How to create a modern sales playbook

Back in the day, simpler sales meant simpler playbooks. Sure, sales playbooks still resembled comprehensive, step-by-step guides and collections of best practices. But playbooks from several years ago were nowhere near as detailed, scalable, and flexible as today’s versions — as one-size-fits-all sales are no longer the norm.

More modern playbooks read less as a linear script, bound via binders and split up tab-by-tab, and more like adaptable, collaborative resources.

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Drastic changes within the sales landscape have essentially rendered old playbooks obsolete.

“Nearly 70% of respondents reported that their company’s sales processes were becoming more complex.”

According to 2018 State of Sales Enablement Report

A more structured sales cycle has given way to the buyer’s journey so that sellers must now offer immediate, customized responses to potential buyers at any given moment.

Shoppers today are connected and knowledgeable about competitors’ offerings and are in search of easy, integrated experiences. To keep pace with such expectations, sellers face pressure to meet every interaction seamlessly.

As the sales landscape has changed, sales playbooks have evolved too. They’re now an essential part of any sales enablement strategy and empower sellers to act more efficiently and effectively. Integrating sales playbooks into your business strategy ensures better attainment of quota, increased customer retention rates, and improved lead conversion rates.

The importance of sales and marketing alignment

With increased focus on catering to modern buyers’ expectations, today’s marketers work hard to create content that makes sense for each step in buyers’ journeys. Using personas, they map content to each stage of the sales process to arm sales reps with messaging that resonates with buyers at the right time.

Without the right alignment between sales and marketing, though, all of that valuable content can get lost in the void if the sales team doesn’t know which content to use or where to find it. This vicious cycle of marketers creating content that goes unused by sales is frustrating for both teams, to say the least.

To add insult to injury, marketers often lack the tools to gather feedback from sales and measure what content works, what doesn’t, and what tends to get altered by sales reps. This gap within the process results in weak, underused content. For sellers dealing with multiple potential customers with varying needs in real time, sorting through all available content just isn’t feasible.

Furthermore, when a rep is faced with a specific situation, often the fastest fix for moving forward is to alter customized assets on the go. Not only is this rarely as useful as using the tailored content that marketing has established, but it’s also a massive time suck.

Ultimately, marketing and sales are striving for the same results. But, when approaches aren’t in sync and communication methods are scattered, sales productivity is negatively affected. Getting both sides on the same page via the same strategy is a vital part of creating an efficient sales organization.

How to boost sales productivity


Syncing sales and marketing teams is crucial, but integrating a digital content management platform better enables sales automation and document management, and increases overall productivity. Bridging the gap via modern tools allows sellers to better connect to the buyer’s journey and react faster to sales conversations. A modern sales playbook built on modern technology cements the success of this process.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Define your methodology

Deciding on a sales methodology establishes a foundation for all sales processes, including your document management strategy. Be it account-based sales, SPIN or SNAP selling, or some other approach, the methodology you choose can create the strategy and training behind all sales plays. Be sure to include all major stakeholders in this discussion, as cross-departmental involvement works best right out of the gate rather than down the line.

2. Map your sales process

To know that your strategy is working (e.g., meeting the demands of buyers via the buyer’s journey), map out your sales process. Ensure that each sales stage matches steps on the buyer’s journey.

3. Design clear plays

Make sure to define each play clearly. Pinpoint areas where sellers will perform better if they engage in a scripted behavior. Great playbooks identify where these situations occur and offer clear instructions for navigating each scenario effectively.

4. Mimic top reps

Identify top-performing sellers and model your team after them. Playbooks should offer the insights of top reps for the rest of the organization. Watch their tactics, analyze their methods for closing sales, and gather ideas around what strategies, tools and assets worked where, how, and why.

Think of your playbook as an effective training tool — one that offers invaluable internal insights around increasing sales and practical selling how-tos.

5. Keep it short

Ease up on the content. Even the best-designed plays won’t be recognized if they’re buried in too many words. Keep your plays succinct, with sellers — and their lack of time — in mind. A quick deal requires a fast, direct and straightforward play.

What goes into a great sales playbook?

When devising your plays, consider factors such as your industry, the industries you sell to, your specific buyers’ journeys, and the unique pain-points of your customers. Likewise, consider your typical sales cycle and build your playbook around that. Every play should offer specific information on when to use the play, what persona it should target, and the strategy behind it.

For example, a play designed to create urgency could outline the competitive landscape facing modern buyers and pinpoint the cost of an organization that refuses to act. Additionally, the play should identify content specific to the task.

An urgency play could include, for example, a collection of emails communicating the urgency messaging, meant to send to the buyer with a certain cadence. It could also add a few assets that underline the message, such as a case study outlining measurable gains for a company, an infographic outlining the business risks of doing nothing, or an analyst report detailing the competitiveness of the industry landscape.

Remember, the best content depends on the play at hand. While content can be micro-targeted and include various supporting materials, it’s vital to keep it as pared down and focused as possible to match the given play.

A modern sales playbook should include:

  • Sales scenario (urgency, objection)
  • Vertical-specific buyer personas (including objections, pain points, and journeys for each one)
  • Sales stage (planning, discovery, pilot, etc.)
  • Company size (midmarket, enterprise)
  • Industry/vertical (financial services, healthcare, retail, etc.)
  • Geographical region (Americas, Europe, Asia, etc.)
  • External-facing content (case studies, datasheets, etc.)
  • Internal-facing content (battle cards, training videos, internal messaging and positioning)

How do you supercharge your playbook?

Ensuring that a sales playbook will work successfully across both marketing and sales teams means integrating a dynamic, digital and flexible solution. Instant, online access is vital. Today’s sellers don’t have time to flip through tangible playbooks. Likewise, wasting time reading complex digital materials or scanning for a random URL that’s not rooted within the CRM also won’t work.

Integrating a modern content management platform supercharges your sales playbook, ensuring it’s accessible immediately and always. Better yet, valuable data such as sales stage, persona, industry, company size, etc. further enables sellers to engage prospective buyers. On top of offering relevant content suggestions, guided selling functionality creates paths that reps should take during the evolution of each selling opportunity.

Interactions are aligned with both the buyer’s journey and the organization’s sales process methodology, creating a scalable, live map instead of a static script.

By empowering marketers to continuously refresh the sales playbooks, the sales team will always have tailored, streamlined content that ensures rep’s’ messaging stays competitive and responsive. Adapting messaging on a consistent basis improves messaging quality and increases marketing ROI.

In turn, the sales organization benefits from a flexible solution that makes it easy to update vital content, ensuring that your sales team will always be ready to adapt to modern buyers’ changing expectations with just the right play at the right time.

Erica is the Content Specialist at Highspot, the sales enablement industry’s leading platform for content management, customer engagement, and analytics.

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