The Pros and Cons of Following Sales Playbooks

When you think of a “sales playbook”, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

If you’re thinking of a plan or guidebook for your sales team to follow, you aren’t too far off. Most of us will agree that planning your work and working according to plan is a good idea.

Yet not all sales workflows are created equal – there are some pros and cons to keep in mind before you decide whether a playbook is right for you.

What is a playbook?

In sports (particularly football), playbooks are an integral contributor to a team’s success. It’s a collection of time-tested strategies that are designed to direct players, at any point in the game, to end up on the winning side.

A playbook takes the form of a book that, when given to each team member, allows them to work together to reach a common goal. In sales, the end goal is the same, that is to convert a prospect into a customer and build a strong, ongoing relationship afterwards.

A good sales playbook:

  • Defines a set of best practices and methodologies important to the organization
  • Details the stages of sales cycles and a clear picture of the customer journey
  • Explains the value proposition, product positioning, and competitive analysis
  • Lists employee responsibilities, courses of action, and to-do lists

Don’t fret if your playbook doesn’t touch on the points above. While it may be tempting to fill in the missing pieces (or build a new playbook from scratch), there are some things to consider first:

Advantages of playbooks

Scaling a sales team from 5 to 10 may sound like great news, but it’s also a bit like going into uncharted waters. Add to that a complex sales cycle, and it’s like being left without a paddle. A great playbook documents processes that work and pitfalls to avoid when selling. In many cases, this allows your reps to work smarter, not necessarily harder.

Improves training

Playbooks shorten training, coaching and employee onboarding periods. Normally, when sales departments train, they make use of demos, mentorships, shadowing or similar methods – which are all prone to human error. Without a playbook, best practices and desired company messaging tends to be lost.

Streamlines sales

A playbook defines certain common traits of your sales cycles. For example, there may be specific milestones sales reps and buyers go through. There might also be common buyer objections sales is likely to hear. There could be similar stakeholders in charge of purchase decisions.

Better use of time

Your playbook becomes the go-to resource that helps salespeople stay in line with their responsibilities as well as customer expectations. Rather than cherry-picking tasks or performing administrative work, a playbook tells salespeople what to do, saving them considerable time.

Reduces confusion

A playbook limits inconsistency within the sales teams, particularly when dealing with specialized products or customer types. When mixed messages and confusion are eliminated from the sales process, there’s less second-guessing and more unity in teams.

Aligns departments

A better alignment of your sales and marketing results in more effective selling to more qualified buyers. Besides, including common marketing and selling methodologies in your playbook helps leverage strategies used by high performers across the board.

Disadvantages of playbooks

If you have a stellar team that’s exceeding their sales quotas and an endless supply of satisfied customers, it may be difficult to see the advantage of playbooks. Creating an effective playbook is no easy task: it requires a time commitment (that could be spent on selling) as well as numerous iterations before you set on something that could bear fruitful results.

Time consuming

Just like there is a different playbook for the offense or defense part of a football team, you may need to create playbooks for different sales scenarios, customer types, or end goals. You’ll also have to decide what objectives or content to focus on in your playbook and what team members should be tasked with creating it.

Not always accurate

Businesses don’t stay static. New products are launched, new markets are entered and budgets change. Customers and teams grow, undergoing persona and expectation shifts. Keeping up with these requires frequent changes and modifications – something not all businesses may want to keep up with.

Not for all deal types

While a quick deal requires fast, straightforward plays that can be replicated, a rigid playbook may be detrimental to a complex or large value deal. In addition, salespeople handling such deals could vary in their approaches to managing the sales cycle, building relationships and meeting quota.

Not a “one size fits all”

What works for one business won’t always work for another. With personalization on the rise, a playbook could cut into the “human touch” certain businesses try to preserve. For them, a good alternative could lie in building a small resource library or knowledge base instead.

Adoption risks

While your playbook might be the next thing since sliced bread, it won’t mean anything if it isn’t being used. Some of your reps may be reluctant to adopt new ways of doing things, even if you give them ample room for flexibility or sales improvisation.

Your playbook is finally launched. What’s next?

As with any business process, a playbook is only as good as its contents, degree of adoption, and the frequency it’s updated at.

But that’s not all.

How do you ensure your playbook is followed where it matters? How do you nudge sales reps to perform the right action at the right time?

Without knowing the answers to these questions, you risk missing the mark with your pipeline velocity and quota attainment targets. Fortunately, sales engagement tools such as RevenueGrid help with real-time playbook adherence, uncovering ways salespeople can benefit the organization based on their performance.

Bottom line

When done properly, a playbook gives you the perfect combination of resources that help in communicating company messaging, onboarding new employees, developing training manuals, workshops, and more. Perhaps most importantly, the right playbook (aside from helping you sell) will also help pinpoint and address vulnerabilities you come across while selling.

This week’s post is by guest author, Vlad Voskresensky, CEO and Co-Founder at RevenueGrid.com, powered by Invisible.io, a software development company offering a diverse array of tech solutions changing the game for B2B sales.