How To Build Your Sales Playbook (With Examples)
Close more deals.
Improve win rates.
Meet Exceed sales goals.
Pick any (or all) of the above, and you have the reason sales playbooks exist.
Best-in-class sales playbooks include:
- Sales enablement materials
- Detailed and updated buyers personas
- Sales resources
- Team processes
- Rules of Engagement
- Pilot information
- Pricing options
- Sales templates
- Product demo flows
- Approved messaging
- Objection handling
If your team does not have a sales playbook, you are relying on best guesses and gut instinct.
If no sales playbook exists, you are flying blind and often repeating (unnecessarily repeatable) tasks.
A missing sales playbook equals more opinions, less reality.
No sales playbook also means more work for managers. More work for managers means less time to coach reps. Less time to coach reps means… well, you get where we are going.
Not ideal, but fixable.
Sales playbooks are all-encompassing but are often broken down into smaller parts — mini-sales playbooks if you will. Think sales playbook by segment or sales playbook by product type or sales playbook by team.
Consider this your guide — or template — for building out your sales playbook. It is chock full of examples, suggestions, best practices, and more. When you are done reading this, you’ll have everything you need to build your very own, fully customized, super-complete, sales playbook.
P.S: Staring at a blank page? Steal these sales playbook examples and add them to your team’s process.
What is a sales playbook?
A sales playbook serves as a guide or a model for capturing best practices for each and every potential sales situation. It leads your sales reps through various scenarios: how to prospect, when to sell what product or service, how to overcome common objections, what to negotiate for (and how) to name a few.
Resources: Your sales team’s go-to
A sales playbook resource hub is your team’s repository of sales-related content specific to your industry, your organization, and your team. It’s your secret sauce: your team’s assets that help close more deals and win more business.
A sales playbook resource library includes the following:
- Sales presentations
- Pilot resources
- Other resources
Note: This is just a sample list. Every company, each team (Commercial, Mid-Market, Enterprise), even specific verticals or products, will have some specific materials.
Let’s explore each bucket in a bit more detail.
Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, sales presentations are an essential tool for sales folks to highlight who they are, what they do, what customers they serve, and — most importantly — how you (future customer) will benefit from buying. Round up your corporate-approved, top-notch sales decks. Ideally, organize each presentation by sales funnel stage (early, middle, late) and break it down even further by buyer persona, product, and use case.
A buyer piloting your product is — assuming you’ve assured the “ground rules” are in place (fixed timeline, support throughout, etc.) — often an important just-before-they-buy step in the sales funnel. Having easily accessible sales materials not only saves sales reps time but also ensures a consistent (proven) process. Pilot resources could include checklists, customer reference materials, presentation and training assets, and set-up resources
It’s always important to include a “what do I do if” section, also known as “FAQs.” These are resources that don’t necessarily require an entire presentation deck or one-pager but are nonetheless essential to ensure a consistent process and standard messaging. Questions (and answers) that tend to land here include executive outreach process, implementation process, point of contact with different teams, and so on.
“Other resources” is a simple way of saying “miscellaneous” or “those resources that don’t fit in any of the above categories. These can include, but are certainly not limited to, Gong call library, sales process breakdown, Customer Success handoff guidelines, messaging channels to follow (i.e. Slack), team dashboards (or sales tracking templates), and more.
A sales playbook resource library is essential for:
- Onboarding new reps
- Ensuring consistency in the sales process
- Fostering ongoing collaboration
All the stuff that pays off BIG in the long run.
Process: Trust it.
Best-selling author, Hal Elrod, once said:
“Every result or goal you want to achieve is preceded by a process. The secret to success is to remain unconditionally committed to your (day-to-day) process without being emotionally attached to your (day-to-day) results. Be emotionally engaged, but not emotionally attached.”
Without a process, you (often) have chaos and disorder.
Results aren’t all bad. But they’re random. And that’s hard to replicate.
Process removes barriers and mitigates uncertainty.
When it comes to a sales playbook, there are four main types of processes to include:
How to convert a buyer into a closed-won customer. A strong sales process is defined by a programmatic, repeatable set of steps. A top-of-the-line sales process includes room for flexibility and customization, while also providing the guide rails for salespeople to find success. Consistency is important as it helps managers track what part of the process is working — and what part is struggling.
Are all deals annual? Can some be monthly? What about multi-year agreements? Do customers pay in one lump sum or can they pay monthly/quarterly/semi-annually? What does the discounting process look like? What percentage of discounting can happen before getting manager approval? So. Many. Questions. A clear-cut contracting process eliminates (or at least minimizes) the Wild Wild West of Deal Making. A standardized contracting process removes sales rep uncertainty and empowers them to charge ahead based on a previous-agreed-upon set of rules.
Sales forecasting is both an art and a science. Gong eliminates some of the guesswork by using actual activity from both reps and buyers from more accurate forecasting (aka, pipeline analytics). Adding a well-thought-out, sound, consistent forecasting process into your sales playbook also helps keep sales reps focused on the end goal — closing more (and bigger) deals, faster. A shoddy (or nonexistent) forecasting process can bog down one-on-one meetings, create headaches for sales managers, and really jack up revenue projections… which can impact the entire organization, from hiring to product development to capital investments.
Bonus: Check out our 7-Point Checklist For Airtight Pipeline Reviews and get your sales strategy up and running ASAP.
SDR to AE. AE to CS. CS to Customer Marketing. Handoffs can be liabilities (repeated information, wasted time, unnecessary back-and-forth communications) OR handoffs can be opportunities to earn buyer trust and prove that yes, you really were listening and yes, your team does coordinate. Also, an efficient handoff process can save countless hours. Just ask Gong customer, Sendoso: “With Gong, CSMs save hours of time per week — searching Gong for relevant customer calls and listening directly to the words of the customer.” Here’s the full case study.
To quote our Director of Sales, Chris Orlob:
Sales (and factories) tend to get a bit dicey when processes are missing, aren’t well-defined, or exist but are not followed rigorously.
A missing or flawed process means reps move opportunities from one stage to the next in your CRM… but that stage shift doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing for each person on the team. And that variability in the “exit criteria,” the lack of standards and process, can cause chaos and totally mess with forecasting and metrics and…
You get the point.
Additionally, an inconsistent process means unreliable data. Bad. All CRM-related conversations are not to be trusted. A pipeline review turns into a “Well, yeah, but the data isn’t up to date here” type objection. Not good.
TL;DR: A solid, well-adopted, everyone-on-the-same-page process matters.
Rules of Engagement: Who, how, when, where, why
According to Oxford Languages, rules of engagement are “directives issued by a military authority specifying the circumstances and limitations under which forces will engage in combat with the enemy.”
In sales, there is no enemy. We’re all friends!
Okay, that last part isn’t 100% true, but it is accurate to say the sales “rules of engagement” have nothing to do with battles and combat and war.
Rules of engagement in a business sense are “clear agreements on how [high-performing teams] will work together to boost efficiency and effectiveness.”
These rules “create accepted ways of acting and interacting so your team does not have to think about or debate what is appropriate in each situation.”
They help teams focus on more of what matters (filling the pipeline, closing more deals, making more money, etc.) and less on the “other” stuff.
Ensure accounts get the touches they need. Guide routing to proper segment. Create a fair and efficient way to engage accounts.
Rules of engagement generally help teams make decisions, prioritize (and resolve) conflict, share information (email vs. text vs. in-app vs. Slack vs. in person), and coordinate handoffs.
Specifically, these rules help sales teams:
- Define how often account should get touched
- Route accounts to the proper teams
- Create a fair and efficient way to engage accounts
Rules of engagement definitely differ by organization, but at a minimum, they should exist for segments, territories, and accounts.
How many segments does your total addressable market (TAM) include? What are the various segments? What are the specific criteria for including a buyer in one segment versus another? Can a future customer be in more than one segment? What is the process for defining a segment?
What defines a territory (zip code, country, state, region, country, etc.)? How are territories divided up by rep? Is an organization’s location defined by HQ or some other factor? What happens if a company has franchises that cross into multiple territories?
What are the various types of accounts? What does account ownership look like? When — and HOW — do new accounts get created? Is account creation an SDR/BDR role or is that done by an AE? What criteria are used to qualify an account (and are there exceptions?)? How are handoffs from team to team and within a team handled?
So. Many. Questions.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Dig deep into these categories. Ask, then answer, as many questions as you can think of. The more clearly defined the rules of engagement are, the less confusion, the more process (see above), and the better run your team will be.
Pilot: Try before you buy.
Try before you buy. Kick the tires. Trial. Paid trial. Pilot.
No matter what your organization chooses to market a trial as… most companies offer some type of pilot program — a chance for customers to try out a product prior to completing a purchase.
Your sales playbook must include guidelines for how pilot programs will run. Possible questions to address include:
- What is the standard length of your pilot program?
- Is your pilot program paid or free? If paid, does the cost of the pilot roll into the annual contract price should the buyer sign an agreement?
- What type of support and resources are dedicated to the pilot program? Who is the lead? Is it run by sales or sales engineering or customer success or all of the above?
- Is there a cap on the number of pilot licenses in a given account?
- Are there any criteria (segment, contract value, contract length) to determine which buyers are eligible for a pilot?
Preparation for a pilot program is essential.
And the technical setup is a huge component of being ready. It’s important to provide your pilot program “customer” as pure and true of an experience as they will get as a full-time, paying account.
Depending on how your environment is set up, pilots can be run on the same platform or in an instance specifically built for paid trials. Either way, you’ll want to ensure what happens in the pilot is what will happen in a live situation. Switch-a-roos are not recommended (ever).
Finally, you are going to want to ensure you have plenty of training materials on hand to ensure a smooth pilot program.
If you are a Gong customer, this is where Gong’s call libraries are your friend. Consider setting up a pilot-specific folder of the best-of-the-best calls — easily referenceable for anyone who touches your pilot program. As your program evolves, so should your “Pilot Library.” Keep it fresh and evergreen so anyone can step in and know-how to execute.
Pricing: Oh, so important.
Disclaimer: This section may be the most obvious of all. It’s also the easiest to get wrong.
You literally cannot — CAN NOT — have a sales playbook without including pricing, specifically pricing sheets and pricing talk tracks. Let’s tackle each one briefly.
This is your one-pager (or multi-pager) that lists out your “approved/list”* pricing.
*Gong data says you should never use the phrase “list price” … unless you want to increase your sales cycle by 19%.
When it comes to pricing (and pricing sheets) there are two — sometimes three — schools of thought:
- Put it all out there, publicly, for the world to see. This screams “We have nothing to hide! We are transparent! We are all about removing friction!” Public pricing tends to be more commodity-type products and services, especially for companies who want to show their pricing is less than the competition.
- Keep pricing completely private. Who wants to be tied down to specific pricing? Also, what if our competitors see our pricing? The horror! I kid, but there may be legit reasons why you don’t want to publicize your pricing. In fact, keeping your pricing from public view eliminates customers who are “window shopping,” just looking for a good deal. Full disclosure: We don’t publish our pricing here at Gong, but we are more than happy to build a custom pricing proposal for you!
- Some public, with a “call for customized pricing” language: This “hybrid” model seems to be the most common. We’ll give you a taste of our pricing (“See, we are transparent!”), but reserve the right to customize (“We are flexible, too!”). This model weeds out the price-shoppers, but keeps others intrigued hopefully long enough to “learn more.”
No matter your corporate stance on where your price sheet lives, you still need one as part of the sales playbook to have at the ready for all sales reps.
Also, your price sheet should be reviewed and updated regularly — as the market changes, as new products and services are introduced, etc.
Pricing talk track
This is how you talk about your pricing. Do you lead with it? Intentionally avoid talking about it until a specific stage? The pricing talk track serves as your team’s guide for, well, talking about pricing.
The pricing talk track is an important part of your sales playbook. Ideally, every single person on the sales team should have it memorized.
But we don’t live in an ideal world.
Your sales playbook must must must include a library of your best pricing conversations. Gong customers drop conversations that best incorporate the pricing talk track into an easy-to-access folder so new reps can learn from the top salespeople. But even the top reps can hone their skills.
The pricing talk track library of calls is for EVERYONE.
The top sales teams ensure that everyone is continuously sharpening their skills and pricing is a key component of this self-improvement.
Bonus pro tips around pricing:
- Include price in your discovery calls
- Discuss price, but don’t lead with it
Double bonus: Check out our 7 data-backed tips for perfect pricing calls in this free Pricing Cheat Sheet.
Templates: Keep these at hand
Next up in your sales playbook are templates, specifically email and presentation deck templates.
Think of your templates as (branded, vetted, best practice) starting points for your sales toolbox. Depending on how your team creates these templates, they can be used “as is” or modified to fit the situation.
Emails can be tricky to write from scratch. Do you include a salutation or just get right to the goods? Generally speaking, emails should be short… but how short? What’s the ideal email length? What about the subject line — direct and to the point or mysterious and intriguing?
Oh, and not all emails are created equal:
- Cold vs. warm vs. hot
- Outbound vs. inbound reply
- Automated vs. personalized
- One-off vs. mass “blast”
And then, one of the most important parts of an email — the call to action (CTA).
Do you ask for a meeting using a specific day and time (aka, specific CTA) or do you ask for a meeting “sometime next week” (open-ended CTA)? But what about the interest CTA (“Are you interested in learning more about X?”)?
The short answer to the best CTA is it depends on where you are in the sales cycle. We detailed it all in this blog post.
Need a bit more help with your email CTAs? Here is our 43 effective email CTAs cheat sheet.
The best way to standardize the email process around best practices — proven tactics that work best for your industry, your product, and your team — is to create email templates.
Sales Deck Templates
PowerPoint or Google Presentation or PDFs… whatever “deck” you use to share with future customers, your sales playbook must include all of ‘em. Here’s a sales deck template to help get you started.
These decks are your guideposts. They are often pre-vetted/approved by the powers-that-be so they can easily be used “as is.” However, it’s important they are updated regularly — new features, new logos, more customer stories, the most up-to-date industry data, and metrics, new studies, and so on.
And you won’t be surprised by this (you KNOW us!), but we have a pretty sweet Sales Proposal Template you can grab here.
P.S: Speaking of templates … grab Gong’s 8 best sales templates of all time (including our most-downloaded of 2020). They are free (no need to reinvent the wheel).
Product Demos: Not one-size-fits-all!
I used to work at an early-stage startup that would hit a Gong (no relation, I promise) every time a prospect filled out the demo request form.
I kid you not.
As a new company with a new sales department… with a handful of demo requests per day, the Gong sound was pretty exciting and motivating. As we grew, the Gong went away — who wants to hear that noise 50x per day?
Anyway, I share that story because no matter what sales organization you are part of when someone requests a demo they are automagically dumped into the “hot lead” category.
A prospect who is ASKING to see a demo of your (amazing, incredible, best-of-the-best) software or service, you jump all over it.
Which is even more of a reason to be 100% dialed in when it comes to all things demo: pre-recorded demos, live demos, use case mapping, demo flow, and so on.
Playbook must-haves include:
- qualifying questions to determine where to start the demo
- demo flows by persona, by use case talk track, etc
- customer stories to back up each use case
- use the “inverted pyramid” demo
Qualifying questions: Novice sales folks dive right into the demo. They plow through the script without even considering what the buyer is interested in. They “check the demo box,” if you will. Top sales reps take the time to understand where each prospect is… how much they know (or don’t know) about your product/service/offering. The best reps customize and personalize each demo so it’s as relevant for the buyer. They ask qualifying questions to better understand where to start the demo.
Need help getting started? Grab these 43 sales qualifying questions to focus your team on the RIGHT buyers ASAP.
Demos flows: Again, not all demos will have the same (scripted!) flow. Demos look and sound different based on buyer personas and use cases (the ones that were pre-vetted during the discovery pre-demo and “asking qualifying questions” stages. A demo to a junior manager may MUST be different from one to a C-suite member.
Customer stories: The same goes with customer stories. Ideally, your team has a stockpile of killer customer stories — enough to be able to pluck the (near) perfect one depending on who you are giving the demo to (CEO vs. manager, Fortune 500 vs startup). It’s also important that the way to customer story is shared is one that’s been proven (with data) to be the most effective approach.
All of the above are where your call recordings come into play. Consider separate folders (and subfolders) for the categories above, each with your best-of-the-best examples.
Inverted Pyramid: In 7 Elements Of “Insanely” Persuasive Sales Product Demos, we suggest flipping the sales product demo upside down. This “inverted pyramid” starts with the outcome and lets the conversation unfold as dictated by the buyer. This is the opposite of how most demos are run… all lead up, anticipation-building. The problem with this approach is your buyer may be asleep (having lost all interest) before you got the end!
Start your sales product demo with the problem you spent the most time on during discovery. This “solution mapping” approach gets you straight to the point.
Your buyers will appreciate you… and so will your quota.
Messaging: Deliver the perfect sales pitch
What you say is important; word matter.
And while the words you use are critical, how you communicate those words can be the difference between just missing your quota and blowing it out of the water.
You are reading this now, so “just missing your quota” is really not an option.
According to Dictionary.com, messaging is “a system or process of transmitting messages, especially electronically, by computer, telephone, television cable, etc.”
Talking. Writing. Texting.
You get the picture.
As salespeople, “messaging” is just what we do. We talk. We email. We give live demos. We make sales calls. We send emails and texts.
Nailing the sales pitch talk track — while making it your own (natural sounding, not forced) — is huuuuuuge.
But which talk tracks do you use? It depends. Which pain points are you trying to solve? What issues are specific to your buyer’s segment or vertical?
So. Many. Questions.
Gong’s library of talk tracks is your answer to ensuring your messaging is on point and evergreen. Use the library to save your sales reps best calls — examples of messaging that (a) moved deals through the pipeline, and/or (b) closed deals.
You’ll want to organize your folders and sub-folders (and sub-sub folders) based on features/products as well as segments/verticals.
Ideally, you want to make it silly easy for a sales rep to search the talk track library to find the messaging that works for the specific buyer based on the product or feature that’s most important, broken down by segment or vertical.
Your sales pitch is integral to garnering interest and moving deals forward.
P.S. Don’t forget about certifications. These mini-trainings are designed for your sales team to confirm they’ve completed something (new messaging training, for instance). We suggest keeping it simple — a handful of multiple choice questions to make sure they’re up-to-date.
Objections: Step in prepared
It’s rare in sales to have a buyer NOT object to something you are offering — price, timing, competitor… whatever.
Objections — and the handling of those objections (aka, “objection handling”) – separates the B and C reps from the A/A+ folks.
A few years back, we shared the 12 best objection handling skills.
That post is (still) relevant today and chock full with some great advice. Be sure to check it out (and then come back here).
Okay. You’re back!
One thing you’ll want to add to your sales playbook arsenal is a collection of how to best handle every single possible objection a buyer may toss at your sales reps.
A word about objections: there are generic objections (think: budget, timing, agreement length, “not interested,” “I need to think about it”) as well as ones specific to your sales cycle (think: competitor comparisons, privacy/security concerns that are specific to the data your product manages, competing priorities for your ICP, and so on).
Your sales playbook must address all kinds of objections your team may face. You need a dialed in, up-to-date, talk (and email) track for all of ‘em.
Pro tip: Have your reps review best-of-the-best calls so they can see (and hear) how top performers on the team handle common objections. And replicate winning behaviors.
Use data to inform how you reply to objections. Your pipeline will thank you.
Start Your Sales Playbook
You did it. If you are reading this far, you have everything you need to build your sales playbook.
Have most of your playbook dialed up, but need to tighten a few screws? No problem. Head back up to read the section that needs more attention.
Build a thorough sales playbook and you’ll be ahead of 90% of sales organizations.
Use real-life examples of best-practices and you’ll jump to the top 1%.
That’s why sales leaders LOVE Gong.
(And probably why they rated us #1 sales software on G2.)