Stop calling it a sales playbook. It’s a sales cookbook!

Stop calling it a sales playbook. It's a sales cookbook!

Sports analogies are to sales as urinal troughs are to baseball. They go hand in hand, glove on hand because a baseball game is straightforward. A basketball game is simple. Team A competes against team B. Whoever scores the most points wins.

Is it a sales playbook or a cookbook?

We compare inside sales to sports because we want sales to be as straightforward as a sports game, with a defined “winner and loser.” It’s easier for us to think of selling as a game, and selling strategies as plays in a playbook. But inside sales isn’t a sport, and treating it as such won’t get you very far in today’s sales climate, because with that mindset, it means if you win, the other person loses and that is why your buyer hates dealing with you. 

Now don’t get us wrong, we believe there is a winning element to sales. And no, not a win-win, everyone gets a trophy scenario. This winning is about succeeding in your mission. Sales is not about outplaying your prospect, it’s about making sure your prospect understands the real value your product or service brings to their daily work and personal life.”

“Sales is not about outplaying your prospect, it’s about making sure your prospect understands the real value your product or service brings to their daily work AND personal life.”

Rather than a straightforward A to B structure, selling is a complex brew of variables. And it’s only getting brothier. If you’ve been paying attention to the industry, you’ve probably noticed that sales cycles are getting longer. More stakeholders are involved in a consensus buying process.  There’s more competition, a bigger concern for ROI, and almost an expectation for customization. What was easy is now complicated. And when things get complicated, salespeople need to get creative. They need to learn how to improvise. From our perspective, plays from a sales playbook don’t allow for enough improvisation.

But cookbooks do.

Sales Recipes

Most recipes in a cookbook serve as a jumping off point. When followed to a T, these recipes (usually) produce good food. But the more familiar you are with the recipes, the better you become at playing with the ingredients to adjust the outcome. That’s what good cooks do. That’s what chefs do. They start with a basic recipe, then extrapolate, revise and modify. Experiment. That’s when stuff gets tasty!

Good inside salespeople are like chefs. They know that no matter how many sales tactics and sales strategies they memorize, there will always be a selling situation that just doesn’t fit, and they’re going to need the flexibility to experiment with different spices and flavors.  

Sales Enablement

So what are these ingredients? What the absolute heck am I really talking about? Let’s get specific. As a salesperson, your ingredients are your information–information about the prospect and their industry. Information about competitors and industry trends. And let’s not forget your secret sauce, the real value your solution brings to the table, the Why and How factor, not the What factor. Ingredients equal the information necessary to do your job at peak effectiveness.

And where do those ingredients come from? The sales enablement process–The official 2017 Sales Buzz Word of The Year! Sales Enablement is the process of gathering, organizing, and delivering salespeople the most pertinent information, data, and tools to help them sell at peak effectiveness. If done well, sales enablement supplies you with enough relevant ingredients to cook something amazing in multiple ways.

And if ingredients are information, then recipe directions are our sales strategies. Combine them and you should be able to adjust to, and overcome, any sales situation you encounter.

Sales Secret Sauce – Calm Confidence

Let’s put this idea into practice. First, a cooking scenario:

You’re making your favorite pasta dish for a dinner party. Among other ingredients, the original recipe calls for cheese and cream. You’ve already started cooking when you remember that some of your guests are vegan. People are arriving. Everyone’s hungry. But you’re good at this. You know enough recipes, and enough about food to tinker with it in the moment. Suddenly cream becomes pureed tofu. Parmesan becomes a blend of cashews, salt, and garlic powder. Problem. Solution. Happiness.

Now let’s look at the sales version of that scenario.

You’ve got a second meeting set up with your prospect. You were told it’s going to be you and your two prospects, a VP of Sales and a Director of Sales, both of whom were on the first call. You get to the office, they show you to the conference room, and suddenly three people walk in. In addition to your two prospects, they have brought the CRO. What do you do?

Because you’ve gone through solid sales enablement training, you know your ingredients well, so you take this in stride, already prepared. Having done your homework, you know your prospects pains based on their titles. More importantly, you’ve also done your research on the CRO, and know her unique pains well enough to be able to address them. You’re calm, confident, and to your surprise, excited, because you now have a major decision maker in the room. All you need to do is adjust your ingredients. It might be a good idea to sprinkle some topics that directly relate to the CRO’s pain perspectives, onto the agenda. Based on her role, perhaps you can modify a few discovery questions to confirm her pains.


See, compared to a sales cookbook, a sales playbook just isn’t as adaptable to such a situation. A playbook tends to offer very specific, guided instructions focused a specific process. Got an SLA between SDRs and AE’s? There’s a play for that. Trying to sell to folks in New York City and Birmingham, Alabama? That’s more a cookbook’s territory.

Here’s another way to think about it: Want to know why The Rock is the definitive people’s champion? Because he didn’t just stick to the book, he improvised. He played to the crowd. He was dynamic. You could even say he …. cooks. And it smells delicious.

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