How to Create Sales Documentation: Guide, Examples & Free Template
Anyone who works in sales knows that success is a collaborative effort. It takes a good deal of planning, preparation, and monetary resources to acquire new customers. At each stage of the buyer’s journey, you have expert team members to help progress toward a purchasing decision.
Even your best sales executives and closers know they can’t do it alone. We’re not only talking about inter- and intra-departmental teamwork, but also sales documentation.
What is Sales Documentation?
Sales documentation is the backbone of how your sales team operates. It gives them a readily available fountain of information to access as and when they need it. It can benefit both new hires and seasoned veterans of your agile sales department.
Start With Minimum Viable Sales Documentation
As Steli Efti, CEO of Close, says:
“Companies spend an absurd amount of time creating “the perfect” documentation . . . the silver bullet. Then they share it with their employees, expecting everyone to adopt it at the best and highest level possible.
And then—like a dream—they forget about it.”
Here’s what he recommends to avoid this: Spend one hour maximum on the initial version of everything.
Steli encourages new and growing sales teams to write a very rough first draft. Then spend about an hour every week revising, editing, and improving the scripts with your team so they actually influence the documentation. In this way, your employees take ownership of the script— they improve it and make it theirs, so it’s simple to adopt.
Consistency is key here—rather than spending an entire week etching your perfect sales script into stone tablets, spend one hour per week consistently upgrading your sales assets.
The Benefits of Sales Documentation
Creating a suite of structured sales documentation takes time and effort. You’re now asking, “what’s in it for me?”. Here’s the elevator pitch for the benefits of sales documentation.
Streamlined Sales Process
Every customer is unique, with different concerns and needs. Sales documentation helps guide your representatives no matter what curveball is thrown their way. It provides easy directions on how to get from point A to B to C, which is especially helpful when onboarding new members to the sales team.
Consistency of Brand Values and Standards
According to a Mckinsey B2B Pulse Survey, 28% of organizations have hybrid sales roles, while 64% plan to increase that number. These sales professionals must be able to adapt to dealing with prospects face-to-face as well as in the digital world.
With the nature of sales constantly evolving, it’s important that your process stays consistent.
Sales documentation ensures that every member of your team stays on-brand and delivers a consistent message to the consumer.
With documents to cover just about every situation, this prevents any reps from having to shoot from the hip or go rogue to nudge a lead further down the funnel.
Anyone in sales knows the importance of timely responses. Newer team members will need some time to learn the ropes. Sales documentation provides cheat sheets to help any sales rep quickly answer questions and resolve concerns.
Your well-experienced sales team will know everything about your products and services; however, the reality is that your products are constantly changing and improving. Sales documentation such as talk tracks gives even your best sales experts a crutch to rely on and an easy way to learn about new products or features.
More Effective Sales Pitches
Creating and maintaining structured sales documentation is an ongoing process. This means you have battleplans and playbooks that continually evolve and improve the more they are used. A combination of agent feedback and data analysis means your sales documentation only gets better over time.
Improved Experience for Prospects and Customers
Customers and prospects put a lot of time on their own into the buying process. Most of the time, they will already have their questions and concerns. They want to talk with knowledgeable representatives and get accurate information as quickly as possible.
With sales documentation, your agents can use playbooks and FAQs for quick reference or as training materials. They can also provide sales collateral materials that let prospects resolve concerns and learn more about your products on their own time. This type of flexibility goes a long way to giving each new lead a better overall customer experience.
You empower your team with tools like sales documents. By arming them with the best weapons, they can perform at a higher level. This increase in productivity results in higher conversion rates, more sales, and improved employee morale.
Examples of Sales Documentation
The main goal of sales documentation is to support your team in moving prospects along the buyer journey. But each type of sales documentation meets different needs at various stages of the sales funnel.
Scripts and Templates
Sales scripts and templates are an effective first-line offense when it comes to sales documents. Whether cold calling or taking inbound calls, these documents help set up and guide your sales agents through a pitch.
At the most basic level, they provide a spoken dialogue and a sequence of statements to follow. They are great at keeping first impressions consistent and on-brand. But no customer wants to hear a robot on the other line.
Effective sales templates provide ample flexibility for well-trained sales reps to tailor pitches for each prospect.
Sales playbooks are the foundation of any effective sales documentation strategy. These documents outline the overall strategy, tactics, ethos, and philosophy of your sales department and organization. They can work as flowcharts or guides for sales triage that guide your reps at every stage of the process.
Sales process playbooks provide a flexible roadmap full of alternative routes for team members to find, nurture, and nudge leads down the funnel.
Whereas scripts and playbooks are like guides, sales collaterals are supplemental materials that can help overcome objections and concerns. These external-facing documents aren’t always necessary, but when they do come out, their purpose is to move a prospect along on the customer journey.
One of the biggest objections that salespeople will encounter is concerns about pricing. Pricing documents give your team and potential buyers up-to-date information on costs. These at-a-glance materials include personalized and tailored pricing quotes.
These are important for buyers to use as a reference when getting all necessary stakeholders involved on board with a purchase. Pricing quote sheets also ensure a smooth transition to completing and fulfilling sales orders.
Case studies are real-world examples of the benefits of your products and services. They give prospects an in-depth look at what pain points can be overcome and accurate statistical data that informs the decision-making process.
One way to look at case studies is as the ultimate customer testimonial. As your business grows, you should continually amass case studies. In this way, you will have enough variety that sales reps can find use case example to fit any prospect.
Explainers and Product Demonstration Videos
Videos are becoming increasingly popular as a channel for self-learning. Product demonstrations and explainer videos are effective on social media platforms like YouTube or Instagram. They are also viable options as part of a sales enablement approach.
Videos can work as a two-birds-with-one-stone solution. Firstly, they can be referred to prospects to answer common questions and explain your unique selling points (USPs). Secondly, your sales team can view the videos themselves to help improve their knowledge base and understanding.
In both cases, you are facilitating the movement of prospects down the sales funnel.
Comparative Analysis Cards for Competitors
While pricing is always a point of concern, it only has weight when compared to the competition. Competitor analysis cards (or battle cards) act like flashcards for your sales team as well as brochures for your potential buyers.
Competitor comparison documents give an overall view of where your product outshines other brands. This can be in areas like pricing, features, and attached services. Comparative analysis cards can show how your product performs head-to-head with a competitor or how it rises above a group of top brands.
Competitor cards demonstrate exactly why a prospective buyer would choose your company over others.
We’re all familiar with the usefulness of online FAQs and self-help knowledge bases. They save time by providing a fast track to the most common questions, problems, and concerns that reps will face.
An FAQ section should be part of any useful sales documentation. In most cases, you can use the same information for both educating your team and giving customers a DIY channel of support.
How to Prepare a Sales Documentation Strategy
When it comes to creating a structured sales documentation strategy, you can follow a basic step-by-step process.
1. Define the Needs of Your Sales Team and Propose a Solution
Before you can solve a problem, you need to first understand and identify what issues are affecting your sales process. The next step is to look at what materials currently exist.
You may already have some forms of sales documentation, so the first place to look is at what collateral or other materials are currently missing or lacking useful information.
Ask your sales team what their most common objections and questions are from prospects. Find out what types of scenarios give your team trepidation or cause them to lose time (and possibly the lead) while digging for answers. What sales documentation types can fill in the gaps and improve your sales process?
Take this information and write a list of sales documents that need to be created and for what purposes. You can refer to this list anytime to guide your approach to documentation for each stage of the funnel.
You can use this free template of a commercial proposal example to guide problem definition and solution.
2. Pick a Sales Documentation Solution
To gain the most benefit from any strategy, you need to give your team the best tools to get the job done. There is a sea of sales document solutions to navigate through. You will want to find the one with the best and most useful features that also fit your budget.
Sales document application components to consider include:
- User interface (UI): How easy is it to construct and edit sales documents? Does the software feature a drag-and-drop editor or a more traditional document editor? You will want an intuitive, straightforward interface that requires a minimal amount of onboarding time for you and your team.
- Cloud-based: In the modern world, many of us work from anywhere and at any time. Going with a cloud-based service will allow your team to collaborate effectively regardless of where they are based. Even better is if you can find a tool that allows for group editing in real time.
- Document templates: Many solutions provide templates that streamline the process of sales document creation. This helps your team get up and running with new documentation as quickly as possible. Some solutions will have more templates than others. Look for an app that has the most relevant templates for your sales process.
- Apps and integrations: Solutions that can connect with your existing business tools will make life easier for everyone. This includes being able to connect tools like your CRM, Calendars, and workflow management software. In this way, many mundane tasks can be automated and sales reps can do most of their work from one central hub. For example, you can use a proposal generator salesforce tool to integrate pricing documents with the app of your choice. This helps automate sales quote generation, save time, and respond to leads as quickly as possible.
- Media types: As we’ve mentioned before, sales documents can include mediums like photos and video along with more traditional formats like PDFs and DOCs. Look for a documentation solution that is not only compatible with a diverse set of media formats but also makes it easy to add and edit them.
3. Prepare Scripts, Templates, and Playbooks
You may already have existing scripts and sales templates but these are typically the first place to begin. Email templates, call templates, and messaging templates should all follow the same basic formula but maximize what works in their respective channels.
All of these sales documents should also help identify scenarios and pathways for reps to convert, upsell, and cross-sell prospective customers. Remember to give your scripts and templates wiggle room so each salesperson can let their personality shine and also meet the needs of each prospect.
When creating your playbook, make sure to include criteria for customer segmentation and prospect categorization. With these initial documents in place, the top of your funnel should be primed for success.
4. Create Engaging Sales Collateral
With the first-contact documents out of the way, we can look toward the middle and bottom of the funnel. This is where you will go down your checklist of required collateral documents. Make sure you have everything to meet the common issues your team faces with converting prospects and qualifying leads.
Just like online SEO, content is king in the world of sales documents. Your end-users are both sales professionals and potential customers. You need to not only provide accurate information, but you also need to keep all of them engaged.
Documents like competitor comparison cards and case studies must be intriguing and hold the prospect’s attention. Videos like explainers and product demos should be in an easily digestible format. This means opting for short clips to make up a series rather than one much longer video.
You want your content to do more than keep a lead warm—it should nudge them along their way down the funnel one enjoyable step at a time.
5. Always Monitor and Get Feedback
The usefulness and performance of every sales document must be continually monitored and tracked. The first place to look is your sales representatives. Schedule regular meetings to get feedback on how your structured sales documentation is doing.
You should also track important metrics like conversion rates and sales. If you see a bottleneck in the process, then re-examine the related documentation.
This process should be repeated ad infinitum. After all, the pursuit of perfection is the never-ending goal of any sales strategy.
Sales Documentation Best Practices
We’ve already given you some tips and advice for building and improving your sales documents. (If you missed them, feel free to re-read them–we can wait!). With that being said, here are some of the best practices to keep in mind when implementing sales materials with your business.
Collaboration is Key
Sales documents are meant to assist your sales team with converting more prospects. As such, they are the people to work with while preparing your sales documentation. You will want to get everyone involved regardless of seniority or position.
That said, don’t forget to look outside of just sales. Your product, support, and marketing teams can all offer valuable insight into building a sales process documentation strategy.
By getting everyone onboard with the brainstorming process, you will get a diverse set of ideas. You will also get insights into the most common questions and concerns to help prioritize your sales strategy components.
Use Sales Documentation Tools
We’ve already included this above; however, we must re-emphasize the importance of using sales document software and the best sales tools. This will make issues like storage, creation, sharing, and editing a breeze for your organization.
By eliminating pain points, you will quickly implement a process of creation and implementation. And with an intuitive tool, you can expect high adoption rates from your sales team.
Prioritize Your Documents
Initially, the task of creating a fully fleshed-out sales documentation infrastructure may seem daunting. Instead of being overwhelmed, work together with your team to tackle the most pressing issues. For example, a competitor analysis card is useful but FAQs and pricing documents will likely address far many more questions.
Schedule Regular Updates
The market is in constant change. Your brand and the products and services it provides are also continually improving. This means that given enough time, your sales documentation will sour and be past its due date.
Schedule a regular documentation update to freshen content and avoid it going stale. How often you do this will depend on the size and nature of your business. For most organizations, quarterly or bi-annual revisions will fit the bill.
Regular updates will help your team stay privy to every new product and feature. They will also keep your prospects and customers informed with recent developments and accurate information.
To Err is Human
Someone once said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine”. With sales documentation, your reps can forgo the divine and eliminate errors all while staying er… human!
Don’t leave everything to chance and over-rely on your rockstar team members and sales experts. Instead, get with the program and level the playing field for everyone. Structured sales documentation will guide every team member at every stage. And it will help enable every prospect at each touchpoint on the customer journey.
Want a headstart? Get the Sales Success Kit from Close, complete with call scripts, onboarding shcedule, email templates, and a strategy template to get you started.
About the Author: Yauhen Zaremba is the Director of Demand Generation at PandaDoc. He’s been a marketer for 10+ years, and for the last five years, he’s been entirely focused on the electronic signature, proposal, PandaDoc business contract templates, and document management markets. Yauhen has experience speaking at niche conferences where he enjoys sharing his expertise with other curious marketers. And in his spare time, he is an avid fisherman and takes nearly 20 fishing trips every year.