Three Rules for Establishing and Maintaining a Sales Playbook

While the sales playbook should be a standard document in a sales department, it either doesn’t exist or is woefully outdated to the point that it is unusable.

From my experience kickstarting sales teams and publishing sales playbooks, I typically follow three rules to ensure that my playbook document becomes the standard operating manual for the sales team.

The rules are:

  • Keep the playbook up to date
  • Refer to the playbook at every available opportunity
  • Make everyone accountable for following the playbook

Keep the playbook up to date.

Keeping a document up to date might seem like a simple task, but it isn’t.

Most sales leaders work in earnest to create a complete sales playbook. However, they are sidetracked on other duties such as hiring, managing pipeline, training, fighting for budget, traveling, etc… the sales playbook goes on to the back burner, and relevant sales collateral gets passed around as one-offs via email, stored in a folder in the cloud, or elsewhere. What this results in is an outdated playbook, disorganized sales collateral, and no central source of truth for answers the sales team needs.

Salespeople then start bugging each other, management, and other relevant departments such as marketing, for their answers.

A sales playbook must be a single document, and that document needs to be kept current. That document may have links to outside sources, which may be required to be updated (hence once reason I bring as much as I can into the one sales playbook document). These external resources linked in the playbook help build on the second point to making sure the playbook becomes the standard operating document.


Refer to the playbook at every available opportunity

Every time we have presentations for big clients, I put links to those documents in the playbook. No, these presentations don’t need to be kept up to date, but it means that if anyone wants to see any of our templated or key presentations, they know they have to go to the playbook.

The second way I ensure the playbook is referred to all the time, it by leading by example. If I am asked a process question, a question about a competitor, anything, I refer to the playbook. This drives the third and final point about ensuring the play is a living, breathing document.


Make everyone accountable for following the playbook

Creating a playbook is a monumental task, keeping it up to date is similarly time-consuming. To ensure that it is kept up to date there is someone whose job is to keep the playbook up to date.

While having an MBO (managed business objective) to drive home that accountability could work, I have found that keeping that individual accountable; usually it is me at the beginning, means keeping them engaged with the reps who are supposed to use the playbook.

How do I keep these two groups engaged?

With a cash bounty.

For every error or omission a rep finds in the playbook and brings it up, the sales playbook owner owes them $1.

On the flip side, every time a rep asks a question that can be found in the playbook, the person who finds it in the playbook first gets $1.

While a single dollar will never break anyone’s bank, it keeps the playbook top of mind, and helps reps with bragging rights, typically pinning the dollars they’ve won on their desk or elsewhere. Senior reps know to refer to the playbook first.

The result is a sales team marching to the beat of the same drummer, fewer of the weaker reps bothering the more effective reps for mundane questions, and an altogether more productive sales team.


Conclusion

A sales playbook should be a living breathing document that will help onboard new reps, guide your established reps, and help keep your sales team on the same page when it comes to recording data, staying on message, knowing their competitors strengths and weaknesses, and being able to quickly answer any oddball questions your prospects are bound to ask.

A functional playbook that is followed by your reps enables organizations to train and manage their team more effectively. A well trained and led team is a happy team, happy teams are more productive, and more productive teams are more profitable.