Sales playbooks make your kick off vision a reality

By: Eric Maurer Sales Playbooks, Sales Strategy, Sales Transformation

The scene is electric. Bright lights, big stage, and professionally produced presentations, all supporting a theme and strategy months in the making. The sales kick-off event marks another new beginning – new products, new plans, new tools, and new programs are unveiled. Success and prosperity are assured. Failing is not an option.

But what happens next is all too common – sales teams disperse to their familiar home territories, familiar call patterns, and familiar old ways. Not much changes. How can sales leaders ensure that the vision, strategy and tactics presented in such convincing fashion at the sales meeting will be executed in front of a customer? Two words: sales playbooks.

Playbooks have long been used in football to organize and communicate to team members their individual expectations, responsibilities and timing for a given set of plays. Imagine watching an NFL game where one team shows up without a playbook! They may as well forfeit the match to the competition.

Yet how may sales organizations fail to develop and train their sales forces on a consistent set of plays? Never before has there been such a need as in today’s B2B selling environment. Increased complexity and proliferation of roles and channels require more collaboration across a greater number of team members than ever before. Done right, sales playbooks help sales leaders realize increased productivity from their teams. The reasons are obvious and extremely compelling. Consider the following advantages of a sales organization running well designed plays:

– Marketing collateral gets tailored to sales plays for greater use and ROI
– Sellers more often position themselves in front of the right buyers
– Sellers more often deliver the right messages
– Sellers leverage product and technical sales specialists more effectively
– Sellers leverage support resources more effectively and waste less time on low value, non-selling activities

All of this translates into shorter sales cycles, bigger deals, and higher win rates – the keys to increased productivity. Research conducted by Aberdeen Group in 2012 found that companies that document and distribute their high performer best practices experienced sales cycles that were 10% shorter; sellers achieve 4% higher quota attainment and most importantly overall revenue growth was 7.9% better than peer companies. So documenting and distributing your desired plays not only sounds good in theory but is also proven in practice to improve sales performance and seller confidence.

Types of Playbooks: Playbooks come in three common forms. Sales Process Playbooks are the most common. Manager Coaching Playbooks and Jumpstart Playbooks serve more specific needs. Here is a brief description of each:

– Sales Process Playbooks: When sales executives struggle with inconsistent seller execution a sales process playbook acts as a guide providing specific details on how to access buyers, incorporate marketing collateral, and utilize vignettes, case studies and scripts. Some of the more powerful Sales Process playbooks embed the toolkits specific to the opportunity and provide a forum for real-time feedback of the usefulness of the materials.

– Manager Coaching Playbooks: Frequently first line sales managers act more like  super sellers than super managers. The Coaching Playbook promotes rigor and consistency for the most important job in the sales organization, the first line sales manager. This playbook addresses all three of the key aspects of the sales manager’s job: people management, region/district development and business improvement. The Coaching Playbook provides specific guidelines on time management, use of coaching tools and techniques, and the ability to assess, develop and promote talent.

– Jumpstart Playbooks: This final playbook type is used when a new sales strategy, new product launch, or a sales transformation or merger causes an immediate need for a defined change in the way the sales team executes. The playbook dictates not only what the seller needs to start doing, but also what they need to stop doing. This is a lot like the quarterback’s wristband…a shortcut to the 3-5 most important new “plays” to run in the new world, how to run them and with whom. When change is of the essence and time is limited, the Jumpstart playbook is the enabler for change.

Change is inevitable for sales organizations to succeed. How sales leaders drive and support change is often the difference between having a successful year like the one envisioned at the sales kick-off meeting or waiting around another year. Sales playbooks enable the leader’s vision to become a reality.

Read more related blog posts on managing sales change and transformation or visit our Sales Playbooks practice.

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Eric Maurer

Eric Maurer is a vice president and region leader in the Chicago office. Eric has 20+ years of consulting experience. He has worked with clients in numerous industries, including media, financial services, manufacturing, high technology, CPG and medical. Eric has significant experience in driving results with senior leaders through a fact-based, collaborative approach. He has led the design, development and delivery of multi-channel, cross-functional solutions to clients, bringing together strategy, business process design, organizational design and change management. Eric enjoys working with clients to achieve their growth objectives that are sustainable and profitable.


Prior to joining the Alexander Group, Eric managed an independent retail operation where he was responsible for all purchasing, merchandising and staffing decisions. Eric holds a B.S. in marketing from the University of Dayton.


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