at someone else’s, it’s intimidating.  Good sales playbooks are comprehensive and well researched, providing great direction to the sales team, but also helping achieve alignment with the marketing team.  The process of creating a great sales playbook includes these major steps:

  1. Gathering key insights about your target market and customer
  2. Researching who your customers are and how they perceive value
  3. Dissecting the sales process to understand the journey customers take and how they ultimately come on-board
  4. Evaluating the marketing content and sales tools in use and required
  5. Understanding what deal advancement plays will work
  6. Tracking metrics that are true indicators of results
  7. Defining marketing campaigns to support sales activities and efforts

Make no mistake: putting a good sales playbook in place is work, but work with a big return on investment.  Demand Metric has made the work of creating a sales playbook much easier with its Sales Playbook Template that outlines the steps necessary to build a playbook customized to the user’s market, customers, sales and marketing teams.

If you don’t have a sales playbook, use the Demand Metric Sales Playbook Template to put one in place.  If you do have a sales playbook, use this resource to compare how complete it is and get ideas for improving it.  The Demand Metric Sales Playbook Template contains links to a number of other tools and templates that will make creating your playbook easier to do.  We welcome your feedback on this resource, and encourage you to contact us if you have any questions about using it.


Resource Reference 

An all-in-one playbook of information to help your sales reps sell your product/service in the most effective way.