4 Common Myths About Sales PlayBooks

In a conference I attended last week, three speakers on completely different topics talked about playbooks. It’s a term that’s being used in a lot of different contexts, but one of the most popular uses is a sales playbook.

As with any term that gets a lot of use, the idea of a sales playbook is often misunderstood, and there are quite a few myths that are held as true. Let’s unpack four of the most common myths we hear.

The sales manager owns the sales playbook.

On its face, this makes sense. The sales manager is responsible for ensuring consistent execution of the sales process, so of course she owns the sales playbook! There are two big problems with this idea, though.

First of all, the position of sales manager is somewhat notoriously short-lived. And if you’ve developed a sales playbook around one person, it can fall apart when they leave. It’s better to have a sales playbook built around a strong process, into which you can hire a manager.

Second, the playbook needs to be bigger than the sales manager. And if people view the playbook as something owned by one person, they will lose any sense of ownership. Instead, you want the team to take full ownership of the playbook, with the manager held accountable to ensuring it is used.

One person can (and maybe should) write the sales playbook.

Writing a sales playbook is a big job, and it requires a certain amount of experience and focus. Wouldn’t it make sense to reduce someone’s workload for a few weeks and assign them the project? And one person writing it will ensure that the playbook is consistent.

While this might seem logical, any playbook written by one person will suffer greatly. An ideal sales playbook contains best practices from the team, with processes documented by power users and policies established by leaders. All of these people should be involved in writing the playbook.

That’s not to say, of course, that one person shouldn’t take a leadership role in writing the sales playbook, or even that one person shouldn’t have the responsibility of reading and editing all of the playbook content to ensure it has a consistent voice. Those are both fine ideas! But getting the team involved in writing the sales playbook is key.

The sales playbook is a static resource.

Since writing a sales playbook takes time and effort, it can be easy to take the second part of the word to heart and treat your playbook like a book. Once a book is published, it’s pretty much set. You put a team together and invested valuable time in writing the playbook, so it’s tempting to think it’s done.

This is one of the biggest reasons that sales playbooks fail. As soon as they’re “finished,” the content starts to become stale. Within a few months, some of the processes are out of date, and by the time it’s been a year, the playbook isn’t an accurate representation of the sales process.

One way companies sometimes address this is through a versioning process – the development team gets together once or twice a year and releases a new version of the sales playbook.

While this approach can work, an even better approach is to enable continuous updating of the playbook, with a regular review and pruning schedule. Allow the sales team to update best practice pages with new questions to ask, stories to tell, and responses to common questions and objections. Empower the sales managers to update policies and processes as they change. Then identify a sales playbook leadership team to facilitate a quarterly or semi-annual playbook review and pruning meeting, where they gather requests from the team, evaluate what content is being used, and make strategic changes to the playbook as necessary.

The sales playbook works on its own to improve sales.

Maybe you didn’t fall for any of the other myths. You created a team to develop the sales playbook and established a process for keeping it continually up to date. You’re done, right? Sales should start to increase immediately!

Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. While a sales playbook is an incredibly powerful tool for sales improvement, just like any tool it doesn’t do you any good if it’s sitting on a shelf.

Sales leadership needs to be responsible for making sure the sales playbook is being used, and here are three ways to do that.

  1. Activate the sales playbook with sales training. Train the team on your specific sales processes, as well as best practices for selling in your organization and general selling skills. Make sure that all training is tied directly back to the sales playbook.
  2. Enroll the sales team into developing playbook content. Solicit their input on best practices, and make sure they are involved in updating best practices over time based on what’s working in the field.
  3. Use the sales playbook to drive sales team meetings. Keep your meeting agenda and meeting notes in the playbook so the team is in the playbook at least weekly. Pick a random page in the playbook every week and review it with the team in your meeting, role practicing where appropriate.

We hope we’ve busted some of the key myths surrounding sales playbooks. If you’re interested in learning how we can work with you to develop a custom sales playbook for your team, click here to request a demo.


And if you have any myths about sales playbooks we missed, please share them in the comments![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

By | 2016-10-17T16:33:13+00:00 April 28th, 2015|Sales Leaders|0 Comments

About the Author:

Elizabeth is CFS's Operations Officer and Senior Advisor and is the Product Manager for the Criteria for Success Sales PlayBook. She writes about sales leadership, management, teamwork, motivation, and process based on her work with CFS's clients. Elizabeth also hosts the CFS roundtable discussion episodes of the Let's Talk Sales podcast.

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