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5 Reasons Sales Playbooks Go Unused

By Mark Gibson on Mar 31, 2020 9:56:37 AM

You and your colleagues spent a lot of sweat and tears building a beautiful playbook and you are proud of it... only to discover that after a couple of weeks, playbook content was not being used. A walk around the sales floor confirms your suspicions. There isn’t a playbook in sight, and after you listen to a few calls, you realize that salespeople have reverted to their old way of positioning the company and your solutions.

Feelings of Frustration and Resentment

Imagine the feelings of frustration and resentment from the various marketing and enablement stakeholders, when salespeople - having reverted to prior behavior - resume emailing and calling marketing for support on competitors, personas, handling objections, and competitive product capabilities that you know are all in the playbook.

A Collaborative Endeavor

Building a Sales Playbook is a collaborative effort requiring input from pre-sales engineers, salespeople, product marketing, customer success, and sales enablement. A typical development effort can range from 1-3 months depending on the scope and complexity of the offering. For a company with a complex B2B offering without a formal enablement team, building a playbook can be a daunting task. The following ideas are proven to drive playbook adoption and overcome the 5 reasons playbooks go unused, and they can work for you, regardless of the size of your organization.

5 Reasons Sales Playbooks go Unused

No training in using the playbook.

The reason playbooks don't get used is because salespeople do not appreciate the value of the content. Physical playbooks or .pdf's may have been shipped out to each seller and a lunch and learn is held to brief everyone on what they contain. But few salespeople will take time to understand the insights, tribal knowledge, and best practices content between the covers.
Recommendation: never provide salespeople content without training them to use it. It’s critical that all sellers are certified on their competency in understanding and using the playbook content. Immersive training on the contents of the playbook as well as post-training drip-feed quizzes and gamification will encourage salespeople to explore, find, and use the content. Iterative role-playing of various prospective sales scenarios using the material to answer quizzes and questions will elevate competency. Formal certifications will ensure content adoption. Enableocity has gamified the introduction of a playbook with the innovative and first of its kind "Sales Enablement Game". The Sales Enablement Game is the first ever customized sales training game to combine the fun of gambling-free Poker with rapid go-to-market content retention.

The Enableocity Sales Enablement Game uses playbook content to build knowledge and accelerate learning through a fun, gamified team-building event.

HubSpot Video

The playbook misses the mark

The main reason playbooks miss the mark is because there is insufficient collaborative contribution from a broad set of stakeholders including top salespeople, SE’s, and customer success. This is particularly so in complex B2B selling. Product marketing is often charged with building a sales playbook. Being product marketers, the playbook is all about the product and it misses the mark because buyers don't really care about the product until they have made a decision to buy, which is about 70% of the way through a B2B buying cycle.

Recommendation: The design point for sales playbooks are the conversations salespeople, SE’s, and CS professionals must have with buyers to answer their questions to progress through a buying cycle or resolve their concerns. These include the “why-meet?”, “why-change?” conversations, the value of a new approach, the stories of how similar customers have solved their problems, competitive alternatives, and the consequences of doing nothing. Without collaborative input from top SE’s and salespeople, much tribal knowledge remains trapped in peoples’ heads and sales ramp times are 3-4 quarters.

Salespeople flick through a few pages and can't be bothered using it.

Building a playbook is a major investment. Once a playbook is released, marketers and enablement professionals often have no way of knowing who is using the playbook, how it is being used and which content is most valuable.

Recommendations: Playbooks must be instrumented to capture metrics on usage and content consumption. Playbooks must allow salespeople to provide value ratings and give feedback, and leaderboards should gamify content consumption and top playbook users. Ideally, content consumed is trackable to deals that close so that organizations can focus on the content that works and update, change, or remove content that does not.

Quiz question used in The Sales Enablement Game
Sales Enablement Game question

No way of knowing if new messaging is being used

After a playbook is delivered, marketers and enablement teams have no way of knowing if they are being used. If sales managers don’t monitor calls to listen for messaging and new positioning usage, or a salesperson's agility in overcoming objections doesn’t increase, marketers and enablement teams have no way of knowing if messaging needs to be adjusted, or if new competitors are taking market share.
Recommendation: Record ALL sales calls in Gong.io or Chorus.ai, not just SDR calls, but AE and SE calls as well. Marketers and enablement professionals can review digital transcripts for keyword usage and analyze conversations for positioning and messaging usage. Playbook message adoption - or lack thereof - will be reflected in the recordings. Salespeople will never improve their performance if they do not listen, critique and learn from their calls.

The playbook is delivered in “long-form” in a printed .pdf

Printed playbooks are great for use in sales training, provided the contents are fresh, well laid out, and it's easy to navigate. Many playbooks are packed with useful information delivered as long form PowerPoint or Word documents, Google Docs or or in template form. While long form documents may contain lots of useful information, they suffer from three major drawbacks:

i. They quickly become obsolete after they are printed

ii. It is difficult to quickly find content you need in a 5000 word tomb with 12 point font.

Iii. Lack of structure and consistent playbook layout

Recommendations: -

1. Playbooks should be constructed in such a way that the playbook structure is uniform across different product lines. The granular content chunks will differ for each playbook, but once a salesperson has seen one playbook they can find what they need in any playbook. Content is readily accessible when published and digitally accessible in context at the point of use and available for printing in physical playbooks.

2. Playbook content should be accessible at the point of use required by the SDR, AE, SE, or CS professional. This means digital content must be accessible in Salesforce.com or CRM of choice, in Outlook or Gmail, in a Chrome browser, on a smartphone when away from the office, or via voice recognition for the visually impaired.

3. Consistent and repeated structure to the playbook enables salespeople to understand and navigate quickly and find relevant information without any training.


If you are planning to build a sales playbook, or you have a playbook that goes unused, or that misses the mark and you need help to revamp it, we can help.

Enableocity is expert in designing and co-creating playbooks that are well structured, on-point for sales conversations, always up to date, and that get used wherever the salesperson is working and creating value. Salespeople will quickly identify and gravitate to the most useful content and marketers can attribute playbook development efforts to closed won deals.

Playbook Help Button