Sales Playbooks Series: keeping it lean to create winning sales playbooks

By: Kyle Uebelhor Sales Playbooks

Picture3_resized 250X213& coloredSometimes playbooks fail, not due to lack of effort or institutional rigor, but due to a desire to perfectly map the entire sales process and document every potential selling scenario. This level of effort creates an unwieldy manual equivalent in size to the Yellow Pages for a large, metropolitan area. Not only does it take extended weeks (or months) to produce this level of detail, but the result also quickly finds its way to the recycle bin, much like the Yellow Pages.

One strategy to avoid this type of waste is to “keep it lean,” focusing on the philosophy of lean implementation: Get the right things to the right place at the right time in the right quantities to achieve results, while minimizing excess and maximizing flexibility.

Like a lean manufacturing environment, efficiency and adaptability are sales playbook design cornerstones. Embedding this mindset and leveraging the following three key techniques will help you achieve great results:

1.    Assemble a diverse and small, high-potential team: Playbook design teams require no more than four to seven team members who represent a cross-section of sales, marketing and leadership roles.

quoteThese design team members understand what customers want, need and value. They have an intimate knowledge of current buying behaviors and how the current sales process connects to the customer’s experience.

Members test new ideas, but they know that playbook success comes with straightforward messages written in the voice of the average sales rep and focused on the activities that will produce results.

2.    Think Kaizen: Kaizen, derived from two Japanese characters, is a philosophy embraced by process improvement leaders. Kai means “change,” and zen means “continuous improvement.” Best-practice playbooks start with a change in mind. They also create a simple framework that easily adapts to unique buying behaviors. And, most important, they establish a foundation for evolutionary modifications to the playbook as field insights and best practices emerge.

Your initial playbook should contain a basic framework for each of the phases of your sales process (Access, Persuade and Fulfill) and the related sales process stages (identify, qualify, present, close, etc.). It should focus on the three to five most important “plays” that deliver results. For example, your initial sales process playbook might have the fundamentals of all phases, but deep-dive into a few critical stages such as “client discovery” or “asking for the sale.” Going forward, you can leverage the basic framework as a backbone for continuous improvement.

3.    Follow the Project “PDCA” Method (Plan, Do, Check, Act):  Lean process strategies promote a four-stage cycle of project management. The “Plan, Do, Check, Act” cycle should guide your sales playbook design:

Plan: Most sales process playbook planning and design can be accomplished with a handful of design sessions in four to eight weeks. Winning playbooks begin with an assessment and (re)alignment of the current sales process. The balance of the design sessions create the focused activities and messages needed to succeed.

Do: Conduct trials of the initial playbook in a small or safe environment. Often designers simply vet their initial drafts with field sales team members to ensure validity and understanding. In other words, does the playbook pass the seller sniff test, and will it bring value to the customer?

Check: To remain relevant, playbooks must evolve as strategies change. Therefore, “checking,” or realignment, is a built-in expectation of sales playbooks. The design team should plan to roll out periodic enhancements based on seller feedback.

Additionally, winning playbooks build a culture of continuous improvement by making it easy for sellers to provide insights into the next iteration. Today’s digitally automated tools that connect your CRM and sales playbook make this easy.

Act: Sales playbook leaders “act” through their ongoing scaling and embedding of the sales process playbook into their reps’ daily routine. Organizations that leverage front-line sales managers into this process see the highest playbook adoption rates. These sales leaders routinely refer to the playbooks to coach their reps. Front-line leaders also act as a feedback conduit to the playbook design team, thus continuing the PDCA cycle.

Integrating these proven techniques for lean implementation into your playbook design increases success rates, reduces waste and builds a foundation of continuous value to your clients. Learn more about sales process playbook design.

TAGS: ,

Kyle Uebelhor

Kyle Uebelhor is a principal in the Chicago office. He is a leader in the firm’s Manufacturing and Distribution practices. Kyle’s clients include leading companies throughout manufacturing and wholesale/distribution. By applying deep industry expertise and a pragmatic approach to each situation, he helps companies achieve their organic growth objectives. He brings nuanced perspective to the complexities of sizing the total available global market, delivering differentiated value, creating omni-channel designs, and motivating partners and the commercial team. Kyle frequently speaks on sales enablement topics. He has authored several articles and whitepapers including “The Power of Playbooks: Execute Your Vision” and most recently “Digitizing the Revenue Growth Model.”


Prior to joining the Alexander Group, Kyle spent 10 years in commercial banking. As a relationship manager and lender to large middle market companies, he developed a broad expertise across numerous manufacturing industries and developed solutions-based selling strategies with his C-suite corporate clients. Kyle has an MBA from the University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business and B.A. from Wabash College. He is also a Certified Sales Compensation Professional (CSCP).


HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT THIS POST OR WANT TO REACH OUT TO THE AUTHOR?  CONTACT US »