Building an Early Sales Playbook to Scale with Your Team

A high-octane sales playbook and excellent execution can help scale most startups 10x or 100x their revenue (Salesforce.com, Zenefits, and EchoSign), but building one may appear daunting.

However cumbersome and time-consuming sales playbooks might seem, you need to have a foundational blueprint in place during your sales team’s infancy to streamline and compound your future revenue growth in a scalable manner.

According to Salesforce, nearly half of all sales teams don’t have a sales playbook. Organizations with a clear sales process in place are 33% more likely to be high performers, with an average win rate of over 50% for the majority of companies.

A playbook will help your team identify the straightest and most profitable line to more revenue, while optimizing your sales scripts and processes to handle any possible contingency along the way.

Here is a simple framework with critical components to get started on a sales playbook that will scale alongside your sales team.

Sales Playbook 101: Why Do I Need a Sales Playbook?

If you’re trying to grow to $500k in revenue, you’re likely doing things that don’t scale, often doing the nitty-gritty of testing what works and what doesn’t. In the early days of a company, you don’t have the infrastructure set to scale your sales efforts to hit meaningful milestones without your processes falling apart.

While your revenue may scale, inefficient processes will inevitably tack on increasingly higher payroll and administrative costs that could otherwise be avoided.

However, to break the threshold into the big leagues, you need a scalable and measurable means to carry your growing organization's weight. Simply put, a sales playbook is your field manual to navigate your sales team through thick and thin, and the sooner you build it, the sooner you can hit your long-term goals.

A sales playbook takes into account buyer personas, call scripts, sales funnel sequences from the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel (such as your discovery, qualification, demo, negotiation, and closing phases), and overall deal intelligence. By masterfully breaking down your sales process to its most basic elements, you can consistently analyze and optimize every aspect of your sales organization.

Step #1: Meeting of the Minds

Before you get started on building your sales playbook, you need your key stakeholders in the room (or Slack channel) with you to establish a consensus on your goals. If you’re a one-person team, you’re already a step ahead of the game.

Set S.M.A.R.T goals (Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely) goals.

Once you’ve agreed on a directionally correct path with leadership, involve your sales team in the playbook building process. Your front-line sales representatives can offer unique on-the-ground insights that can add some tangible tactical actions to what could be an otherwise nebulous high-level strategy.

Keep in mind that a great sales playbook can take up to nine months to build without prior experience or external consulting, so be sure you’ve identified who is responsible for keeping the playbook-building pace and their timeline. That role typically falls in the VP of Sales or the Founder, but it’s important that every key stakeholder has input.

Your sales playbook is home base for every function of your sales organization. The list goes on:

  1. Business overview

  2. Roles, expectations, and responsibilities

  3. Goals

  4. Team time management

  5. KPIs and sales metrics

  6. Products and pricing

  7. Messaging

  8. Meeting agendas

  9. Ideal customer profile and buyer personas

  10. Lead sourcing

  11. Lead qualification questions

  12. Objection handling best practices

  13. Scripts

  14. Top of funnel

  15. Middle of funnel

  16. Bottom of funnel

  17. Demos

  18. Sales recruitment and onboarding

  19. Compensation plans and bonus structure

  20. CRM tips and walkthroughs

Step #2: Organize Your Current Collateral

Chances are you may have some semblance of your sales playbook’s key components already– include them, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Launching a new company can get messy, and many startups eventually grow into a complex labyrinth of Google Docs, PDFs, and back-of-the-napkin math. “Just getting it done” has its costs – organizational debt, or the interest a startup pays when they incrementally outgrow their  policies, guiding documents, and structure, can accumulate to a boiling point and cost founders hours, days, or weeks of precious time that could otherwise spend on mission-critical items.

View the construction of your sales playbook as an opportunity to organize all your critical documents.

Step #3: Pick Your KPIs and Sales Metrics

Tie every individual element in your sales playbook to your ideal outcomes, and leverage KPIs and sales metrics to give you a granular understanding of what’s working and what isn’t.

KPIs and sales metrics for startups can be very basic but provide a whole world of insight into your sales organization's mechanisms and a unique perspective of your industry.

Step #4: Prepare to Stress Test

Your sales playbook must be designed to stress test any assumptions you make. Use your existing collateral such as talk tracks, buyer personas, and funnel sequences as foundational elements you can iterate on, rather than concrete processes that are set in stone.

Any subjective feedback from your current marketing collateral may differ from new strategies, so it’s important to set realistic benchmarks and use quantifiable metrics to track performance.

Step #5: Review, Iterate, and Optimize on a Regular Basis

The sales playbook kicker is that it’s never 100% complete – there is always room for improvement. It’s more than worth spending a few hours a month reviewing and updating your sales playbook.

Get scientific; measure how new strategies impact every individual component and iterate appropriately.

For example, if you find that Script B tends to have a higher open rate than Script A, tweak your sales playbook to reflect the new best benchmark.

Final Thoughts

Your sales playbook should be visible enough to your entire sales organization, but it’s still proprietary enough that you must take precautions from having it fall into the competition’s hands.

Several sales playbook tools like Qvidian and Veelo can plug into Salesforce, but if you’re starting small, Google Docs or Notion will suffice.

Installing a dynamic sales playbook will take a lot of grunt work. Start small and early, live and breathe your playbook, and you’ll find yourself scaling sales throughout the life of your sales organization.