Building Better Playbooks

When people are talking about a term that isn’t defined, they may be using the same word to talk about different things. That’s one of the root causes of failed meetings – people are sometimes more confused at the end than they were at the beginning.

“Sales force enablement” is one such term, and I’ve written about the need for a clear and precise new definition. “Playbook” is another term that sales organizations are using without a clear, commonly accepted definition.

Playbooks were ranked as the internal content service with the highest need for major redesign and improvement!


We asked the participants in our CSO Insights 2015 Sales Enablement Optimization Study to rank various internal content services by their effectiveness. The internal content assets that show the biggest need for major redesign are playbooks (26%), followed by guided selling scripts (24%), relationship maps (23%) and battle cards (23%). Others followed with less than 20% need for major redesign.

Even if both categories, “needs major redesign” and “needs improvement,” are aggregated, playbooks are on top of the list (70%), followed by relationship maps (69%), battle cards (65%) and guided selling scripts (61%).

Clarifying the term “playbook”: interactive, adaptive, tailored, and powered by technology

Playbooks are interactive tools that guide salespeople along the entire customer’s journey with the right value messaging, content and sales tools, ideally tailored to any relevant buying situation, powered by technology.

A playbook is not a big book nobody will ever read. It’s a digital tool that, ideally, is created per opportunity, depending on its stage, industry, buyer roles, business challenge, expected results, etc. One key requirement is a solid content management framework that’s designed along the customer’s journey, addressing all these buying relevant attributes. Only if such a framework exists can content be created and tailored accordingly.

Playbooks require a solid content management framework, derived from the customer’s journey

Working with clients, the topic “playbook” is often primarily discussed from a technology perspective. The assumption is that the better the technology, the better the resulting playbook should be for any given opportunity, even if the starting point is a variety of different, often unstructured content repositories that are mostly not aligned to the customer’s journey or the specific attributes of the buying situation. The underlying hope is that with such an investment in playbook technology, there won’t be a need to clean the content basement in the first place. It’s assumed that technology works like a “dry cleaner” picking up every piece of content that could possibly match the buying situation’s criteria. But hope is not a strategy, and such an assumption is not a recipe for success. Even worse, technology will make transparent what’s missing, such as, for instance, missing content for certain industries, buyer roles and customer’s journey phases.

The quality of the content itself and how well the content assets are tailored to multiple buying criteria are the critical elements that determine the quality of a playbook, and the expected sales effectiveness.

State-of-the-art content management frameworks are designed along the entire customer’s journey (from awareness phase up to implementation, adoption and usage), defining content criteria and content goals for each phase of the customer’s journey. Then, specific content types (presentations, videos, success stories, etc.) can be defined for each customer’s journey phase and all buying relevant attributes, such as different buyer roles, business challenges, expected outcomes, and relevant industries, in relevant regions. Then, we have a content taxonomy that is also a blue print for a content creation production and collaboration process.

Looking at the entire scope of a customer’s journey, it’s obvious that other functions besides marketing have to contribute content. Product management, the legal department, and sales operations may have content assets that are required in the later stages of the buying phase, and during the implementation phase. All these assets have to be in place, and they can remain in different repositories, but tagged based on the content taxonomy. Only then can playbook technology create opportunity-specific, highly valuable playbooks in an automated way that provide everything a salesperson may need to create business.

Only content in context matters. And context is defined by the customers. That’s why a customer-core content management framework is mandatory to provide highly valuable and adaptive playbooks.

Questions for you:

Have you documented your customer’s journey?

Do you have a methodology in place to ensure your description of a customer’s journey is still current?

Do your playbooks center around the customer’s journey or the sales process?

Related blog posts:

Evolving Enablement to Sales Force Enablement: The New Definition

Three Gaps That Lead to Insufficient Content Coverage and How to Fix Them

The Dark Side Of Enablement: Why You Need An Enablement Production Process

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