Your company depends on its sales team’s performance and capabilities—in fact, sales personnel who reliably get the job done year-in and year-out are indispensable. That’s why smart companies keep sales teams highly informed about all things essential, relevant and helpful to being “smart” and effective. They supply every resource the sales team needs to do the job exceptionally well, and keep them well trained. And they do this with intentionality and deliberateness.
These are the company’s that flourish.
A thorough and well-designed sales manual is a particularly important resource for your sales team’s success—it’s where sales associates get a big part of their training, the answers and reliable information they need to do their job, and the structure necessary to ensure reliable performance.
What is a Sales Manual?
The sales manual is part policy, part procedures, part best practices, part how-to guide. It explains protocols and processes. It provides standards of performance. It keeps sales team members on the same page, and enables them to hold each other accountable (to the established standards, etc.). It can provide the foundation for measuring performance.
This is a living document that has to work. It’s a high-value tool that has to be:
- Accurate and up to date.
- Easily accessed.
- Readily available.
- Readily understood.
- Easy to read and well organized.
- Actively used.
A good sales manual informs your sales team on their relevance to the organization, gives them confidence, and binds them to the ways of your organization. It shows them how they fit in, and their pivotal role—both as individuals and team members. It should give them a real understanding of the sales function and its influence on organizational success.
It should also give them all the information, resources, technical specs, product and market information, strategies, standards, practices, rules, protocols and forms they need to do their job properly and effectively.
Finally, if you want your sales manual to be highly used and solidly understood you’ll need to make it easy to access, and easy to absorb. Printing the manual is just one way of putting it in front of the team (while this is the traditional way, it has limitations). It’s also convenient to securely post the document on your company’s web platform. This is especially useful when content is updated regularly. Posting it online also makes it easy to access anytime, anywhere, by any authorized user. Some companies even create audio files in MP3 format for their road warriors.
A strong sales manual is dynamic—it changes fairly regularly, as conditions on the ground and in the market change, as your products and services change, and as your sales professionals learn new things. All sales team members are worthy contributors, and should be encouraged (prepared) to submit ideas, updates, new data, new procedures, new competitors, etc. on a regular basis.
In fact, you should have a formal process and schedule (and, perhaps, an informal one too) for updating and revising the manual. Sales teams should be cognizant of specific information they are responsible for gathering to maintain and update the sales manual.
Don’t let your sales manual go “stale.” To be useful, relevant, and effective, it has to be current all the time. So you need to implement a process/procedure to ensure this.
Identify one person on your sales team (or within your organization, or on an independent provider) responsible for accepting and managing content/update submissions, and establish a formal inbox for submissions. This should be the person responsible for writing/editing the document. If you don’t have someone on your team, or if your team doesn’t have the time to edit and write proficiently, delegate this function to someone who can get it done reliably and to a high standard.
For more on this topic, see: Sales Manuals.