So your vision is set and you think you have a clear plan to achieve yet another “breakthrough” growth objective handed to you from the executive suite. Now you need to capture the minds and hearts of your sales team. This often leads to relying on the typical sales change levers of training and sales compensation. Although effective, true change management needs a more comprehensive approach, and sales playbooks can be a new arrow in your quiver.

We consistently see the following three reactions from sellers in response to a change in sales strategy: First, some sellers, most likely your change leaders, will quickly adopt and adapt. Second, some behave like an ostrich, burying their heads in the sand in the hopes that the latest “initiative” soon will pass. And finally, other sellers will smile at you, acknowledging the program, and then ignore the plan because they believe they really know what works best.


Given this range of reactions, it is difficult to predict the best way to go about implementing your strategy. To increase the odds of success, we urge organizations to focus on the five levers described below. To improve the communication and execution of these levers, sales playbooks can be an effective tool to unify the message and support uptake of the new behaviors in the field. Below we have outlined ways in which sales playbooks can support your sales strategy by providing context to sellers and managers of how and when to use new processes and tools.

1. PROVIDE FOCUS – In sales we can emphatically say that FOCUS DRIVES PERFORMANCE. To provide focus, you likely already have a documented sales process and various productivity enhancements, such as account planning worksheets and territory prioritization lists. The key to leveraging these tools is ensuring their consistent and appropriate usage.

Playbook Impact: A good sales process playbook will serve up the right information to the right buyer at the right time in the sales process. Your sales process playbook should not be over engineered for every selling scenario, but it should act as a go-to resource for key activities, value messages and customer insights through each step of the sales process. Best-practice sales process playbooks embed all the other productivity tools, so a rep can access her account planning worksheet through a single portal.

2. COACH – At the intersection of corporate vision and field reality, the front-line sales manager is the most important role in any sales organization. Unfortunately, sometimes these individuals are not appropriately provisioned to do their job. And in worst case situations, the role of coach becomes a dumping ground for all corporate administrative tasks. Coaches need a framework for a uniform expectation of interaction with their teams. A solid coaching framework includes a specific cadence of meetings with examples of how to lead the various types of individuals (e.g., top performers, ostriches and the smile-and-ignore), plus explicit direction on what not to do.

Playbook Impact: Coaches, like sales representatives, must run more than one “play” to do their jobs effectively. Just as you would not hang a picture with a sledgehammer or demolish a brick wall with a tack hammer, you should run the right play for each coaching enhancement. To ensure your coaches know how to best do their job, a coach’s playbook details the to-do and not-to-do activities of the coaching framework. To reinforce the right rep behaviors, coaches should leverage the reps’ process playbook as a means to discuss opportunity development, techniques for success and areas of improvement.

3. TEACH – According to a recent Selling Power magazine article, sales organizations spend $20 billion on sales training each year. With this abundance of investment in training, sales organizations rarely lack materials. The core issue is separating the good from the bad and presenting the useful information to the right audience in the right way. A world class sales organization has a well-organized program to teach, reinforce, and assess the knowledge, skills and experiences necessary for success unique to each job role. This “sales university” tool becomes a career-long endeavor for each seller, not just a point-in-time training method.

Playbook Impact: Embedding appropriate training modules into a sales process playbook at each step of each opportunity gives new sellers a reminder to apply skills recently acquired and veterans a quick refresh when most needed. Best Practice Tip: Include training and development as a permanent part of the sales process playbook design team in order to both disseminate materials and hear first-hand what works and what needs improvement.

4. MEASURE – Setting and tracking goals ensures ongoing alignment with your sales strategy and provides the metrics needed to make course corrections along the way. Dashboards with input (sales activity) and output (results) measures are simple enough to construct. The challenge lies with ensuring that sellers and leadership have a clean line of sight into what matters most. High-performing organizations create dynamic dashboards, monitor them on a weekly basis and conduct regular reviews (see COACH) to ensure the right metrics are being tracked with appropriate goals.

Playbook Impact: Sales process playbooks reinforce your team’s key metrics by demonstrating what is being measured and why the metric is important. The playbook guides sellers to the right behaviors and, when automated within your CRM, gives real-time feedback on progress to goal.

5. MOTIVATE – Sales executives have long recognized the power of at-risk incentive compensation in motivating reps. Money can certainly shape behaviors, but a well-rounded rewards and recognition program aligned to strategy maximizes the return on sales compensation investment. Best Practice Tip: Ensure a focused recognition program supports your incentive compensation plans.  Review both on an annual basis to update and align to new strategies.

Playbook Impact: A well-constructed playbook outlines how to be successful in a given sales role and directs reps on how to maximize their earning opportunity in a way that aligns to your strategy as opposed to something they independently create.

By aligning your sales playbook to support the five change levers that drive sales rep behaviors, you can create a “go-to” tool for your sales team to improve their performance, drive your results and provide growth through sales excellence!

To learn more about developing the five tools and how playbooks can support them, please visit our Sales Playbooks page.


Insight type: Article

Industry: Cross-Industry

Role: C-Suite, Sales and Marketing Leadership

Topic: Sales Playbooks

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