Article | 10 min read

How to build a sales playbook framework (+ a free template)

Creating a sales playbook will streamline your sales process and solidify your branding in each customer interaction.

By Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Published December 13, 2021
Last updated April 15, 2022

Every company wants to increase productivity in its sales department—that’s a given. What’s not a given, however, is exactly how your company goes about the process.

Sales reps spend hours a day recreating work that shouldn’t have to be recreated. Whether it’s writing sales pitch emails to prospective customers, constructing a brand-new sales strategy for each client, or searching the company website for the mission statement, sales reps are likely wasting time finding and producing material you can simply give to them.

That’s the brilliance of a sales playbook.

In this article, we’ll cover what a sales playbook is, what it includes, how to build one that serves your sales team, and sales playbook best practices.

What is a sales playbook?

A sales playbook is a document containing a company’s best sales tactics and strategies based on previous successes. A good sales playbook guides sales reps through different parts of the sales process and provides proven tips on how to navigate a variety of obstacles. It also includes things like buyer personas, call scripts, discovery questions, and sales tools—essentially, resources reps need to close more deals.

While it might seem like hand-holding, sales playbooks speed up new hire training, free up time for experienced reps, and showcase the most effective sales techniques. All these benefits increase sales productivity as a whole and directly drive revenue growth as a result.

What’s included in a sales playbook?

Sales playbooks may vary a bit between companies, but overall, they follow a similar structure. Some of the must-haves in any sales playbook are:

Company information

This section includes the company strategy, mission, values, and organizational chart. It can also summarize the individual roles and responsibilities of people directly associated with a new hire, so they can begin to familiarize themselves with their coworkers.

Company products

Every single product your company sells needs to have a full breakdown with pricing, function, and importance to the buyer. If you offer bundles or packages, this is also the place to outline the pricing structure for those.

Compensation package

New hires should already be familiar with their compensation package via HR, but if your reps are working on commission, it’s a good idea for them to have this information handy. That way, new reps know exactly how much they’re making and what they have to sell to earn a bonus.

Sales methodology

You want to make sure your reps understand the style of your sales department. Sales strategies aren’t just about success—they’re also reflective of your selling philosophy. If your brand is all about treating the customer like family, then you can’t have a rep using hard sales tactics. Explain the specific sales methodology for your team and how it aligns to your goals and values.

Detailed outline of the sales process

Walk the reps through the sales process step by step. Many of them may know the basics of the process, but when they’re in the middle of it, it’s easy to forget what’s next. This is also a great place to integrate pieces of the sales messaging playbook (discussed in the next section). Incorporate the exact wording of emails, elevator pitches, and any other outreach you feel should be scripted.

Target personas

These provide a complete picture of your ideal buyers. Odds are, your target audience is made up of several different personas, especially if you’re handling B2C and B2B sales. Having profiles helps reps answer questions, overcome objections, and keep sales conversations on track. If you’re selling educational software, for instance, you’re going to have a very different conversation with an administrator than you are with a teacher.

Sales plays

To help reps succeed, describe the actions and best practices for moving deals forward. This is the section most specific to each individual company, but you definitely want to include information on how to qualify leads for your products and where in the sales process to make emotional shifts.

Key performance indicators (KPIs)

Tell your reps what to prioritize and what your expectations are. Even experienced reps can’t focus on everything at once, so narrow it down. Are you looking for more leads? More revenue? More individual sales? Be specific and give your reps a tangible sales goal. If that changes later on, just be sure to communicate it to them.

Sales messaging playbook

A sales messaging playbook can be part of an overall sales playbook or stand on its own. It is, unsurprisingly, all about the company’s message.

The messaging playbook is often developed as a separate manual because it’s not solely about sales. This playbook should be all about branding—and that branding extends beyond sales calls, spreading into the meetings and day-to-day workings of the company.

But much of what’s in the messaging playbook is incredibly useful to sales reps. According to Business to Community, the 12 essential elements of a messaging playbook are:

1. Purpose: your company’s reason for being (other than profit)

2. Vision: where you want your company to be in the future

3. Mission: how you plan to accomplish your vision

4. Values: your company’s core guiding principles

5. Problem statement: the issue your company aims to solve

6. Value proposition: a simple statement about what you offer and why customers should use your products or services to solve problems

7. Brand story: a narrative about how your brand came to be and how that origin influences your business philosophy

8. Elevator pitch: a 30-second pitch of your brand, value, and solutions

9. Boilerplate: a larger summary of vision, mission, story, and essential facts

10. Key messages: a few essential points you want your audience to understand and remember (a common example is: “X number of people already use our product”)

11. Tone of voice: the way in which all the content above is communicated (for instance: friendly, professional, casual, inspiring)

12. Style and vocabulary: the style of writing and grammar you use in all the content above

All 12 components relate to sales but are not explicit to the sales playbook. It’s not a bad idea to incorporate them, though.

Download free template

Plan your path to success. Learn more about the benefits and common components of strategic sales plans.

SaaS sales playbook differences

These general sales playbook principles work for nearly every industry. So, you can still use the guidelines in this piece to create a SaaS sales playbook; you just have to keep structure and timing in mind as you go.

Most SaaS sales are subscription-based, which means sales strategies aren’t just about new customers—they’re also focused on renewals. Returning customers may need more incentive to renew or may have new pain points to address. Additionally, there are often different levels of SaaS products with increasing complexity, so a salesperson needs to know the abilities of the buyer.

Last but not least, SaaS sales don’t always have a set sales cycle. Between self-signups online, long-term B2B negotiations, and the subscription model, a SaaS salesperson must be prepared to jump into any point of the cycle at any time. This should all be included in a sales playbook for SaaS, along with the general sales principles and strategies of the company.

How to build the right sales playbook framework

Now that you know the components, how do you actually go about creating a sales playbook that works for you? The first step is putting together a team to build it. This team can be any size, but it needs to include members from every relevant department. That means sales, marketing, product development, HR, and C-suite. Your sales playbook is representative of your company, so everyone needs to be in agreement about the content.

Once you have your team, start at the source and talk to your sales reps. Learn about their successes and failures, and compile the techniques that work. If you don’t already have a sales playbook, chances are that your sales team has made an unofficial one amongst themselves. They are the people dealing with prospective clients on a daily basis, so their expertise is essential to success.

Next, make sure your buyers’ objections are being met, and align those objections with the sales process. You can’t stop leads from objecting, but you can prepare your sales reps for those objections.

Finally, look at current sales trends. Today’s buyers are more informed thanks to online access and vigorous competition. None of them want to hear a five-minute sales pitch that contains information they already read on Google. Let your sales playbook get into the details, and enable your reps to personalize their pitch to each customer.

From there, it’s simply a matter of writing it all down and formatting it.

Sales playbook template

Ready to dive in? Here’s a sales playbook template to help you get started, courtesy of Vouris.

sales playbook template

Download template

The best part of this template is that it’s simple and straightforward. The information is outlined in a way that makes sense. With a table of contents at the beginning, anyone can easily find the section they needed.

This template is on the shorter side, but if this is your first time building a sales playbook, it’s better to start small. Sales playbooks change as consumer attitudes shift and sales reps discover new tactics. A shorter playbook allows you to compile your basic information while leaving room to grow.

A more concise playbook also ensures that your reps will read the entire document. Obviously, they should read the whole playbook no matter how long it is, but realistically (depending on training and how fast the sales floor is moving), they may not have the time. Keeping it brief means your reps have an accessible resource, not a mountain of paper.

How do you know if your sales playbook is working?

Track your sales playbook success the way you monitor anything else—through data. If your playbook is digital, look at the usage data to see which parts are most frequently utilized and which are rarely touched. Track that usage against sales numbers in a given time period.

Additionally, ask your sales reps and customers for feedback. Send surveys and conduct interviews to find out what’s working and what’s not, then adjust from there.

At the end of the day, your sales playbook should help your team increase either leads or revenue. If it’s not doing either, it might be time to reevaluate.

Use a CRM to support your sales playbook

Of course, your sales playbook doesn’t get you very far if your leads fall through the cracks due to disorganization. Partnering your sales playbook with a powerful CRM like Zendesk Sell ensures that your sales process is built on reliable outreach and consistent communication.

With Zendesk Sell, you can maximize productivity, increase sales pipeline visibility, and calculate revenue for your sales team. Our intuitive software also helps you track clients across the entire sales process and sends you useful alerts. When a support ticket turns into a question about new products, you can jump in and capitalize on that sale.

Best of all, Zendesk integrates with hundreds of other programs and applications, so you don’t have to change the tools that already work for your sales team.

Request a demo and see how Zendesk Sell can take your sales playbook off the page and put it into action.

Download free template

Plan your path to success. Learn more about the benefits and common components of strategic sales plans.

Download free template

Plan your path to success. Learn more about the benefits and common components of strategic sales plans.

Download free templateDownload free template