Playbooks gone wild

podcast Sep 17, 2021


Repeatable Revenue Podcast #013 - with Ray J. Green


Playbooks are all the buzz in sales, marketing, and business in general. But what exactly are they? Why do we create them? And what makes them effective (or suck)? 

In this show, Ray breaks down some of the key reasons you need playbooks to improve execution and performance with your team as well as some of the most common mistakes when creating them. 

Resources Mentioned: 

Repeatable Revenue - 


RJG: Hola. Welcome to Repeatable Revenue. Thanks for joining in.

Um, so today we're gonna talk about, um, we're gonna talk about playbooks gone wild and I'll let me start with.

Let me just give like a quick, quick high level overview, if you're not, if you're not familiar with the term playbook, um, does use pretty commonly, like in, you know, in, in sales and marketing, um, you know, some businesses, uh, run their, run the entire organization from them.

Um, when we talk about playbooks, Typically, what we're talking about is, is basically a modern term for. Like a standard operating procedure, like an SOP or something. Um, playbooks, they sound cooler and they, they aren't quite as, as rigid when you, when you put together like a, a good sales playbook. I have a lot of times you've got more context associated with it.

So it's not just a matter of, um, here's, here's the, the verbiage that we tend to use. And here are the definitions we tend to use. Um, a lot of really good playbooks actually provide some context to the person. You know, if you've just started into, in a sales organization, for example, you know, and I, I hand you a good sales playbook.

What you should be able to infer from that is. What's the general sales process. Um, how do we define things? Um, how do we, how do we define our dispositions? What are some good tracks or guides or scripts that I can be using? Well, I mean, there are, there are a whole, whole set of things that you can get into, uh, into a good sales playbook, but as a new person, I should be able to go through a good playbook and have a solid understanding of the. You know, the fundamentals of how this, this role works, how the sales organization works.

Um, and that's really, that's the case of if you're writing. Um, you know, a marketing playbook. If you're writing you. An ops playbook, whatever it is. You've got a, you know, a set of, of SLPs, a set of guidelines that help. Ramp people up more quickly and, and, you know, help, help operate in a more consistent way.

Um, and I am, I mean, hands down. I'm a huge fan of playbooks. Like, so don't, I feel like I need to establish that upfront because we'll, we'll talk a little bit about what the, you know, what the strengths and weaknesses of them, what they get, what they can be.

Um, but I am a, I'm a huge fan of playbooks and I wasn't always, um, for, you know, earlier in my career, I was kinda your, your stereotypical sales focused entrepreneur. Like, I, I. Hey, fuck it. We'll wing it. You know, and, um, and that works relatively well, right? Like that's, you know, as. If you're part of an agile. Um, you know, startup or, you know, An organization that's going through rapid change. Um, there's, you know, there's only so much that you can cement into, you know, to an SLP or to, to a set of rules.

Um, but like earlier in my career, yeah, I was like, you're, um, you know, just flying by the seat of my pants. And it wasn't until I was, I started to be tasked by, um, investor groups. To scale companies. And so when you, when you go in and you start and when you realize. Part, it's one thing to find like a one bad-ass sales unicorn to come in and, you know, And drive two, three times the sales. It's very different. If you want to build a, an organization. That is, can grow reliably and with repeatable. Uh, repeatable processes.

And, and so to scale a company, you really have to look at things in terms of systems, in terms of processes. And, you know, as a result, I really, you know, I started doing a lot of research on playbooks and, and now I'm bought in or not, you know, not in a small way, like I'm, I mean, my.

I write playbooks for clients. Um, I help, I help clients in our coaching program build their own playbooks. Uh, my, the Ari, the ebook is, you know, is, is all about systems, um, you know, in, in our coaching program. Is based entirely on making things that are repeatable. And that requires processes. That require structure that requires systems. That requires playbooks.

So, um, so I'm, you know, I'm, I'm not necessarily. Talking trash on, on playbooks as a whole. When I, when I talk about playbooks gone wild and some of the consequences of, um, you know, what, I've, what I've seen here, here lately.

Um, but like all things. You can have, you know, you can have too much of a good thing. Right. Like, so. Uh, when it comes to, when it comes to SLPs, when it comes to writing the plays that go into to a playbook. Um, you, you start thinking about what are the, what are the key elements? That need to go into a really good playbook. And why do we have them? You know, like what's, what's the reason that we're, we're gonna, we're gonna create this resource for the team or for somebody on the team.

Um, and, and one reason you create them is just to improve consistency and execution. A really good example of this may be, you know, if you've seen like the movie, the founder. And it's, you know, it's, it's a matter of breaking, um, actions down. Into the best practice for, for both the customer, the client and, and the company.

And then once you find that best practice, you want to make sure that you do that thing the same way over and over and over and in the founder. Um, you know, it's, it's, it's the story of a McDonald's and you can't, you can't scale McDonald's to the, to the extent that it's been scaled. If the fries are different at every single store. You know, so, um, improving. Uh, improving consistency. With what you're doing, improving how you execute. And making sure that the best practices that you find are, um, are, are being done in, um, in a way that are reliably, like so that the customer experience is reliable so that the brand is consistent.

Um, That's that's one reason that you want playbooks. Uh, the other reason that you want want really good playbooks is, uh, is when it comes to two. Recruiting and training and onboarding new people. Uh, the, uh, a really quick way to, to ramp people up. And I mentioned this earlier is, um, hand new people. A really in-depth and ineffective playbook. And you're the ramp up, especially with salespeople. Um, is, is exponential. You know what I mean? You can, you can cut weeks and months off of ramp up.

By taking the time on the front end to create a resource. That helps somebody that's new. Understand. What, what we do. Understand how we do it. And understand why we do it. Uh, and that, and that third piece, the contextual understanding of why certain things are done, the way that they are. Um, can be, can be effective in getting somebody on board because it's, it's one thing to hand somebody. A script, for example. Okay. Say this. It's completely something. It's something very different. To hand them a playbook with all the context of why that script works that way. Um, and you get more, you get more value out of your team because later on down the road, when they, when they have more experience with your organization, They can start to make improvements because they have a better understanding of why certain things are being done. Um, so. Consistency and execution is one. Onboarding and trading is certainly another. Um, the

other one is, you know, it's, if you have solid playbooks, It increases the value of your business. You know, if you're, if you're planning to exit in some way, Um, if you want to sell your business in a few years, Taking the time investing the time into creating a really good playbooks.

Uh, is a, is a big sign of professionalism. Um, it also helps investors or potential investors that are doing their due diligence. And looking at your company. Understand what's working. It also gives them confidence that when you sell the company. There's a way of doing things that will continue. Um, you know, a lot of, a lot of small businesses. Small midsize businesses. When, when you want to sell your company, the investors will, will knock the, the value, the valuation and the price that they want to pay for it. If they feel like there's a really big risk that when they buy it, everything's going to change. Right. Which, which makes sense. So when you have those playbooks, it can be, um, they can be worth their weight in gold when you're, when you're talking to potential investors and selling the business. Um,

That being said. Um, so this is, this is, let's talk for a second about playbooks gone wild and yes, you can ha absolutely have too much of a good thing.

Now go back to, if you go back to what, what is a playbook and it's, um, it's, uh, it's a set of guidelines to set of processes. Well, when you, when you have a set of processes that are rules, um, that guide every single thing that's happening in the company. Um, it's really easy for that to turn into, um, into, to bureaucracy and who in the hell wants bureaucracy or, um, you know, something that's over-processed. Um, and in a small business, like it's completely unnecessary.

So, um, this two stories that I'll share with you. Um, recently that were actually triggered this, this, this podcast. Uh, one is, um, I was, you know, I'm helping a client do recruit for new people for sales team. And so we, one of the, one of the members of the, of the executive team actually recommended somebody and said, Hey, I, I know somebody from a company that I worked with. Um, he, he is a rockstar, one of the best. Just a general employees that I've ever, ever had working for me. And hands down top producer, um, he's looking to make a move. Uh, and he's, I think he'd be a good, great cultural fit. Um, the sales process is really similar and he could, he could ramp up really well, has some, some, some good leadership skills.

Without shit. That's it. That's a hell of a referral, right? So I reach out immediately and I said, Hey, can we chat? We have a, we have a good, you know, 60, 70 minute call. And at the end of the call, I thought, no brainer like this guy, this guy is awesome. Um, you know, or as, as close as I'm going to get to being positive now.

You take my, my impression you take a really solid referral from somebody that, that worked with him for an extended period of time. And you add that to what is right now. Um, a, uh, an employees market. Uh, for, for finding if you're, if you've been looking for good salespeople or good people in general. Um, you probably know right now. Finding rockstars, uh, can be, can be pretty difficult, um, at every level of sales from, you know, SDRs and BDRs all the way up to, to AEs and even managers and executives.

So when one falls into your lap in my, in my view, you go, all right, like it's a fit. Cultural fit. Um, you know, the sales aptitude, everything lined up. So let's go. And so I, you know, I'm, I'm fairly new to this, to this organization. So I come back and. Uh, and, and say, Hey, I'm, I'm ready to go. Like, when can we, what can we get them started?

And the, we said, hold on, wait. It's not actually the way that we do this is we need them. This is there's a process for this. Like there's a playbook for recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and. Which I, I want to respect all the time, like as an advocate of playbooks, if you have them, certainly you should, you should adhere to them. Right.

Um, and, and so we stopped the process that, you know, we ha we had momentum on and we said, okay, let's, let's actually, the first step is you have to talk to so-and-so and then you have to take a predictive index test. Then you have to talk to somebody else, then you have to, and so we stopped the process. To for all intents and purposes, restart the process. Over here and that the ending of that story has yet to be. I was, you have to be told because we're still in that process.

But it wasn't example because my, my first thought was. Okay. Why. Why do you have all these steps? Like what's, what's the reason that you have an interview with, with this first person? Well, the first, the first one was more of a cultural fit. Well, we have, we have a couple of people that, that say we've already established that. And one person that can vouch for it with actual experience work. Then you have kind of a personality predictive type of test. What's the point of that.

The point of that is to help fill in gaps. For information that you don't know if you, if you have somebody that doesn't come to you with. A proven track record or a really strong referral from somebody in the team or something like that. Well, you want to do everything that you can to patch all the holes, get as much data as you can to. To, to mitigate it being, um, you know, it'd be an, uh, a mistake and, um, so you, so that's why you have the test, which makes sense. Um, but in this case you look at and you go, well, we. We have these, these answers or is as good as we're going to get and recruiting. You're trying to it's, there's a ton of uncertainty and that's what, that's why you have the steps. But if you can mitigate that by actual experience and acknowledge what the person will then. Didn't change it up.

Um, and, and to me that's an example of where a playbook, like the tail is wagging the dog. In this case, you know, we have the playbook to help us. To help us improve results of something. Uh, but if we have, uh, if we have better data points or a better process or an extenuating circumstance, something like that. Um, that's going to get us to better results anyway. You don't want to be, uh, so inflexible that you say, no, I'm sorry. Like. We've we've got to go back now in this case.

This isn't a big company. This is a, this is a small company. It's a small business. And going back to the. The beginning of the process. To me, it came across as very bureaucratic. Right. It came across as, um, you know, it's like that the process rules, as opposed to common sense sometimes. And that, to me, that's an example of a playbook. Gone wrong. Um, like you, you have it there.

Um, but, um, you know, it's, it's, it's, it's not, it's not helping the company improve execution or improve the consistency, or it's not going to that process. Isn't going to necessarily improve the onboarding and the training. Um, so, you know, what's what is, what is actually the point. And like I said, so that's, um, Um, that's one example.

You know, another example is, you know, recently we, we did, uh, Um, We were looking at a playbook and for another client and in the playbook. What we found was after, after looking at everything that was, that was in there all the place for all, for all intensive purposes. And then going and sitting down with the top performers. What I found is that there's this huge gap between what we say is the best way to do something. In writing and in the playbook. And what is actually driving the results. And the conversation that we had was we want, we want the top people. To adopt. The, the practices that are in the playbook.

And. Now. In certain circumstances, I might say there are times that you can say top like performance in, and of it like that. Doesn't dictate that that's always the best practice. So I'm, I completely get that. But in this case, there wasn't, there was nothing that the top performers were doing. That put the company at risk that ruined a customer experience. Like they just did it a slightly different way and it got significantly better results.

Well, what I would do is that go change the playbook. Like that's okay. We have a better way of doing things. Let's go change the playbook. In this case, they wanted to change the sales practice. And, and I fundamentally agreed and we've we've, um, we've in, in communicated that, and we're, we're, we're going to go the way of updating the playbook, not the actual practice. That's that's getting the results.

Um, but I, I share these couple of things because these playbooks can, um, can, can get to a point where they're running the business, right? Like, this is what I mean when I say playbooks gone wild,

um, a few other things that I've seen with, with playbooks that can create some challenges. Um, one is. When you have so goddamn many playbooks that no one can keep up with them all. You know, if you're, if, if you have to. Do you know, if, if, if your playbook, when you print it out is, you know, as long as the tax code. Especially if you're in a small, small, midsize business, it's, it's not serving its purpose. Um, so these, you know, 50 7300 page, uh, playbooks, and then having dozens or hundreds of them to try to document every single practice that's that's happening in the business. Um, when that starts to happen. They actually lose their power.

Um, it's th there was it's, it's been a long time, so I don't know if it's still the case, but many, many years ago it was, you know, my, my mom was having some tax issues with. With the IRS, right? She wasn't, she was a business owner and she couldn't get a straight answer and she would call people at the IRS and they'd say, well, ma'am. Um, we will give you the internal revenue service. If you're listening outside the states. Um, Well, ma'am, here's our best advice. Here's There's the answer that I'm giving you and now keep in mind. I could be wrong. And she said, you're, you're an employee. I'm calling you for the answer as well. Nobody can actually know all the rules here. Ma'am.

And that is what, like playbooks gone. Wild. Sounds like to me when, when it's too much text too much, copy too many books, too. The length of these things become novels. Um, they're, they're not being adhered to. Because nobody knows all the information that's in them, which makes them powerless. It renders them absolutely powerless. If the information isn't being transferred to the people that need to know it.

Um, the other thing is they. Another thing that I see with, with a lot of playbooks and or playbooks gone wild as I'm calling it. Um, is that they become so rigid. That they lose their power. Uh, also because no, one's. No one's changing them. No, one's no one's iterating them. The, it gets not, it's not like a flexible. You know, ongoing, like agile based type of playbook. It's we spent a ton of time. Documenting everything that we could. As it was right now, almost like a balance sheet, right? Like a balance sheet is a snapshot of the financial conditions at any given time. The next day. The balance sheet. Is no longer the same in any business. Well that's, if, if

that's the way your playbooks are that you took a snapshot and you invested a ton of effort to get, get it documented and then moved on. They will. It's just a matter of time, every day that passes, they become more relevant and the, the more inflexible they are. The, um, the more quickly they, they become obsolete.

Um, the, the other thing that I've found with playbooks is that. A lot of times. The playbooks are doing nothing more than giving a senior executive a false sense of security. Um, so, Hey, we've got to get all these things down. We've got to document all this stuff. We've got to get them into playbooks. And that, that, that exercise getting them into a documented, um, in, into a documented place. Creates this false sense of, of confidence that that's the way it's always being done. Well, there's a huge difference. Oftentimes, between what's documented in the playbook and what's actually being executed. And the, the false sense of confidence with a false sense of security or order that I have as a CEO or senior executive by getting these, these playbooks documented. Um, and I, I just, I think that, that means that's the way everyone's going to execute it. And it doesn't. Uh, that, that, that's not the way that it works all the time.

Uh, and so the conversation that I hear. Quite frequently as. Well, that's not the way it's, that's not the way it is in the playbook. That's not the way it is in the playbook. Well, there is, um, having it documented doesn't mean everyone's going to, everyone's going to be doing it that way.

So documenting it, getting it into a playbook is one step. Uh, but managing the actual execution is, is something else in entirely. And then, so is making sure that that, that playbook is, um, updated regularly. That is, it is current. That is actually the best practices that are being, um, that are being executed in the, in the business. Um, those are all things that you want to think about as a, as a CEO or a business owner. If you're, if you're going down this road.

Um, few rules of thumb.

So if you, you know, if you want to make playbooks that are going to be, that are going to be adopted by your team that are going to stand the test of time. And, um, and, and actually boost the value of the business, the way that you want. There are a few things that I would keep in mind or that I would recommend.

Um, one of them is make sure that they're agile and flexible. And there's a, there's a balance here between documenting all the processes down to a T and making sure that it's, that it's flexible, the more detailed that you're, that you're. Um, that your playbook is the less flexible. It is generally speaking.

And what I mean by that is. If you, we have a handful of, of SLPs for like social media. Right. And I go through, I record a loom video when we have specific steps to follow. Now the more detail that I include in each one of those steps. Okay. We want to use this program to do this, and then we're going to write this specific sentence and we're then we're going to use this program to do this. The more detailed each one of those is. The easier it is for that to become irrelevant. Um, because if we change one tool, we've got to go back and update the SOP. And as a business grows, Yeah. I mean, you just, you naturally start to, to let things slip through the cracks. Like we, you know, we wrote a playbook or we had our steps and at the time we were using loom to do certain things, the video recording, well, now we're doing more with Descript, so, okay. So if everything that I've put in there is loom based. Now I've got to go back and redo all those. So you want to find like the right balance for your organization. Between, um, the level of detail that you want to provide in your playbooks. And the agility that it's going to have over the overtime.

One thing that we have found is the technology that you use can actually influence that quite a bit too. Um, So there are some, there are some great tools like WorkFlowy, which is. Uh, difficult to explain it to S incredibly simple. Uh, it's like it's, you know, it's bullet points on, on, on steroids. Um, you know, you can go. You can nest things 40, 47. Um, bullets in a very, very fun, cool tool, but it's very flexible. Uh, it's very, it's very agile, uh, slight S L I S L I T is another, another, um, tool that I see. Um, company's doing some pretty good playbooks in.

The flip side to some of these other tools is, uh, something like a Google doc. Right. Like if you, if it's just one long linear. Document. Um, the less flexible it's going to be. So that's, that's something I would, I would think. But does it have search capabilities? You know, can you, can you include it in your there's some great programs, like, like notion there's some ways to. To make a sauna. Um, fairly, fairly flexible when you're talking about SOP. So the tools that you use can actually influence that too. Um, but find the right balance between, you know, the agility that you want over time and in the more agile. The more relevant. It will be. Over the longterm. And how much detail that you want to include and direct people to, to use.

Um, and then I I'd also say, keep them, keep them manageable. You know, the, no one, if no, one's read these, you know, if, if just one aspect of a sales playbook. Is 50, 60, 70 pages and there are four or five of them within the sales model itself. And a you're a small business. That's not, if no one has read them. You're going back to the tax code, right? Like it's, it's too long for anyone to, to know all of it. And if people don't know it. That means they're not adopting it, which makes them completely useless.

 Um, so I would, I would say keep them manageable in terms of, in terms of the length and in depth that you want to go to in some of these. Um, I would kind of, kind of joking about playbooks gone. Wild. You might have a playbook for playbooks, like something pretty simple or, or, or even a cadence to go back. And have an, either you or someone on your team review the playbooks quarterly or, you know, every, every six months. Just to go through block. You know, block a handful of hours or how much time you need to go through and have a write up a quick, quick overview. At your you're going to review your playbooks. Um, every month, every quarter, every year, you know, whatever, whatever it is, but have a cadence for, for going in and making sure that you're you're spot checking them to make sure they're useful.

And, um, I think more than anything, I would say. Make sure that the, the playbook reflects. The best current way. To execute that function in the business. Not cementing the playbook in as like a, a rigid set of rules by which you have to operate, even if there are better ways to do something. Um, don't let the playbook manage the business.

The playbook is a guide. It is a framework. It is a, you know, an SOP. But don't let them become so inflexible. That when there are better ways to do something. We don't do them. Because it's not in the playbook or because that's not what the playbook says.

That's, um, that's a good way to, to have, uh, a government level of, of bureaucracy in, uh, in a small business. And if you're, if you're small and you're trying to, to, to scale your company, Uh, that's going to be, uh, a huge, huge constraint for you over the long run.

So. Uh, playbooks are awesome. Um, but too much of a good thing is not good. And, um, I hope that this was helpful in terms of, um, sharing what a playbook is and how best to use them. How best to think about greeting them for your business. Um, if you have any questions, feel free to, to, to hop over to repeatable revenue or community there and join for free. And, uh, and ask away over there.

Thanks again. See you soon. Bye.



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