Your sales playbooks are your sales team’s first and best source for the tactics, best practices, and operating procedures that provide a basis for understanding the best way to sell your products or services. They’re a must-have for newcomers to your team, and, if they’re treated like living documents (which they should be), they provide a touchstone that your veterans will revisit p-eriodically.

Sales Playbooks arent gretting the job doneThere are still companies who don’t develop sales playbooks, however. They roll the dice and hope that the cost of not having playbooks will be less than the cost of developing them. That’s a bad gamble. Unless their business is very small, it’s one they’re likely to lose, according to Aberdeen data. A study done last year found that companies that used playbooks had 54 percent of their reps make quota, while only 48 percent of reps at playbook-less firms achieved quota.

The numbers also suggest that playbooks help sales people develop more effective talk tracks and ask better questions of their potential customers. In the same Aberdeen study, it was found that 74 percent of playbook users are able to improve positioning and differentiation in messaging to tell a unique, personalized story for each customer. Only 54 percent of reps operating without playbooks could do the same thing.

Clearly, playbooks make a big difference – and not just for the newcomers but for the entire sales team. Yet Aberdeen found that roughly one in five companies had a sales playbook to work from. And, of that select 20 percent, not all of them were using particularly good playbooks, either. The secrets to creating great playbooks are well known – but the pitfalls claim more than their share of businesses, causing all the efforts of the sales ops and enablement teams to create these valuable assets to go for naught.

If you aren’t using sales playbooks, you know exactly why they aren’t delivering results. But if you do have playbooks within your organization and they aren’t getting the job done, it may be due to these three common pitfalls:

The “Fire and Forget” Mentality

Creating a playbook from scratch can be a daunting task, and we doff our hats to anyone who has built a book from the ground up. Once the first iteration is done, there’s a natural tendency to let out a deep breath, relax for a moment, then attack the other tasks that had to wait for the playbook’s completion. The project’s over, right?

Nothing could be further from the truth. The sales playbook needs to grow, adapt and conform to the changing customer, the changing competitive landscape and changing sales tactics. In fact, the playbook should start to change the moment a rep encounters a response from a customer that contradicts something in the playbook, or when someone in the organization discovers a new way a product or service is being used. As your competitors develop new ways to battle for business, new objections – and responses to them – should be added to the playbook.

Companies who suffer from a “fire and forget” mentality have playbooks that are only useful for onboarding, and only for a finite amount of time. Companies who value their playbooks as living documents that communicate the latest in practical sales knowledge to the sales team will cultivate happier, more productive sales teams.

Failure to Account for All the Deciders

Personas are hard to develop, especially in today’s age of unusual job titles, overlapping responsibilities and increasingly diverse demographics. But they’re becoming more important: a Gartner study from 2014 showed that the typical 100-500 person company had an average of seven people involved in the decision-making process. Fast forward to today, and Gartner’s latest research finds that among tech buyers, the number of people actively involved in decisions is holding steady at seven or eight, but another five or six people make occasional contributions to the buying process. Do you understand who these people are? And does your sales team have any idea of the variety of personalities it needs to influence?

Your playbooks should be tightly integrated with sales enablement in order to help sales meet the needs of these many people and their individual sets of concerns. But in order to do that, sales and marketing need to be focused on personas – and they need a process for building on those personas as reality challenges their assumptions.

If you fail to account for the many people in the decision-making process, you’re essentially creating a weak link in your prospects’ decision-making teams. The one role you don’t prepare your salespeople to reach may be the one who drives the discussion toward your competitors.

Death by Too Many Details and Directions

In a way, the word “playbook” isn’t totally on target. A playbook in football contains precise, step-by-step operations for each play; execute your steps properly and the play is likely to work.

Sales playbooks aren’t like that. They are not cookbooks, providing a sequence of actions and elements and prescribing what actions to take to come to a desired outcome. They’re much more a set of suggestions and an aggregation of information that sales people can synthesize with their own knowledge and emotional intelligence to develop approaches that are flexible enough to be effective with a variety of individual customers. It’s not as abstract as Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s famous Oblique Strategies, but the idea of using the contents of the book in conjunction with the skills of the salesperson to reach unique approaches that yield the best outcome is vaguely similar.

If you try to use your playbooks to micromanage your sales team, they will fail. This approach is in direct contradiction to what salespeople need to succeed, especially as customers become better at self-education and start the conversation with sales from a more informed point of view. It’s now much harder to anticipate where sales discussions will start and what buyers will want from sales; a hard-and-fast set of steps in the playbook will be rendered obsolete on contact with customers and your sales teams will soon discard them.

To learn how technology can set the stage for the creation of sales playbooks that make you more money, faster, check out CallidusCloud Sales Enablement.

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