I’ve seen many variations of sales playbooks in my career. From the simplistic and overly-general to the content-dense with loads of long lists, hyperlinks, and prose. Playbooks are typically too long, too complicated for the user, and out dated immediately after publishing.

“It’s a boat anchor, weighing down our
sales teams rather than empowering them”

All too often a document that is intended to help a sales rep quickly prep for a call or meeting turns into a compendium of everything that is known about a product, its features and differentiators, the marketplace, the target audience and the competition. It’s easy for this sales tool to turn into sales overload. It’s a boat anchor, weighing down our sales teams rather than empowering them.

Instead of wasting time and money creating a document that the sales team won’t use, let’s focus on what the sales playbook is intended be. A valuable sales playbook—one that will actually be used—will satisfy three goals:
• It will provide relevant information at the right moment in the sales cycle
• It will be quick and easy to access
• It will be kept up-to-date

Here are three tactics to ensure your sales playbook reaches all three goals and becomes a tool that sales people will love. (Don’t forget, while pulling together the information that will go into the playbook, to follow the advice of the best chefs and fashion designers: edit, edit, edit!)

Tactic 1: Make it relevant
In today’s world, buyers are self-educated. They are often quite far down the buying path before they ever engage with Sales. Rather than assuming the interaction starts at the beginning of the sales cycle, focus the playbook on how to deal with prospects who are already halfway to a decision. In concrete terms, this means equipping the sales team to uncover specific needs, position the solution, clearly articulate the value proposition, and help the buyer build a business case.
Keep information focused: this means avoiding the tendency to include too many personas or spend time coming up with cutesy names. Rather, it means providing a clear explanation of the problems, attitudes and concerns of the most likely buyers. Create two or three personas with the clearest fit, and make explicit assumptions about where they are in the buying process. Discuss what criteria are most important to them, what value propositions are most relevant, and what influences them. Make sure to include a least one key decision-maker in the mix. Validate by mining your current database, then following up on clues by using questionnaires, surveys and interviews to find the most relevant answers for these key issues. As the sales team works through opportunities, they will be able to gather new information that can be used to keep personas and value props updated.

Tactic 2: Make it accessible
We are all slaves to our devices. Who doesn’t live in email all day long, respond to every ping of the smart phone or check social media at all hours of the day or night? If this is the reality, why do we give our sales teams paper printouts, lengthy presentations and cumbersome documents where it’s difficult to find needed information quickly?
A good playbook is one that is used frequently, both in preparing for the call and while conversing during the call. That means a playbook that is easily accessible, and that is easy to navigate. While the basic work of assembling the information for the playbook will not change, our method of providing that information to the sales team can take a dramatic turn for the better if we use tools to bring the playbook to life online. Today there are a number of tools that let you produce highly interactive sales playbooks, so your reps can find exactly the information needed with just a few clicks. Whether it’s market-specific customer references, online demonstrations of functionality, ROI calculators or competitive knock-offs, an online sales playbook can be a wealth of information when the sales person needs it: now!
One bonus of a well-constructed online sales playbook: the reps can enter feedback while they are online, the fodder for the final tactic – making it a living document.

Tactic 3: Make it evergreen
As sales learns more about who buys (and doesn’t) and why, the sales playbook can and must change to incorporate new learnings. Similarly, as product features and functionality evolve, as new products are introduced to the market, as new competitors come onto the playing field, the sales playbook needs to be a living document that can accommodate the changing reality.
Plan for this. Budget for it. The sales playbook needs to be updated consistently with the latest messaging, positioning, competitive analysis, market trends, personas and products, and value propositions as they become more finely tuned. Don’t forget to advertise any significant changes to the sales playbook to your direct and channel sales teams. Give them a reason to keep coming back for more. And don’t forget to credit the team members who contributed to revisions through their insights and observations – that can’t help but build team spirit and a sense of ownership of the playbook.

Tanya Candia is an international management expert, specializing for more than 25 years in information security strategy and communication for public and private sector organizations. She has worked with Aventi Group for more than three years on a number of projects related to sales strategy and content development.

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