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Startup CEOs: Create a Killer Sales Playbook and Pass the Baton to Sales

How to Create and Implement a Killer Sales Playbook | Janice Mars | SalesLatitude

How to Create and Implement a Killer Sales Playbook | Janice Mars | SalesLatitudeYou’re the CEO of a startup company who has developed an amazing product or service. It satisfies a need in the marketplace that has been woefully underserved. You go to market, make lots of connections, and fill your pipeline with opportunities that require your products and/or services. Those deals close and your customers are very happy with the outcome. All this knowledge and experience is in your head and much of it is just plain intuitive for you.

Then, you hire a sales person to help you with selling but their pipeline is not as robust and deals aren’t closing as quickly. You share with your sales person all that you have done to be successful, but you’re still not getting the traction you were hoping for. And, to make matters worse, now that you have customers, you need to spend time on other things like marketing, implementation, product development and running the company, among other things.

Don’t fret. You are absolutely not alone. Here are some best practices for creating and implementing a sales playbook that will help guide your new sales person or future sales team.

Start with a Foundation

A sales playbook leverages the best practices, processes and methodologies that you used when you initially (and successfully) launched and sold your new product or service. Your sales playbook should not boil the ocean. It should be easy to use and actionable. It should be dynamic and adaptable, evolving over time.

Start by gathering and documenting all that you have done to date. Some material may be basic and some may be more detailed. At a minimum, bring it all together to see what you have at this point in time. Some examples include:

  • Sales process
  • Marketing materials, proposals and presentations
  • Value proposition
  • Customer analysis
  • Competitive analysis
  • Current workflow including systems
  • Historical performance, if available

Expand on the Basics

Once you have the basics figured out, you’ll need to expand on them to get a more complete picture. Creating a formal sales process is a great first step. Ensure that you document, at a minimum, your sales stages, the key sales activities that made you successful, and corresponding verifiable outcomes to gauge your buyers’ engagement at every stage in the sales process.

Then take a look at your marketing materials, proposals, and presentations. Make sure they are based on the buyer’s point of view versus your company’s perspective. The same goes with your company offer and value proposition. If these are not in the voice of the customer, then look at how to change that.

Analyze Customers and Competitors

Develop a detailed ideal customer profile and up to three buyer personas or “avatars” to describe why each of these customer types typically buy from you. This should explain their typical pain points and preferences, and the critical business issues they are trying to solve. Include examples of questions that will draw out the buyer’s business needs and pain and points, market trends and insights that may be useful. Don’t forget to document success stories that show how other similar customers have implemented your product or service to attain their desired business outcome.

Detail up to three competitors including how they position themselves in the market, typical moves by each competitor, and recommendations you have used successfully to counter each of their moves.

Highlight Best Practices

And finally, make sure you highlight any proven best practices that have helped to qualify, move the sale through the pipeline or close. It may be samples of first emails that you have used successfully, subsequent emails to particular buyer personas, or sales tips and techniques. Identify a handful to get started and ensure the ones you select will help the sales team be more efficient and effective.

Put Your Sales Playbook into Action

Now the tougher part: getting your sales people to adopt and use the playbook. Implementation starts with you – the top of the organization – and will require messaging around “what’s in it for them” (WIIFT), how it will be implemented in the field, used and measured. At a minimum, you should do the following:

  • Set objectives for the next 30-60-90 days.
  • Identify what support is needed to successfully meet these objectives.
  • Establish metrics to track successful usage of the sales playbook and evaluate the success of your 30-60-90 day plan.
  • Review pipeline quality and how to best proceed utilizing the sales playbook and determining any modifications required.
  • Set up a quarterly review of the playbook to adjust any pieces or parts that requires it.

Pass the Baton

There are many ways to complete a sales playbook. You can do it yourself or hire a sales consultant to help. But whatever you do, ensure it is easy to use so that it can be used for onboarding new sales people, streamlining the sales process, enabling your sales team to proactively solve problems and share insights and solutions, and providing a consistent, objective basis for ongoing coaching.

As CEO or president of your company, you cannot do it all. Your sales team needs your help to get them up to speed and successful quickly. Use the sales playbook as your first step to passing the best practice “baton” to your sales team.


Janice Mars, Principal and Founder of SalesLatitude, is a sales performance improvement consultant and change agent focused on growing top performers to impact bottom line growth. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior business and sales executive, she helps companies build successful sales teams by maximizing their time and resources, selling from the buyer’s point of view, and strengthening the effectiveness of leadership. View my LinkedIn profile | Twitter


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