Katy Cesarotti | Gallery Design Studio Editor + Copywriter
Your team can prepare for the unexpected.
It’s difficult for sales and marketing teams to adapt to changing target audiences, stages of the customer journey, and new processes without missing a beat.
We break down the main components of a playbook, so you can equip your team with confidence in any situation.
What is a playbook?
A playbook is an internal guide that outlines a key company process: customer service, web content creation, or major sales accounts. It serves as an easy, on-hand reference for team members.
Just like for football, a company playbook coordinates the efforts of the entire team. It provides an overview of the main “plays” team members have to run to align everyone for success.
Why have a playbook?
For new hires, an online playbook can help speed up the training and onboarding process. Each employee shouldn’t have to chart their own course and sail blindly into their new role. A ready-to-use playbook gives them access to insights from your most experienced reps to work smarter, not harder.
One survey found that sales reps spend less than 36% of their time on revenue-generating activities—the rest of their time is consumed by admin tasks, finding marketing collateral or creating their own. Playbooks boost efficiency by combining need-to-know information and key messaging in one place, making it easier for reps to find and use.
A playbook makes it easy for you to replicate and standardize the best practices of your team. When team members have a question, they can check with the playbook first, instead of creating bottlenecks with their supervisors. Playbooks are also a crucial ongoing resource for all team members. Employees can return to the document in real time as they work on a new email campaign or navigate a sticky conversation with a customer.
If you work with freelancers or 1099 sales reps, a playbook ensures service lives up to your standards with helpful resources and use cases. 1099s will be able to answer your customer’s questions effectively, without calling for backup.
Types of playbooks
Different types of playbooks can guide readers through specific processes and meet individual goals.
A sales playbook can help reps close deals and build connection with useful materials—email templates, call scripts, and creative collateral. With a well-organized playbook, sales reps don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time they talk to a new customer.
Different “plays” might focus on sales scenarios for customers in different stages of the customer journey, with tips for explaining the urgency behind the purchase—why customers need your service and need it soon.
For more technical products, a sales playbook can also focus more exclusively on a product. For example, a software company might create a playbook that provides a detailed overview of key features, with use cases for different companies. The playbook creates a narrative to help the customer understand how they would actually use that software, walking them through the process step by step and troubleshooting any potential objections.
A marketing playbook connects your strategy to your creative. It might include an editorial calendar with what kinds of content you publish and how often. A marketing style guide covers the brand voice and tone you want for your company. A clear marketing playbook ensures your brand feels the same across channels for predictable results.
Must-Have Components for an Effective Playbook
1. The “why”
A sales playbook doesn’t need to get into the weeds of every company policy, like an employee handbook. But it should include need-to-know information about the company, your values, and what makes you special. What about your service makes you the best option over your competitors? What main points do team members need to hit in every campaign?
Set clear expectations for your employees and how you define success. What do you hope to accomplish with different initiatives throughout the customer journey? How will you be measuring your employee’s accomplishments?
2. Clear organization
It doesn’t matter how much great material is stuffed into your playbook—team members need to be able to find what they need, when they need it. If it’s too confusing, sales reps won’t use it.
A clear layout and table of contents can boost efficiency and help sales reps quickly find what they’re looking for.
3. Buyer personas
According to Salesforce, high-performing sales teams are 2.8 times more likely to have increased their focus on personalized customer interactions in the last year.
Your playbook needs to clearly explain your target audience so team members can communicate effectively. B2B sales teams might interact with a range of job titles and individuals with different degrees of decision power. Prep employees with an understanding of the customers’ main challenges, objections, and needs you can solve.
4. Guidelines and common processes
Whether for your sales or marketing teams, effective playbooks equip your employees to handle common scenarios. Offer guidelines that walk team members through common situations. What timelines do they need to hit? What requirements does your content have to hit?
Instead of overwhelming the reader with a ton of information, playbooks use strategic visuals to simplify key messaging. Explain your reporting structure, roles, and responsibilities in a flowchart. Highlight key takeaways with graphs or pie charts. Use relevant graphics to help the reader process your meaning.
5. Keep it engaging
Your sales playbook doesn’t have to be on paper. Keep your employees keyed in and curious with a range of materials—audio, video courses, or animations to demonstrate key practices. Not everyone learns the same way, and rotating between visual and text can help team members retain information.
Your company playbook is never set in stone. Reflect on real-world use and update the playbook as your team develops new and improved strategies to get results. A great playbook can serve as an effective foundation for your company’s relationship with your team members, giving them all the support they need to flourish.
About Gallery Design Studio
We’re passionate about supporting B2B businesses with marketing and communication design. As ongoing partners, we help clients transform complex information into clean, engaging visual content. Relentlessly curious, we're inspired by experimentation and always striving to better serve our clients.
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About the Writer
Katy Cesarotti is a copywriter at Gallery Design Studio. Katy believes that, with clear and concise copy, innovators can spark emotion and drive action in their readers. She’s written for magazines, blogs and cutting-edge startups.