The Definitive Guide to Creating a Sales Manual in 2022

An effective sales manual can bridge a vital training gap for sales reps, especially since 25 percent of reps believe their training is insufficient. To help upgrade your sales development framework, we’ve put together a foundational guide to creating a sales manual for your new and existing reps.

Before we jump into a step-by-step outline on how to create a sales manual, let’s answer a few questions you might be asking.

What size of company or sales team needs a sales manual?

The short answer is that all teams need a sales manual. Even if you only have one rep with a few simple processes, you need a written handbook documenting those steps. For growing businesses and those with larger sales teams or more complex sales cycles, having a detailed sales training document is even more vital.

Yes, gathering information and documenting your processes can be time-consuming. But by equipping your sales team with the tools they need, you’re setting your business up for success.

What essentials should I include in my sales training materials?

Your sales manual should be a one-stop-shop collecting every detail a sales rep needs to know, from their team structure and responsibilities, to how commissions are calculated and when they can expect to get paid.

We go into much more detail in the next section, but every sales manual should include:

  • Information about your business, structure, and key people to know.
  • Product information and your competition.
  • A detailed description of your targeting, prospecting, and sales processes.
  • Rep responsibilities, behavior expectations, and legal requirements.
  • How account ownership and dispute resolution is managed.
  • Training resources: scripts, playbooks, and tech platform use (VOIP, CRM).

What are the benefits of having a sales manual?

A great sales manual will fill three key functions:

  1. Sales knowledge — A sales rep’s knowledge is a key indicator of sales team success. A sales manual is the primary reference and training for all four types of sales knowledge: product, industry, customer, and sales process knowledge.
  2. Management efficiency — Without a single source of information and training, reps are forced to constantly ask management for information. This is inefficient for both sales managers and sales reps. Instead of answering the same questions over and over in a single-use format like emails or Slack, you can direct reps to your sales manual as the single source of truth.
  3. Enforcement — If reps can’t find (or remember) your rules and policies, they won’t follow them. By clearly defining their responsibilities and expected activities, you can hold them accountable.

As you can see, a well-written sales manual plays an essential role in your sales team. Now that you know why you need one, let’s walk step by step through everything you need to know about creating your own sales manual.

The Only Sales Manual Outline You’ll Ever Need

When writing your own sales manual it can be difficult to know where to start.

The good news is that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. By filling out each of the sections listed below, you’ll end up with a working document that’s detailed, holds exactly the information your reps need, and is already organized and ready to share with your team.

Let’s get started.

Intro: The Basics

This introductory section of your sales manual should include the “how” and “why” of your business. At minimum this should include a brief company overview and history, and your product overview and pricing.

You may already have this information elsewhere. If it’s easy to read and nicely formatted you may be able to include the image files or document links directly in your sales manual. If this info is detailed in a business plan or a company website, you may be able to copy and paste. Just remember to edit so that the information you include is clear, concise, and relevant.

Also, be sure to either paste the information into your sales manual document, or link directly to the website page or online file. Avoid linking to a folder that they’ll have to sort through to find what they need. If your sales reps find your sales manual isn’t helpful (even just once or twice) they won’t use it.

Team Structure

When your sales reps have a comprehensive understanding of how your sales team functions and how it fits into your organization as a whole, it’s easier for them to collaborate and work together efficiently. That’s why detailing your sales team structure and people to know is an important part of your sales manual.

The Team Structure section should include:

  • A hierarchy chart of your sales team’s structure.
  • Each team member’s name, responsibility, and contact information.
  • Key people to know at your company and when/how to engage them.

It’s also important to include the roles and contact information of non-sales team members who your reps will need to interact with. Some examples include personnel in human resources, information technology, and accounting.

The Competition

The better sales reps can relate to their prospects, the easier it is to sell to them. Good sales reps help prospects make a successful buying decision – even if that means your company isn’t a good fit. To do this, reps need to understand the full range of options available to your prospects, and how your company fits in this lineup.

Depending on your business specifics, the info you cover in this section may include:

  • Your company’s value proposition, competitive advantages, and strengths and weaknesses compared to others in your industry.
  • Your competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, pricing, and positioning.
  • Relevant (and up-to-date) market conditions or industry trends.

Be as detailed as you need to be, but still aim to keep the information clear and easy to understand. If you overwhelm your reps with unnecessary information, they’ll be more likely to miss the important points.

Rep Responsibilities

This section of your sales manual should detail three types of rep responsibilities: duties, quotas, and targets. Duties explain what to do, quotas say how often you need to do specific duties, and targets are goals typically rewarded with bonuses.

Ideally, the key activities reps need to accomplish will be tracked within your CRM, and your sales manual should include details on how to do so. Regardless, if there is something you want or expect your sales reps to do, it needs to be clearly defined in your sales manual.

Compensation

Most good sales reps are in it for the money and really care about commission. Make sure you spend ample effort explaining commission terms as clearly as possible. It’s an important topic for sales reps, so you don’t want to be seen as brushing it aside or not explaining it well.

This section should be highly detailed, and should include:

  • How commissions are earned — For example, is it when a sale is made to a new customer, or once a new customer pays for a product?
  • When commissions are paid — Explain whether commission is paid monthly, on the 10th day of the month following the commission period, etc.
  • How commissions are calculated — For example, a 10% commission on total invoiced amount, 10% commission on net profit, etc., with an explanation of how overhead and “net” is calculated.
  • Example scenarios — Give several examples (with increasing complexity) that demonstrate how commission is earned, calculated, and paid.
  • Additional commission terms — When applicable, such as rollover clauses or commission adjustments.

Again, when it comes to compensation, it’s always best to be as specific as you can. Don’t fill this section with unnecessary fluff, but be sure to cover every single aspect that affects rep compensation. Transparency and specificity on this topic are extremely important.

Targeting

Sales reps need to understand the target demographic and how to find usable contact information. This section gives them the tools they need to do so effectively. As with many other sections in your sales manual, this is going to be highly specific to your business and targeting process.

At the very least, this section should include who to target, who to avoid targeting, and how to source leads. Depending on the complexity of your targeting process, you may also need to add information on how to use a targeting tool or lead source properly, prompts for reps to come up with targeting strategy improvements, and (if some qualified prospects are more valuable than others) an explanation of the different tiers of ideal customers.

Prospecting

Along with targeting, your reps should know how to engage targeted leads.

Your Prospecting section should detail your strategy and process for reaching leads, and it should include the lead statuses that define a lead’s position in the prospecting process.

If applicable, you may also need to cover:

  • Details for the inbound prospecting process – goals, targets, conversion process, as well as templates and snippets for responding to inbound leads.
  • Details for the outbound prospecting process – goals, targets, and cadence and sequence for outreach to leads.

If you want new sales reps to be able to sell effectively, they need to understand how prospecting works in your company, field, or industry. Don’t leave this part of their skill set to chance.

Qualifying

How will your reps know who is worth sinking their time into? By defining your qualifying criteria and process in your sales manual, you’ll be answering this question for your reps.

The Qualifying section should explain both aspects of qualifying:

  • Qualifying criteria — What makes an opportunity qualified.
  • Qualifying process — How to properly qualify an opportunity.

In addition to the criteria and process for qualification, you should also explain what to do with leads once they’ve been qualified or de-qualified. These are usually pretty straightforward, such as creating a deal in the CRM and passing the baton to an Account Executive. But no matter what, they need to be explained in writing.

Sales Process

A sales process is a step-by-step process for turning interested prospects into customers. This is essential to creating a good sales manual, and should be explained as clearly as possible. The sales process begins after a lead has been generated from prospecting, or in some cases, once they’ve been qualified. This lead becomes a prospect and now enters the sales pipeline. The sales pipeline is a series of steps (deal stages) that need to happen in order for the prospect to complete the buying process.

A simple sales pipeline will almost always include a variation of the following stages:

  1. Qualified
  2. Negotiation
  3. Closed Won (Sale Complete)
  4. Closed Lost (No Sale)

Your sales process may look similar to the above, or it may be significantly more complicated. The best sales processes are highly customized to their company. Typically you’ll need more deal stages and more sales calls for complex and expensive products, as well as for deals with multiple decision makers or complex decision-making processes.

From there, explain your sales process and how each stage works.

  • Stage definition – Explanation of what it means for a deal to be in this stage. This may be as simple as repeating the stage name. For example: A contract has been sent to the prospect.
  • Stage activities – What tasks do we perform while a deal is in this stage? For example: Follow up with the prospect to remind them to sign the contract.
  • Goals – Every stage has a primary goal. Most have a secondary goal, and some have a tertiary goal. List these goals for each stage. For example: Receive a signed contract; Get prospect to commit to signing the contract by a specific date; Determine obstacle that’s preventing the contract from being signed.
  • Next action – After we’ve completed the Stage Activities above, what’s our next action? For example: Hand deal over to the customer success team once the contract has been signed.
  • Duration (optional) – How long should a deal remain in this stage? For example: A contract must be signed within 30 days.

Unless you already have a detailed sales process, this will probably be the most time-intensive part of creating your sales manual. But even if you need to adjust your sales pipeline and deal stages later on, defining your sales process in writing is a beneficial (and necessary) step.

Workflows and SOPs

Efficient and scalable businesses have efficient and scalable processes. The more these processes are automated, the better. But whenever a human (sales rep) is involved, the process needs to be written and easily accessible.

Here are some examples of processes to include in this section:

  • How to get set up on the required tech stack.
  • How to quote customers.
  • How to process an order.
  • How to update the CRM.
  • How to fill out forms or documents.
  • How to create an invoice or other documents.
  • How to explain our contract.
  • How to request PTO.

If these processes all have their own forms or documents then you don’t need to recreate them. List them all in this section with direct links to each file.

As you document each process, consider including:

  • Step-by-step instructions — Numeric, sequential instructions are much easier to follow than paragraphs of text.
  • Screenshots — Especially when describing how to use software or an app.
  • Flowcharts — For processes that differ depending on the situation or other variables.
  • Links — Rather than just mentioning the name of documents or forms and explaining where to find them, link directly to them.
  • Videos — For more complex processes, especially in apps or software, do a screen-record video showing the process step by step.

As a bonus, documenting your processes for your sales manual often leads to immediate improvements. Once processes are written down, problems and bottlenecks are often clear and impossible to ignore.

Account Ownership

These are rules that govern which sales rep can call on which accounts. In many organizations, only one sales rep may sell to each customer or account. These rules can be complex depending on the nature of your business, but most newer sales teams just need some basic, written rules.

Teams with multiple competing reps need Account Ownership rules in order to keep reps from stepping on each other’s toes, and to keep them from annoying customers with calls or emails from multiple reps.

Account ownership rules need to cover:

  • How reps gain ownership of accounts.
  • How reps lose ownership of accounts.

Again, these are going to vary widely depending on your business model. Be as detailed as you need to be to get the information across, but don’t make account ownership rules that you aren’t willing to actively enforce.

(Optional) Sales Methodology

A sales methodology is a set of guidelines or principles for interacting with prospects or customers. Methodologies are fairly complex and require dedicated training to experience the full benefit and really “follow” the methodology, but you can still learn many new skills from reviewing them.

If your organization has chosen to use a formal sales methodology such as the Challenger Model, Solution Selling, or Sandler Method then you’ll want to dedicate this section to explaining that methodology and how it works.

Objection Handling & Value Selling

This section should include information on common objections and how to overcome them, along with specific ways to provide value to your customers.

Objection Handling When building this section, you’ll want to take every objection and concern you can think of and highlight them here. For each of them you’ll want to include:

  1. The objection.
  2. An example response.
  3. An explanation for why the example response is an ideal response.
  4. (Optional) Background on the objection.

Try to explain each objection in as much detail as possible. The more context the sales reps understand behind the objection, the better they’ll be able to handle them on the fly and come from a place of mutual understanding when speaking to the prospect about that concern.

Value Selling

While objection handling is more about responding to objections properly, value selling is hearing customer pain points or buying criteria then matching them to features of your product and end-benefits to customers. Proper objection handling keeps you from losing deals whereas well-trained value selling enables you to win deals.

Value selling is easiest to create in a simple table with the following three columns:

  1. Pain point / buying criteria — A potential customer’s issue, need, or goal that can be solved with our product.
  2. Features — Our product features that solve this issue, fulfill this need, or reach this goal.
  3. Benefit — The end-benefit to customers who use this feature to resolve this point point or buying criteria.

When working on your value selling table, keep in mind the differences between capabilities, features, and benefits. For example, if your laptop has a fingerprint scanner, it saves you the trouble of needing to type in your password when you log in. The feature here is the fingerprint scanner, the capability is unlocking your computer, and the benefit is the few seconds that the fingerprint scanner saves you versus typing in your password manually.

Of course, if you haven’t already worked through value selling or objection handling, creating this section of your sales manual is going to be somewhat time-intensive but very beneficial in the long run.

Resources

The purpose of this section is to make this manual the one-and-only document sales reps need. Inevitably your reps are going to need to use other software, reference personal documents such as contracts, and more. If you can use this section to link to every other resource your reps will ever need, you’ll have made your sales manual a very usable single source of truth.

Some common resources to link to include:

  • Sales & marketing collateral (stored in CRM, Drive, Dropbox, etc.).
  • Personal documents (employee contract, commission reports, etc.).
  • HR platform.
  • Websites for CRM, targeting, or prospecting tools.
  • Industry publications or blogs.

Basically, if it’s something your reps are going to need to reference or access, link to it under Resources.

How to format your sales manual

Don’t use multiple documents in multiple locations with multiple versions. If helpful information is difficult to find, or in numerous locations, reps will spend unnecessary time looking for them (or won’t look at all). Your sales manual should be housed in one company-wide document with links to sales-relevant external docs, URLs, etc.

Use these sections as a foundation for creating your sales manual:

  • Basics — Introduction to the role and company.
  • Team Structure — Your current sales team and key people to know.
  • Competition — Where you stand among your competitors.
  • Responsibilities — Expectations and quotas for your sales reps.
  • Compensation — How commission is earned and paid.
  • Targeting – Your target demographic and how to find their contact information.
  • Prospecting — How to find leads and engage them.
  • Qualifying — Criteria and process for ensuring an opportunity is worth your time.
  • Sales Process — The stages and processes for turning prospects into customers.
  • Workflows & SOPs — Processes and guidelines reps need to follow on a daily basis.
  • Account Ownership Rules — Rules of the hunt.
  • Methodology — How to approach selling.
  • Value Selling & Objection Handling — Tips for overcoming objections and providing value.
  • Resources — Links to anything else reps may need.

Your sales manual is a dynamic document and should be updated regularly. For this reason we don’t recommend printing your sales manual or creating it as a static PDF file. Both Notion and Google Docs are easy to update, and offer sharing options that are simple and straightforward, but there are other software platforms that have similar capabilities. Online documents are also searchable using Cmd+F or Ctrl+F, making the information even more easily accessible for your team.

Whatever platform you use to store your sales manual, it’s important to keep it organized, accessible, and a dynamic single source of information for your sales team.

In Conclusion

Creating your own sales manual takes time, but in the long run it will make your job easier. By following the steps in this detailed outline, you’ll be able to write a sales manual that accurately reflects the sales practices and policies specific to your business. By keeping this document accessible and up to date, you’ll equip your sales team to work and sell effectively.