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Creating a Sales Manual

business.com editorial staff
business.com editorial staff

Build a winning sales force by giving your team a tool to live by

  • A sales manual is a how-to guide for your team on turning prospects into closes.
  • Sales manuals should be working drafts, and updated regularly to reflect current policies and practices.
  • Keep formatting and length in mind when creating your sales manual. Employees should find all vital information quickly and efficiently.

Your company sales manual is your sales department's "how-to" guide for achieving success.

It tells your sales reps not only what you sell, but also where, why, how and to whom. So if you don't already have one, it's time to write one. Your sales force – and your bottom line – will surely thank you because a sales manual will

  1. Put new and seasoned sales staff on the same page

  2. Help your sales team align itself properly with the rest of your company

  3. Educate your sales reps on your marketing goals and initiatives

  4. Motivate and energize your salespeople with the tools they need to seal deals

To get started, you must determine how you plan to deliver the sales manual to your team members. Get organized before deciding on what components to include in the manual. Many managers find an outline is a good way to ensure you have all the necessary information. Without organizing and creating an outline, you're likely to overstuff the manual with extraneous information.

In the draft for your outline, use the main subjects you want to cover as chapter headings, then list important points or steps as subheads. For example

Chapter 4: Keeping Consistent Sales Records

  • Importance of Record-Keeping
  • Tools for Issuing Accurate Sales Receipts
  • Follow-Up Using Sales Records

Detail what you sell

Within the sales manual, an important topic to cover is your inventory. For this chapter, along with other chapters, keep the formatting simple. People scan while reading, so use bullets and illustrations to highlight key information. Make sure information is easy to find by including a table of contents at the front of the manual.

Your sales force can't sell a product it doesn't understand. Be sure to cover in detail, among other things the product features and benefits, sales volume, production cost, wholesale and retail price, manufacturing specifications, potential defects, and return policies.

Explain to whom you sell

Your sales reps must know whom to target. Help them develop actionable leads with information on customer demographics (gender, age, income, etc.) and psychographics (lifestyle and personality), current and potential clients, consumer expectations, and market potential. This information, along with other details provided in a sales manual, is subject to change. Consistent updating is vital for an effective sales manual. Cloud-based sales manuals are preferred, since you can easily update them.

Outline how you sell

By detailing your sales methodology, values and procedures, you'll enable your sales team to maximize conversion rates of prospects to customers. Find out what works with your customers, including your preferred method of contact and how you collect sales leads, and continually update your manual as needed. Include resources that the team members can access to follow your company's preferred sales strategies. Multimedia formats are popular with modern sales manuals. Consider including outbound links to videos that demonstrate examples of a successful sales interaction. This is an improvement over including too many sales scripts that lack personality.

Describe where you sell

Equip your team with the knowledge it needs about your place of business. Are you a brick-and-mortar business? Or do you sell online? If you're the former, explain your location strategy, real estate profile and stocking procedures. If you're the latter, provide a site map of your web site, as well as detailed instructions for finding products online, using your e-commerce tools, etc.

Communicate why you sell

Your salespeople aren't just selling your products – they're selling your company, too. Provide a company history in your sales manual, complete with your mission statement and values. By this point, consider a test run with the first draft of your sales manual. Provide the materials to key members of your team and look for feedback. First and second drafts need to be interactive, since you want to confirm that staff is getting what they need out of the manual. Look for feedback not only on the information included but also the length and format. Did employees find it easy to read with important information simple to locate? Is the length appropriate? Too short or too long?

Manage who sells

A complete sales manual includes information especially for your sales team on human resources procedures, including sales-specific policies on hours, travel, expense reporting and compensation, particularly if your team works on commission.

  • Write your sales manual as if it were an instruction book or recipe so that anyone can pick it up and easily make a successful sale for your company.

  • Keep your sales manual updated; when your team learns new lessons about your sales methods and targets, log them for future versions of your manual.

  • Keep your manual confidential; make sure employees sign a confidentiality agreement, just in case.

  • Use your manual as a complement to, not a replacement for, hands-on training.
Image Credit: Atstock Productions/Shutterstock
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