What Goes In To an Account Based Sales Playbook

What is a sales playbook?

A sales playbook is a collection of tactics that outline the characteristics of your sales process; buyer personas; agendas; sample emails; discovery, qualification, demo, and negotiation questions; proposal guidelines; and/or competitive intelligence guidelines. In other words, your sales playbook helps you standardize and implement your account based sales methodology with all the high-performing content and strategies needed to close a deal.  

Why do you need a sales playbook?

Having an account based sales playbook is like having a map at a theme park you know where everything is you just need to select where you want to go and what you want to do the most. There are a few unavoidable advantages to having a sales playbook because
  • When you hire a new salesperson, training him or her to your company’s product and ABM practices become far easier and faster.
  • With a playbook in place you can speed up the sales process as every rep, SDR, VP has content right at their fingerprint and can dedicate more time for selling.
  • As everyone within the company follows one sales playbook/practice of messaging will be unified from rep level to CEO.
  • Develop the playbook by adding old and new techniques that worked for you in closing a deal, and lessons learned from those which did not work. This helps the salespeople to choose from a variety of options that all worked in the past.
If your sales team doesn’t have a playbook yet, or the existing one is just a thin guide with very little information, it’s time for a change. Here are the key points you must include in your team’s account based sales playbook.  

1) About the company

The crucial part of an account based sales playbook is to have a section talking about your company, culture, goals and organizational structure. Advantages of having "about the company" in your playbook
  • It summarizes the company’s history, giving the reps a high-level understanding of what the kind of culture the company harbors and the goals it aims for.
  • Having an overview of the company section gives the reps an understanding of the organizational structure, i.e., the hierarchy of the teams, who to report to, who leads each team, etc.
  • Spells out the well-designed career path your salespeople would have in the company, giving them an idea of what milestones to achieve for a promotion, requisite skills or experience for a job, etc.

2) Company Offer / Value Proposition

This section covers every product or services your salespeople are responsible for selling -- their price points, use cases and/or core value offerings, buyers and end users, and related industries or verticals. Some companies create one sales playbook per product; take this route if your products are different, require radically separate buying processes, and/or are sold by different members of your sales team.  

3) Sales Process

Explain each step of your sales process from first connect to close. What are the key activities that define each stage? Who is involved (the rep, their manager, the prospect, the buying authority, etc.)? What are the deliverables? Integrating all the available data to make informed decisions about targeting, managing and measuring the performance of their efforts is critical in making a switch to account based sales.  

4) Ideal Customer Profile

Scoring accounts around several factors, including fit, intent, and engagement so you can see which target accounts you should target and engage. Sketching out your optimal customer will help your salespeople quickly and efficiently hone in on the most qualified accounts. Include buyer personas within the account, who they typically report to, their key performance indicators, common challenges, and how much power they have. In addition, note where they come into play in the buying process; for example, the CTO probably won’t get involved until her team has narrowed the list down to two vendors, while the tech team lead may be communicating with the rep from day one. This is also a good section to include your qualification criteria, such as “Able to buy within six months” or “Has sufficient budget”.  

5) Triggering Targeted Campaigns and Programs

Now that you better understand the target accounts, you should set up triggers to perform different types of activities automatically, helping those accounts move closer to conversion. Some salespeople have near-total control over the quantity, type, and schedule of their outreach, while others follow a prescribed cadence. The larger and more complex your deals are, the more autonomy salespeople likely have. In this section, lay out the ideal number, timing, and medium of touches, dynamically targeting the accounts with personalized messages. Provide some guidelines on when to pursue opportunities and when to let them go.  

6) Messaging

In this section (typically one of the largest and most comprehensive), include your sample messaging. That means
  • email templates
  • positioning statements
  • calling
  • voicemail scripts
  • common objections and how to handle them
  • meeting agendas
  • presentation decks, and any other prewritten resources your team uses.
  Examples: Show your salespeople what a great call sounds like so they can incorporate the takeaways into their own process. In this section, upload or link to recordings or screencasts of high-quality meetings. Strive for at least one example for each stage, e.g. one connects call recording, two discovery call recordings, three demo recordings, and so on.  

7) Account Based Selling methodology

Most companies use at least one sales methodology, from the Challenger Sale to Account-Based Marketing. Describe yours here -- what it is, how salespeople should use it, where they can go to learn more, etc.  

8) Compensation Plan

The better your reps understand how your pay and commission structure work, the more likely they are to execute on it. Describe -- in as few words as possible -- what your plan is, including the type of plan (salary only, commission only, base plus bonus, so forth), if you’re doing a traditional base/bonus plan, the percentage base versus bonus; any accelerators/decelerators at play; if you use clawbacks; the quota-setting process; and approximately how often reps can expect sales contests and SPIFs. To make this section even more comprehensible, consider showing how much a hypothetical rep would make if he hits 50%, 90%, 100%, 110%, and 120% of quota.  

9) KPI’s

Which metrics do your company’s sales managers track most closely? Which account should the salesperson be paying attention to? You should be able to deeply understand and analyze the things like customer journey, where you can see how the accounts interact with your company on the road to conversion.  

10) Resources

Reps are always looking for relevant case studies, testimonials, and customer references. Depending on how many of those resources you have -- and how tailored they are -- think about including them in your sales playbook. Suppose you sell to two main customers: Individual teachers (spending their classroom budgets) and school districts (spending their district budgets). You’d want at least one case study directed specifically at teachers, like the story of how your product helped one classroom improve test scores by 30%. You’d want another directed at districts, such as the story of the district who implemented your product in all 10 of its schools and became one of the top-performing of its size in the state. Having on-demand, easily accessible material means reps can easily incorporate it into their sales process, improving their close rates (and decreasing the likelihood they’ll go rogue and use content they’ve created on their own).  

Key Takeaways

As your sales process changes and improves, your product line expands or shrinks, your ideal customer profile shifts, your strategy evolves, and your sales compensation plan is tweaked, update your sales playbook accordingly. Doing so is easiest if your playbook is online and accessible to your entire team at any time. You can use sales content software or a group Google Drive -- whatever works for you and your budget. When you make a major change, like adding or revamping a section, give your team the heads up. Announce the update in your team meeting, weekly or monthly email newsletter, and/or Slack channel. Follow these guidelines to build a strong, executable account-based sales playbook. Your reps will appreciate it … and so will your results.

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