If you want to make it to the SuperBowl, your football team needs plays that work.
If you want to build a predictable revenue pipeline, you need a sales messaging playbook that your team follows and believes in.
Even if your team has a playbook, is it updated, current, and relevant? Is every member of your team using and measuring each part? If you aren’t confidently answering each question, we’re here to help.
If you’re looking for a low-cost way to identify what messaging is valuable, and then enforce and scale it to empower your sales teams, create a sales messaging playbook: a comprehensive guide to sustainably producing winning sales messages.
In this blog, you’ll learn:
- How to build on what you have now, regardless of where you’re at
- What your team needs (according to the data) to be successful
- How companies at various stages use a sales playbook in practice
Many sales teams have a strategy playbook, but few have a similar guide for messaging
If your team has a strategy playbook, you’re on your way to a winning season, maybe even the playoffs.
Hubspot estimates that just over half of sales teams have a playbook, and Lucidchart adds that having one makes you about 33% more likely to close more sales.
Maybe your playbook includes an explanation of the sales team, typical customers, tech stack, value propositions, and tactics. It could outline what it means to be a salesperson at your company and how to sell your product.
Your playbook might share which sales plays to use when, but they typically fail to explain why that salesplay works (*cough cough* good messaging) or how its success can be replicated in the form of other sequences or cadences.
Having these tools is valuable, but does your team have a similar guide focused on messaging? And is it being used effectively? G2 found:
- 90% of B2B sellers don’t use sales material because it is irrelevant, outdated, and difficult to customize.
- Enterprise organizations lose over $2.3 million each year because of opportunity costs associated with underused or unused marketing content.
- Only 35% of sales teams track the effectiveness of their content.
- 84% of sales executives cited content search and utilization as the top productivity improvement area.
This means your sales reps could be going rogue, trying to survive by creating their own sales messaging. They’re likely not measuring it. As a result, it’s nearly impossible to determine:
- What messages are leading to booked meetings.
- What messages are closing valuable doors.
- How to act on those insights to scale the best sales messages for higher rates of engagement and meetings booked.
So, is your team throwing this Hail Mary? If you just keep trying to throw more, odds are you’re angering your fans, and those ineffective messages are growing your unsubscribe list.
This strategy, if you want to call it that, costs you; 58% of pipeline stalls because reps can’t add value. But this cost is completely avoidable, and it’s a relatively easy fix.
Your messaging playbook should set clear expectations across teams and retain confidence that everyone is communicating effectively with their prospects.
Sales messaging playbooks help explain your email performance
How did your team do last year? Across the board, one in four reps exceeded quota. Sound familiar? In some cases, this was due to low levels of activity; 66.7% of survey respondents said they had reached out to 250 or fewer leads in the past year (Ouch!).
If that’s not you, and your team is reaching their activity goals, are you getting the results you want?
There are other factors at play, but the issue could be that your sales messages are ineffective. Look at the metrics. If your team has a sales engagement platform (SEP), then you can clearly see opens, clicks, and replies on every individual email template as well as on overall sequences or cadences.
In creating a sales messaging playbook, start with the messages you’re using today. What messages lead to higher engagement? From there, form a hypothesis and design A/B tests. The results of these experiments, along with independent research, will help to establish your baseline best practices.
Here are a few common examples of issues and likely causes:
- Low open rates → Unappealing subject lines
- Low reply rates → Unclear or undesirable calls to action
- Decent reply rates but with negative sentiment → Offers of value or social proof are not compelling
- Decent reply rates with positive sentiment, but few meetings → Wrong persona
After testing, document your results in your playbook and adjust your content library to reflect lessons learned. You should see trends reversing and staying out of new sequences. If you do, then it’s time for a new hypothesis to test a different variable.
Sales messaging playbooks set expectations, guide messaging creation, and outline standards for experimentation
60% of salespeople stick with what has worked for them in the past. To avoid getting stagnant, your messaging needs to evolve constantly. Testing is not once and done.
Analyze what’s continuing to work, what’s not, and make minor changes. But, beware: it’s also possible to change too often and too quickly, missing opportunities to learn from every adjustment.
To find balance, start with the best practices you’re confident in; those aren’t going to change. Set boundaries for those; they’re your “laws” of messaging and will be the foundation you build from in the future.
From there, determine areas of growth and experiment, usually with A/B or split testing. Establish a framework for that experimentation: how will you create hypotheses? What’s the minimum send volume before an experiment can be stopped? This ensures your content creators are thinking things through and making the most of the data gleaned.
For instance, your team’s baseline might be to send lengthier sales emails, but you realize a few shorter templates are performing well. Design an A/B test with this hypothesis: “By shortening our email length by 50%, we expect to see an increase of .5% or more in our reply rates.”
Once you run the test with shortened B templates, interpret the results, and apply them to another sequence or cadence. After you’ve validated the hypothesis, set a new best practice for email length at X number of sentences. With enough time and validation, that may even become a “law.”
However, if you don’t see the change you were expecting, then it’s time to identify another variable for further experimentation. This process should continue until your “laws” and best practices are well established.
Sales messaging playbooks support enablement and reduce ramp time
When your reps could be generating revenue, how much time are they spending on emails instead? Studies show the average rep spends about 20% of their time writing emails. Even if your org enables teams with templates (just over half of orgs do), reps are constantly spending time writing emails from scratch.
No matter how well you nail down the “official” content reps are supposed to use, they will still create their own messages. Does your onboarding plan cover this? Because one in four reps feel like they haven’t been properly trained to do the job.
So unless you plan on hiring a full-time editor, you need a quick and dirty enablement resource to help them write well.
A robust sales messaging playbook will include best practices around writing email templates and snippets, including standards to follow in these areas:
- Effective subject lines
- Appropriate greetings
- “Hooks” that have worked for other reps
- Value propositions, matched with the appropriate persona
- Engaging calls to action
- Approved sign-offs
Your sales messaging playbook should also address elements like tone, length, the use of hyper-links and images, and other variables that have a significant impact on deliverability, opens, clicks, and replies.
From these standards, your reps can confidently compose sales emails on their own. By removing guesswork about effective subject lines and sign-offs, you will save them a lot of time, so they can do what you hired them to do: sell.
Sales messaging playbooks align sales, marketing, and operations
Are you sitting down for this one? Misalignment between sales and marketing costs about $1 trillion each year in wasted marketing resources and decreased sales productivity. On the other hand, sales teams who work closely with marketing see 41% greater growth toward their quotas.
One of the ways teams facilitate greater cross-team collaboration is through sales messaging playbooks. An org’s playbook should establish shared language and expectations between sales and marketing.
Your sales messaging playbook should outline a process for assigning specific ownership, both for tactics and goals, to individual contributors on each team. In moments of disagreement, this is a clear and accountable way of resolving disputes or deciding who gets to make a decision on how to move forward.
By spelling out exactly what role each team plays, and to what metrics each would be held accountable, it lowers the chance multiple teammates will waste time and energy trying things that have already been disproven to be effective.
What Sales Messaging Playbooks Look Like in the Real (B2B) World
Case Study: Enterprise client
To illustrate the way a sales messaging playbook could benefit your team, here’s an example from one of our enterprise clients. We stepped in as a temporary “mission control,” helping them to create both a content supply chain and a sales messaging playbook.
This company likes to experiment and make data-driven changes. They have hundreds of reps across the globe, and they have to set standards for how this innovative culture applies to content creation. Their playbook outlines how to run and learn from an A/B test, and it also establishes practices for documenting results so everyone else in the company knows what works as soon as possible.
They allowed for a high degree of rep-driven content creation, but they needed an accountability layer. With new sequences regularly coming out of each region, central programming staff weren’t able to keep up with volume. With a sales messaging playbook, sales managers were able to step into a quality-assurance role for their own teams, saving resources. They didn’t need to hire additional headcount to fulfill a global quality-assurance role.
Case Study: Startup
On the other end of the spectrum, we recently worked with a four-person team on the verge of rapid growth. When they came to us, each rep was writing their own sales messaging. The team lead contacted us because they wanted to grow, but they knew they couldn’t without a well-established process that could scale with them.
This proactive sales leader knew that, each time she answered someone’s question and didn’t document the answer in a shared and accessible location, it would come up again, and her time was being wasted. So, she worked with our team to make decisions about content best practices and guidelines, document them, and prepare to ramp up an incoming class of fresh sales talent.
When her team grows to meet demand, she will have confidence, knowing she’s removed the guesswork and many opportunities for independent, isolated decision-making to derail what she knows is her core sales message. While there will always be room for adjustment, experimentation, and improvement, she will have a consistent baseline and confident predictability even in the face of significant change.
Making it work for you
Whether your team is on the verge of winning the Superbowl for sales emails, or you’re a rag-tag group of renegades figuring it out a sentence at a time, a sales messaging playbook is your next step for solidifying what you know today and outlining the frontiers you still need to explore with thoughtful experimentation.
That’s why we’ve created this free template for you to download, adapt, and apply. If we can help along the way, reach out to our team of experts. We can help you confidently face your goals with the assurance that your sales reps are as equipped as possible to share your company’s value with those who need it most.