How to Write Sales Playbooks Your Reps Actually Want to Use


Playbooks provide the ultimate reference for consistent execution across your sales org and are critical to scaling sales enablement.

But, as important as they are, playbooks can also be the resource that ends up gathering dust on the digital shelf because no one adopts them.


All too often, it comes back to how the playbook was designed.

What is a Sales Playbook?

Playbooks are intended to be tactical, play-by-play guides for individual contributors or frontline sellers to use as they reach out and talk to prospects.

They allow you to transfer domain expertise you otherwise couldn’t without shadowing their every move.

Think about how your team should execute a given function and what you consider the best practice to be. Then, start working your way into more granular details until you have a clean, step-by-step instructional guide that can be followed precisely.

Ask yourself, “Could a new hire start tomorrow and use this playbook to complete the desired task effectively?

What a playbook isn’t

Playbooks aren’t meant to be strategic or theoretical. This isn’t the place for your strategic vision, your mission, or your high-level planning. Playbooks should provide ground-level, pragmatic instruction on how to perform one’s job effectively.

You can reference strategic things in your playbooks, but don’t zoom out too much. Otherwise, you begin to lose substance, and readership declines.

Stay disciplined in how you structure your documentation and playbooks. There should be a clear separation between company-wide documents and departmental documents, between strategic documents and tactical documents, and between training documents and process documents.

Keep everything organized and optimized for easy search. We were extremely intentional about this at Fleetio early on, and it’s made it much easier to scale our documentation as the company has grown.

5 Keys to the Perfect Playbook

Now that we know what a playbook is supposed to be (and what it isn’t), let’s look at the five secrets to creating a playbook your sales team will actually want to read.

Stay organized

To be effective and keep readers engaged, playbooks need to be clean, concise, and tightly organized.

Careful use of punctuation, grammar, and spacing is, of course, highly encouraged, as is using different font sizes for headings, quotes, links, etc. But being organized goes beyond the internal layout of the guide.

If you’re referencing a tool workflow like your CRM system, use screenshots or embed videos for an even better reading experience.

Employ branding and formatting strategies in the same way you would for your external documentation. Build a standard template for playbooks and documentation. This includes color schemes and plug-and-play layouts to ensure that all of our documentation is standardized, easy to consume, and provides an enjoyable user.

As a playbook author, your goal should be to make your reader want to read the playbook. So, make it easy on them.

Make it scalable

Always ask yourself, “How do I make sure I don’t have to come back and edit this ever again?”

The thing is, you’ll always have to come back and edit it based on process changes or adjustments in your overall org, but by asking this simple question, you’ll find that you’ll start to think more long-term about the playbook content.

Assuming your company is good at writing things down and documenting processes, playbooks should link to other documentation — or even other playbooks that have relevant content.

Break up documentation into hyper-focused, tactical playbooks, and then link them to each other to create a fragmented yet integrated narrative of how your business operates.

For example, if your account executive playbook walks through “how to log a discovery call in your CRM,” consider linking to your discovery call playbook instead of cluttering your playbook with the discovery call tactical guide.

Another good example is if your playbook on demos references your company’s value propositions. Link directly to where the value propositions are recorded instead of listing them directly in the demo playbook itself.

By doing this, you can ensure that your playbook is focused on the task at hand and is referencing the most up-to-date information across the entire organization.

One thing we do at Fleetio is to weave all of our documentation together in a company wiki to make linking easy. This also ensures that we can make updates to our playbooks efficiently and with minimal effort.

Leverage external resources

Speaking of scalability, you should leverage external resources as much as possible.

Do you use Salesforce? If so, great! They have an extensive help center with playbooks of their own. Don’t waste time writing a playbook on how to use Salesforce. Instead, write your playbook on the processes, strategies, and configurations specific to your org, and then leverage Salesforce documentation to fill in the gaps.

The partners you use have teams dedicated to their own resources and ensure they stay up to date. This keeps things scalable and frees you up to focus on the truly unique and valuable aspects of the playbook for your team.

If you create a wiki, like we did, you can insert hyperlinks to your vendor’s help documentation whenever possible.

Stay focused on your business, and let your vendors stay focused on their products. The result is a best-of-breed playbook where everyone’s expertise is leveraged in the best possible way.

Sync up your systems

Playbooks are only useful if the infrastructure supports them. Make sure required fields, validation rules, user permissions, etc., support the use case your playbook is outlining.

If they don’t, you’ll never get the adoption that you need.

Think through the intent of the playbook, and ask yourself the question we asked at the beginning of this article, “Could a new hire start tomorrow and use this playbook to effectively complete the desired task to completion?

Then, take time to walk through the process in any related systems and ensure that the process flows as expected and aligns with the desired steps outlined in your playbook.

This is where a strong partnership with your system administrator or IT team can pay dividends.

Be diligent about documenting field dependencies and relationships. This ensures your playbooks are aligned with your systems but also provides a solid foundation for a training curriculum to be built upon.

Another sneaky benefit to this is context — 5 years from now, when the team has turned over, and you’re trying to figure out why you set something up the way you did, you can refer back to the documentation to see the strategic thinking that went into the decision.

Crowdsource the content and upkeep

Delegate playbook drafting or upkeep to ambitious team members who have a desire to take on more responsibility.

Involving other members of the team in designing and building the playbook ensures a comprehensive perspective and usually results in better content. Then, you can assign a task force to routinely review and update playbooks where needed.

For playbooks that involve multiple areas of the business, don’t be reluctant to tag in experts from other departments.

For example, a sales to customer success handoff playbook or a marketing trade show follow-up campaign playbook would both be better if you got collaboration for several departments.

Your counterparts in other departments will likely appreciate the opportunity to weigh in and contribute to a playbook that will benefit their department as much as yours.

Schedule playbook reviews on a quarterly basis, and use project management tools to keep all of the discussion focused and ensure any follow-up actions are properly managed to completion.

Get Your Team Moving in the Same Direction

Playbooks aren’t a replacement for coaching or management, but they help to ensure everyone is on the same page and rowing in the same direction.

And if you keep these simple tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to building a library of well-designed, effective playbooks that will actually get used.

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