The Sales Playbooks Every Sales Team Needs

By: Dann Albright

April 16, 2019

In our latest research done in partnership with Databox, marketers and sales managers agree that playbooks improve the effectiveness and efficiency of calls, help train new salespeople and ensure product and services are correctly positioned.

Perhaps most importantly, they also agree that sales playbooks creates a better customer experience!

To figure out what playbooks companies should create, we asked 25 experts to share the situations in which they use them and how they’ve helped.

Here’s what they said:

Cold Calling Playbooks Are a Must

A cold calling playbook was the most common playbook our experts recommended.

Thoralf Lindström from Avidly shares some of the contents of his cold-calling playbook. He recommended the playbook include at least 3 things including a research and qualification step, a pitch and how to handle the objection when a prospect says they do not have time.

For research and qualification, Lindström recommends, “Start by identifying the leads that meet the right qualification criteria. Criteria will be different for each company, but common criteria are size, turnover and industry. If you do not already have that data, the playbook script should gather that data.

Lindström then recommends every company “Write down their pitch.” “Salespeople often have to call forty companies 4 times each to get through to a prospect. Scripting what your salesperson will help them be “be sharp and comfortable every time they tell it to a prospect.”

Digital marketing consultant Josh Meah uses playbooks for cold calling “because objection handling can be trained, especially when specific answers to objections are valuable.”

“Sales scripts and objection handling are the core of my sales playbooks,” says Meah. “However, there is also a lot of product intelligence, since I want my sales reps to have a complete understanding of our capabilities.”

Crystal McFerran from The 20 includes similar content in cold-calling scripts:

“I would include an outline of the buyer’s journey, as well as a step-by-step sales process map detailing each stage. Additional content should include call methodology, call scripts, qualification questions and objection handling.”

Zipwhip’s Mavis Norwich suggests a script for reps new to cold calling:

“Often times, reps are at the beginning of their sales career and are just learning the basics. The biggest challenges are helping reps learn your company’s sales process and maintain consistency in their process especially while ramping.”

“I’ve now implemented and used Costello at two companies with great success,” says Norwich. “I found using a tool has allowed me to easily create scripts for the team, ramp reps more quickly, and maintain consistency in our sales process.”

“A huge benefit has been able to quickly and easily understand if our scripts are working. Often times in creating a new script it’s a bit of guesswork and you don’t always know how effective it will be, especially when positioning a new product or value proposition.”

“A tool allows us to iterate in real time and remain active in the conversations our reps are having day in and day out!”

Scripts for New Sales Reps

Other experts also suggested providing sales playbooks with new salespeople.

“At Leap | Carpenter | Kemps Insurance Agency, we use playbooks to help train new hires,” says Adam J. Wiggins.

“Our playbooks include a detailed explanation of who our customers are, how they buy our products, our customers’ potential pain points and objections, ways to amplify their [pain] points, tips on overcoming objections, and competitor information.”

“We measure the effectiveness of our playbooks by analyzing our new hires‘ ability to describe our ideal customer, the products that are a good fit for each customer, and how they can overcome our customers’ objections. If they are fully utilizing our proven internal methodology, their sales results typically show it within the first few weeks.”

At Carolinas IT, says Jennifer Noto, “New sales reps are required to read our playbook to familiarize themselves with our sales process and services.”

“Our sales playbook is a guide for our reps to help them sell our services. It’s required for every new rep to read the entire playbook. It’s updated frequently and reps are encouraged to refer to the playbook when they have questions about a service.”

So what’s in a playbook for new sales reps?

  • “Basic expectations for the call/visit: building rapport, establishing a relationship, recommendations for core ranging, etc.” (Megan Nolan, PivotPoint Business Consulting)
  • “Call scripts, outline of deal stages and pacing between stages, demo/consultation call discovery questions, follow-up email templates, scripts for handling common objections (Anne Shenton, Ascend Inbound)

Fundera’s JD Reichenbach recommends including questions and positioning based on customer personas.

“The script would allow a new representative to learn the ropes and score early wins with a proven template for converting leads. Customer personas would allow a representative, whether new or experienced, to better engage with prospects by segmenting them based on their needs, experience, location, or other factors.”

You can also use multiple playbooks in your sales rep onboarding, says Mike from G2 Crowd. “As Trish Bertuzzi explains in her book, The Sales Development Playbook, there are two types of playbooks, a conversation playbook and a process playbook.”

“The process playbook is going to help the rep to understand the process behind your sales process. This will entail everything within your tech stack and how and when to use each.”

“A conversation playbook is going to contain all of the information for a rep around messaging, questions, personas, etc. This playbook will continually be iterated over time.”

When Mavis Norwich was at TinyPulse, she reported how it helped her not just train new reps, but assist reps in developing their career paths, “Costello has become not only a place to understand the sales process and to make improvements, but to improve our SDR’s career paths and development at the same time.”

Playbooks and Templates for Email Prospecting

“One specific area where we utilize a sales playbook is for our outbound email sequences,” says Nextiva’s Gaetano DiNardi.

“Marketing actually helps sales here by writing the messaging and measuring its performance. We also source feedback directly from the sales team and tailor the email copy based on where clients are in the sales funnel and their previous interaction with our marketing content.”

“The biggest benefit of creating a sales playbook is keeping your entire team on the same page. It’s pivotal for sales to operate synchronously and optimize their time and effort to win new accounts. Sales playbooks let us spell out best practices and give reps codified playbooks to follow so that they know what they are supposed to be doing no matter where an account is in the sales cycle.”

This is also true when you’re helping clients land sales for themselves.

“Sample emails are needed for clients to send out to prospective customers,” says ClearPivot’s Chris Strom. “Customers are making a commitment of time when choosing to read your email. Playbooks help us make sure they are well written and effective.”

Chris Heffer of LexisClick recommends using playbooks for LinkedIn prospecting, as well.

Playbook-Enabled Discovery Sessions Build Stronger Pipelines

“On a discovery call, you need to be able to gather enough information to understand the prospect’s goals, pains, plans and schedule.” says Henri Pallonen of Hehku Marketing.

“The playbook should go through every step of the phone call and have a measurable goal. On a discovery call, the goal should be to book a next meeting where you can share your plans for your customer based on their goals, pains, plans and schedule.”

“A good structure for a discovery call playbook is:

  • Opening the meeting and presenting the agenda,
  • Finding out their situation with ready-made questions,
  • Presenting how you might be able to help them,
  • Booking another meeting.”

Brian Shilling shares TSL Marketing’s includes two things in even “New Prospect Qualification” playbook, ‘A structured set of questions for a successful discovery call and a product/service battle card to delve deeper into specific needs/interests.”

“The greatest benefits we have experienced upon implementing the aforementioned process/plan include:

  • Our conversion rates to relevant sales pipeline have quadrupled (4X)
  • We have improved the overall customer experience, especially in the early stages of engagement
  • We have collected relevant intelligence about each prospect, focusing on understanding the buyer’s needs.
  • We have drastically improved the effectiveness and efficiency of Discovery Meetings/Calls
  • Consistency in the positioning of our products and services”

Cody Lamens of TINYPulse uses Costello to take discovery call improvement to the next level, “We identify the customer challenge as early as possible in our discovery calls and use playbooks to help our reps tailor their discovery process around it. These challenge-specific playbooks include a sequence of questions that we call ‘swimlanes’. They focus the call on how our software addresses that specific challenge and what impact that will have on customer’s business.”

But, what Lamens does next is the key. “To measure the impact of this approach. I measure the rate at which each ‘swimlane’ helps us convert deals. Using Costello, I can also see what is working and what is not in each playbook and continue to iterate until we get it right.”

Better Product Demo Calls with a Playbook

“We do a lot of 1-on-1 live in-person product demos,” says Dennis Seymour of SeriousMD. “A playbook helps us document what we have experienced in the field.”

“A lot of variables are encountered in the field, especially in a 1-on-1 situation. People have more specific questions because they feel more comfortable asking certain questions when we’re right in front of them. In the beginning, we weren’t always prepared for them.”

“Writing a playbook helps us convey what we’ve experienced, everything we’ve encountered from talking to thousands of clients.”

“In our medical niche, the prospects are hugely varied and being prepared for their questions gives us confidence. Being able to answer their questions is key to the sale. But, our confidence from being prepared helps us win too.”

David Zeff shares the contents of Exceed.ai’s demo call preparation playbook, which consists of a series of questions to make sure the sales rep is ready for the call:

  • Who is coming to the call and how did they find us?
  • What are their pain points? How are they addressing them today?
  • Do they have a budget allocated?
  • What is their decision timeline?
  • Who are the key decision makers? What is the purchasing process

Zeff lists a few questions for after the demo, too:

  • What do they think of our product?
  • How are you summarizing the call and what materials need to be sent over?
  • What are our next steps from there?

Uku Inbound’s Claudio Pereira also recommends using playbooks for demo calls. He recommends including an over of the company, “A brief history and summary of the company’s history, corporate philosophy, high-level mission, and organizational structure.”

Call Scripts for Call Centers

“I have created a sales toolkit/playbook for many clients. One, in particular is a call centre group in the health insurance industry– a very competitive space,” says Louise Taylor of Unbridled. “The team was performing well, but was not using a script.”

“The manager had difficulty getting a few of the team members to perform consistently.”

Using a playbook, says Taylor, “helped the team to recognise how to identify the way customers process information and make buying decisions, and tailor the script so that the sales conversation aligned with the customers’ learning styles and decision-making styles.”

“Combined with coaching and workshops, this resulted in significant growth within 6 months. The team won industry awards and made record sales.”

Playbooks for Competitive Situations

“As a Sales Development organization, we often design playbooks for our clients. One of the most impactful pieces we create is a competitor analysis report. We gather information about their competitors while making dials. Once we have a large enough data set we package it all up into a document and deliver it to our clients.”

“It’s a great value-add for us and they can use it internally to help anyone that comes across one of the competitors we found. It includes common paint points, where our client can add the most value vs competitors, and other key information they’d need to know about their competition in a handy guide. More often than not we find it in new-hire training books they put together and company “bibles” for their reps to reference.” said AJ Alonzo from demandDrive.

Playbooks for In Between Calls During Long Sales Cycles

“Since we work with B2B software and tech companies,” says Kiwi Creative’s Kaity Huff, “the sales cycle is usually long, sometimes 3–6 months, if not longer. We provide playbooks that help sales reps keep the momentum throughout that long process.”

“In a playbook meant to help sales reps nurture the sale, it’s important that we do a few things well:”

“1. It has to be client-first. While it’s tempting to create email templates and follow-up scripts asking for next steps, our playbook tactics are really focused on the client experience, first and foremost.”

“2. A playbook should always include input from salespeople up front. We never create a sales playbook without engaging sales at the onset.”

“3. Finally, anytime we create a campaign where we are expecting sales to engage and follow up, we create a campaign ‘cheat sheet.’ On that cheat sheet, we make really clear to the sales reps who is responsible for what, exactly how that campaign will be triggered, and what sales need to know about any exceptions.”

“While it may seem a little ‘old-school,’ a campaign summary sheet literally puts everyone on the same page—which means our message is that much more consistent for the user.”

Jesse Frye from SparkReaction lays out the difference between a playbook for a simpler sale, usually with a short sales cycle and a long-cycle, complex sales playbook. “While simpler sales [playbooks] might just include things like sample call questions, a few calls-to-action and some ways to position against competitors, a more complex sale requires demo scripts, company introduction material, objection handling material, detailed competitive analysis, pricing guides and customer case study examples.’

Playbooks Guide Every Step in the Sales Process

“I create sales playbooks with my clients to map the customer journey and sales process from start to finish,” says Abbie White of Sales Redefined. “This includes, lead nurturing, follow up process, value proposition, repeat sales cycles, and every aspect of the customer journey.”

“Sales Playbooks enable businesses to achieve consistent high conversion rates by capturing their success factors. It gives businesses a scalable and repeatable process which supports the growth of their business.”

CIENCE also creates sales playbooks for clients, says Eric Quanstrom. “Each and every client account they work on has at least 1 Sales Playbook per Campaign. It helps initial sales conversations with qualified prospects, daily.”

“These Playbooks contain email templates—which are further personalized to recipients, anticipated reply handling (sales objections), phone & voicemail scripts, landing page content, and conversational marketing copy for web chat.”

Zach Selch from Global Sales Mentor also recommends using sales playbooks whenever possible: “Pretty much every piece of the sales process you can either leave to chance/let the rep find his way, or you can come up with a best practice that you teach and coach to use.”

On Every Call

“We use our playbook on every sales call to explain our software design and development process to new clients,” says FullStack Labs’ David Jackson. “This helps the client understand what to expect.”

“It works really well. We regularly have new clients tell us that the reason they chose us was because of our playbook.”

After Every Call

“We have mapped every scenario that takes place after a sales call is made and for every unique scenario, we have figured out the most optimum sales guideline for them,” says Mettl’s Ketan Kapoor.

“The best part about having standard procedures or sales playbook is bringing in extreme levels of uniformity and a scientific basis for reaching people resulting in higher success rates.”

“We started developing our sales playbook initially as an experiment. The sales department was divided into two teams to understand the efficacy of using a sales playbook.”

“While we administered the use of sales playbook on one team, the others were left purely to intuitions and their personal skills in handling different individuals. The metrics were measured till 3 months to factor in the control conditions and monthly seasonal variations.”

“We saw a stark difference between—the increased conversation rates, reduced rate of the number of calls made to the number of demos accepted—of the sales team armed with the playbook vis-a-vis the team without the playbook. Not limited to these, the time spent per sales call increased surprisingly which marked a strong indication that sales calls were becoming more engaging.”

“The clients were more interested in asking and understanding the product specifications in detail to ultimately finalize the decisions about buying the product. The effects of it all showed into the business revenues and we implemented the sales playbook across the entire sales department of the organization.”

No matter when you use sales playbooks, it’s hard to deny the benefits these experts reported.

As Casey Bowden of Design Extensions said very simply, “when you have a potential new customer for your business, whatever the industry, a sales playbook is key. It helps you anticipate a prospect’s questions and know what you’re going to ask and say beforehand.”

If you haven’t created sales playbooks for your company yet, should you start the process today?

How Costello Improves Creating and Running Conversation Playbooks

CRM was built for contact management and it’s great at that job. It wasn’t built to help you have better sales conversations. During sales calls, reps have to do three things at the same time:

  • listen to a potential customer
  • remember the right questions to ask
  • and keep track of what you have/haven’t covered yet like “next steps”

Because CRM isn’t built to be used during a conversation, reps turn to ad-hoc tools like Google Docs, Evernote, and even Post-It notes to help them stay on-track during sales calls. Scrolling through Google Docs or trying to read a Post-It Note to find the right thing to say during a call distracts reps from their conversation…and as a result they don’t use the playbook.

Costello puts your conversational playbook, customer stories, and answers to objections on one screen designed specifically to be used during sales calls. It makes it easy for reps to keep calls on-track, capture notes, and sync data to Salesforce or Hubspot CRM.

After each call, Costello uses machine learning to analyze your playbook to identify what’s working so you can improve your playbook. Learn more here about how Costello can help you build and execute data driven conversational playbooks.


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    Dann Albright

Ready to Learn More?

For more information on best practices of great sales leaders, check out the Costello resources below. If you’d like to see Costello in action, request a personalized demo of our real-time sales playbook software.