When Building a Sales PlayBook, Perfect Is the Enemy of Good

April 12, 2016
When Building a Sales PlayBook, Perfect Is the Enemy of Good

When we're working with one of our clients building a Sales PlayBook, we’re usually on a pretty tight timeframe. We launch the sales playbooks at our sales trainings, so as we plan the training we’re building the playbook. And regardless of what information the client has decided to include in their custom sales playbook, and how much of it is finished, we release it to the team at the training.

Some of our clients, understandably, have been concerned about this. Shouldn’t the content be completely finished, and the playbook completely ready for the team? What is the team going to think if their first experience with the playbook has some gaps?

What we’ve learned through developing dozens of sales playbooks is that salespeople enjoy being part of the process of building a sales playbook. And if some of them are part of it from the beginning, and they all get in at an early stage, they are much more bought in than if it’s introduced as a complete tool wrapped up with a bow on it.

Here are 3 warning signs you’re making perfect the enemy of good when building your sales playbook – and what you can do to fix it.

Warning Sign #1: One person is writing your sales playbook.

We’ve seen this happen time and time again. The sales playbook is a key project for the sales manager, so the manager (or someone he or she has assigned), writes the sales playbook.

In a way, this seems to make sense. It ensures a consistent voice, and it’s easier to project manage yourself than a team. But a sales playbook with only one voice is lacking the perspective you can collect from a team collaborating to document best practices, and building a sales playbook is a big project that can eat a person’s schedule for weeks or months.

If you’ve been tempted to have one person build your sales playbook, resist! Instead, form a playbook team made up of people with different experiences and perspectives.

Warning Sign #2: Management is building the sales playbook.

Related to the case above, it can seem logical to have management build the sales playbook. It’s a management tool for sales, so management builds it for sales.

What we’ve discovered, though, is that if you build a playbook for sales but not by sales, the sales team doesn’t have a connection to it. It quickly begins to gather dust because there’s no sense of ownership by the sales team, and managers are left to push for adoption against a strong current of apathy.

It can also be hard for managers to understand exactly what salespeople might find helpful in a sales playbook.

So if you’ve started building your sales playbook and kept the development within the management team, stop! Get the sales team (and other departments, like marketing and delivery) involved in designing and building your sales playbook. (Wondering what to include? Here are some tips.)

Warning Sign #3: You’re in the middle of building a sales playbook – and it’s huge!

When we work with our clients to build their sales playbooks, we start with a template that has about 60 different pages. We ask clients to identify additional pages they would like to include, but we advise them strongly to avoid adding more than 5 or 6 additional pages.

And then before we roll the playbook out to the team, we lock down 10-15 pages to release slowly over the course of the year.

This is a lesson, like most, that we learned the hard way. In some ways, it seems to make sense to build a comprehensive playbook that documents every possible situation. And we’ve had clients who tried!

But even if salespeople were involved from the beginning, when you roll a huge sales playbook out to the entire sales team, it’s intimidating. It’s unlikely that they will have the time to read it all, much less apply it.

Instead, keep it bite sized. Roll the sales playbook out in waves, and activate each new release with training. This way your team will grow along with your playbook.

And make sure you have a plan for pruning your sales playbook over time so it doesn't get out of control.

What experiences have you had in building a sales playbook? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments.

The ULTIMATE Sales PlayBook Guide


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