Upgrade your sales playbook to improve sales performance – part 1


Sales teams that use a sales playbook are 33% more likely to be high performers with win rates exceeding 50%.

Sales managers today are dealing with several significant concerns.

Does the below sound familiar?

  • Inconsistent sales rep performance
  • Difficulty in finding strong salespeople
  • Long ramp-up periods for new salespeople
  • Sales reps missing sales quotas

If you want to improve the productivity across your sales team, implement best practices, reduce sales cycles and make your salespeople more confident and autonomous – you need a solid sales playbook. Top-performing companies are implementing sales playbooks to empower their teams to use them more effectively.


  • Don’t have a playbook yet? Here, we share some tips on how to create one. 
  • Got one already? We also provide you with some tips on how to upgrade it. 

What is a sales playbook?

A sales playbook compiles best practices, strategies and tactics to outline what sales teams should do during various phases of the selling process and stages of the buyer’s journey. It takes the collective, already proven wisdom and experience of the organization and puts it all together in a consolidated handbook.

In football, teams have a playbook that details all of their plays. There’s a play for every situation. As games unfold, players have muscle memory from practicing and studying so they can perform better. If a situation requires a new strategy, it’s added to the playbook.

The sales playbook works in much the same way. The best sales playbooks consolidate all of your sales strategies, pitches, presentations, call scripts, email templates and sales tools in one book so that team members can draw from it when needed. They’ll have sequences of plays depending on specific situations and sales stages.


Good teams play, but great teams run a system of plays.

A robust sales playbook provides multiple benefits to increase sales performance and sales effectiveness, including:

  • Providing pre-built sales enablement materials
  • Outlining best strategies and the most effective selling techniques
  • Making training for new hires easier
  • Freeing up time for reps
  • Speeding up sales cycles
  • Continuous performance improvement
  • Increased revenue
  • Driving a best buyer experience

The best and most productive salespeople know it takes a strategic approach to grow sales. That’s where the playbook and sales plays are invaluable tools.


What to include in a sales playbook?

An easy yet underrated method to empower your sales team is to upgrade and modernize your sales playbook. A comprehensive playbook increases sales agility and adapts to evolving buyer behavior because it encapsulates sales best practices and illustrates them to sales people in a concise manner.

Sales reps know what they should do and the most effective response to a variety of scenarios they might encounter.

A sales playbook should have elements that provide the information that sales and marketing teams need to be effective. It’s this framework that creates results.


Without a solid framework in place, even your best intentions won’t amount to measurable results.


An effective sales playbook will include:

  • Overview: An overview of the company, how the sales organization functions, lines of reporting, expectations, teams and targets.
  • Plays: The plays that will be included and the subsequent playbook for each play.
  • Products and services: Each product line or service needs supporting materials that sales and marketing teams may need. This should include one-sheets, use cases, pricing and industry information.
    • Ensuring this information is available digitally and is easily accessible through omnichannel marketing for sales reps to deliver to customers is more effective according to research by McKinsey & Company that found, “roughly two in three buyers prefer remote human interaction or digital self-service.” 
  • Sales process: Playbooks are most successful at impacting sales performance when they detail the entire sales process from start to finish. From outreach to the first contract, to every touchpoint in the buyer’s journey, to conversion and post-sale strategies.
  • KPIs: This section should encompass your best practices along with clear, modernized KPIs that align with business outcomes and can be measured. Sales teams need to know how they will be evaluated beyond sales revenue. For example, if you know, based on data, that sales reps making more than 30 calls per day outperform their peers, you should share this data and track calls.
  • Buyer personas: Most sales playbooks have one or more buyer personas, but you can level up by including your ideal customer personas (ICPs). This can help sales and marketing teams to stay focused on targets and develop leads. Having a list of the top five criteria to identify your ideal customers will not only help with who you should target but will clarify when to bring them into the sales process.
  • Lead qualification: Along with buyer personas, your sales team also needs lead qualification criteria. This helps teams to understand what qualifies as a lead, a sales qualified opportunity or a high-value lead. It also helps sales teams to understand where leads should be based on behavior and time in the pipeline and when it’s time to cut your losses.
  • Sales enablement materials: Sales and marketing teams should be consistent in the resources and materials they use during the qualifying and nurturing process. Everything your teams need to drive conversion should be in this section, including case studies, ROI calculators, comparison sheets, demo videos, social content, email marketing tools, etc.

A solid playbook creates the necessary alignment between sales and marketing to create a cohesive and consistent strategy.


Different types of sales plays for different scenarios

Sales plays will vary depending on your products, services, company, industry and location but each sales play (or scenario) will have its own set of sequences and supporting material. You might think of each play as having its own mini-playbook with everything needed to succeed.

For example, a sales playbook for each play might include the positioning and messaging for a particular product. It might provide the sales and marketing team with:

  • Value proposition
  • Positioning statement
  • Elevator pitch
  • Brand pillars
  • Key benefits
  • Supporting features

This information forms the base for how sales efforts work at each touchpoint. The playbook could include:

  • Call scripts and sequences
  • Email scripts and sequences
  • In-person meeting scripts and sequences

Along the way, playbooks anticipate potential responses and behaviors and guide sales teams on the best approach to manage the sales process.

Does your current sales playbook need an upgrade? Start by considering whether it covers all the angles, i.e., every sales play your team needs, from first meetings to targeted, high-value accounts. Here are a few examples of plays to consider adding to your playbook.


Product launch

Launching a new product is an exciting and busy time. You need a solid product launch sales play to make sure you also generate excitement and interest in your prospects. 

A sales playbook for a product launch should include the following so your sales reps can handle any situation:

  • Everything they need to know about the product or service to answer potential questions
  • What they can discuss with the customer regarding the product or service
  • What the customer is allowed to see regarding how the product or service works
  • How to handle issues that arise during a product launch

After you’ve addressed the above, you can dig into the parts of your product launch playbook that will make it an instrumental and effective tool for your sales reps. 

For example, are you launching a product targeting a new type of customer or industry? If so, you should:

  • Answer the following questions: Who is the product or service for? What is it for? What does it do? What problems does it solve? What is the desired outcome of your product or service?
  • Provide training courses for your sales reps to build their confidence when they go into meetings.
  • Give examples (or role plays) of successful calls, meetings and pitches. 
  • Ask questions that dig deeper to find new situations in which the product or service could work.
  • What’s your USP? What differentiates your product or service from the competitors?

You’ll need to develop the materials needed for an effective sales process and track performance against expectations for continuous improvement at each stage.


High value – first meeting play 

For high-value accounts, the introduction is crucial to capture a prospect’s attention and quickly explain value to drive further engagement.

A study by Gartner shows that a robust playbook for high-value accounts drives a 26% lift on touchpoints and sales lead conversion rates.

A playbook including a high-value first meeting should include:

  • Agendas with reading material for prospects to familiarize themselves with your product or service.
  • A rationale as to why a prospect should read the provided material, such as a goal your sales rep hopes to achieve by the end of the meeting.
  • Create a thorough FAQ answering items that will provide a more solid understanding of your product or service.

Competitive intelligence

According to the 2021 Competitive Enablement Report, “79% of internal stakeholders conduct their own competitive research outside of the competitive intelligence function because intel is often hard to find.”

Competitive intelligence sales plays help sellers to differentiate their product or service from others that may be thought of as similar, as well as giving them information to counter any weaknesses exposed by competitors. You should be able to demonstrate how your solutions create the highest value outcomes for your customers.

You want your sales reps to be able to address any scenario that a customer might bring with easy-to-understand explanations. Sales reps also need to be honest about the SWOT analysis, where they win and lose against a competitor and why your product or service offers the best chance of success.

You can prepare your sales reps for these kinds of sales plays by:

  • Providing successful practice pitches and calls for them to study
  • Addressing important points to bring up when a prospect asks why or how you’re different, ideally by showing examples, demos, etc. 
  • Helping your sales reps understand where your product or service offers something different to prospects

Use case play

The goal of a use case play is to focus on a specific area your target audience is familiar with and a certain area of use for your product. Through a well-crafted story, you demonstrate the potential use for your solution, explain the value provided to a prospect, how your solution works, how the prospect and your solution work together and the benefits the prospect derives. 

Rather than list features, a use case play allows you to engage customers through a story so they can envision how your solution will help them in a real-world environment.

A use case play is especially beneficial because it presents a compelling story from a distinct point of view. Use cases are also scalable when done well. During your first meeting, if your story is compelling enough and targets a solution to a specific issue your prospect has, they’re more likely to ask for a follow-up meeting with more stakeholders present. You can use the same story during that meeting because it worked so well the first time.

When creating your use case play, make sure to include details about the strategy you’ll implement, such as:

  • Change management
  • Methodology
  • Processes used
  • Anything else related to your product or service

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Closing play

It takes a lot of effort to get to a close, so when you’re on the brink, you want to make sure you’re doing everything right to get the sale. Closing plays require marketing and sales teams to work together. 

For example, marketing might provide deal brochures that contain customized information about the customer’s key challenges, proposed solutions and summarize the work that’s been done so far. (This is also relevant for a use case play, for example). 

Closing play documents might include the steps both parties have agreed to, details of the deliverables and the steps required to conclude the deal, such as legal, contract and procurement reviews, buying committee sign-offs and signatures.

Closing plays should also take into account late-stage marketing to maintain visibility and provide valid business reasons for follow-up.

Even with a verbal agreement, a closing play helps keep deals moving forward.


Nail your account-based play

Account-based marketing segments buyers into different groups and uses different playbooks to target different sets of prospects. Automation allows you to personalize messaging throughout the playbook to increase your odds of success. There are multiple playbooks for account-based plays, including:

  • Warm contacts: Orchestrate content delivery to warm up prospects before making contact and continue conversations with digital outreach.
  • Orphan accounts: Target former customers that are no longer doing business with you or prospects that have stopped responding. Understand why deals died, address issues and re-engage prospects.
  • Turnovers: Sometimes, sales come to a halt because the person you’ve targeted leaves an organization. A sales play can focus on engaging the replacement as well as following the lead to their new job.
  • C-Suite: A carefully orchestrated strategy to target high-value C-suite execs with highly personalized content.

To read the rest of the sales playbook best practices, download the ebook version here.

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