4 Myths About Creating a Sales PlayBook

September 17, 2019
4 Myths About Creating a Sales PlayBook

Have you been thinking about creating a sales playbook? If so, you're not alone.

In a recent conference I attended, three speakers on completely different topics talked about playbooks. The idea of a playbook is used in a lot of different business 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. Many people hold myths and misconceptions as true. Let’s unpack four of the most common myths related to creating a sales playbook.

Myth #1: The sales manager is responsible for creating a 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, turnover can be high in the area of sales management. 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 hire a sales 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 the team should take full ownership of the playbook, and you should hold managers accountable to ensuring it is used.

Myth #2: One person 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 free up someone's time 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. You should engage all of these people in writing the playbook.

Study after study has shown that a diversity of perspectives results in better decision-making and improved results. Remember that when you are creating a sales 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 it's more important to get the broader team involved in writing the sales playbook.

Myth #3: The sales playbook is a static resource.

Since creating 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. After you put a team together and invest valuable time in writing the playbook, it’s tempting to think it’s done.

This is one of the biggest reasons that sales playbooks fail. The content begins to become stale as soon as you complete it. Within a few months, some of the processes are out of date. Then after 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. This team can gather requests from the sales team, evaluate what content is being used, and make strategic changes to the playbook as necessary.

You may even consider assigning owners of certain sections of the sales playbook who are responsible for monitoring and updating their assigned areas. This divides the labor and makes it easier for everyone.

Keeping the sales playbook up to date is just as important as creating a sales playbook in the first place.

For more information on keeping your sales playbook up to date, check out an eBook I wrote on maintaining momentum with your sales playbook.

Keeping Your Sales PlayBook Moving
5 Strategies to Support Growing Sales Results
Read Now

Myth #4: 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. Review best practices for selling in your organization and general selling skills. Tie any sales training directly back to the sales playbook. Assign salespeople to take notes and capture best practices.
  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!

The Ultimate Guide to Creating & Managing a Sales PlayBook
Read Now

And if you have any other myths about sales playbooks we missed, please share them in the comments.

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