How to Get Started With Sales Documentation

Andy Cook
April 22, 2020
How to Get Started with Sales Documentation

Drew Housman, an account executive at Animalz, a content marketing agency, has dribbled alongside Jeremy Lin as a college basketball player at Harvard, pitched stories to Hollywood showrunners as a creative assistant at Warner Bros., and written articles for ESPN and Business Insider as a freelance writer.

But when he switched roles at Animalz, from content marketing manager to the company’s first-ever account executive, he expected to set sail on the roughest voyage of his career. Housman had spent the majority of his career as a writer.

The only sales role he’d ever had was in software, and that ended a year and a half before. He also had to sell services now — not a tangible product like a SaaS solution.

Fortunately, his director of sales threw him a lifebuoy: sales documentation. And it has not only shown Housman the ropes, but also helped him build a sales pipeline so full of demand, there’s a waitlist for the company’s services.

“My transition from writer to sales would have been far less smooth if I didn’t have a well-defined sales process to follow,” Housman says. “It takes away tons of guesswork and gives you the confidence that you are making progress on your deals.”

Sales documentation can smoothly transition almost any employee on any team to sales. But that’s only one of its benefits. Read on to learn about the rest—and how to get started with sales documentation.

Getting Started With Sales Documentation

What is sales documentation?

Sales documentation is writing down anything that helps your sales team close deals. It can range from:

  • Sales processes, such as your sales methodology and methods of collaboration with other departments, to
  • Sales collateral, such as slide decks and case studies.

In a nutshell, sales documentation pinpoints the ideal sales processes and sales collateral your team should leverage to turn prospects into customers.

Why do you need sales documentation?

According to a McKinsey study, the average knowledge worker spends 19% of their time searching for and gathering information. That’s equivalent to 47.5 workdays, which is around two whole work months.

McKinsey study -- average knowledge worker spends 20% of their time searching for internal information

Fortunately, according to the same McKinsey study, an internal knowledge base can free up 35% of the time the average knowledge worker spends foraging for information. That’s equal to 16.6 workdays per year, which means your team could have an extra three weeks per year to sell.

McKinsey study - a searchable knowledge base can reduce time wasted looking for internal information by up to 35%

Even better, sales documentation also enables your team to sell better. According to Sirius Decisions, 79% of B2B buyers say the content salespeople provided was extremely influential in their purchasing decision. And since sales documentation makes it easier for your team to find the optimal sales collateral for each prospect, you’ll be able to consistently send them the most relevant content during their sales cycle.

Types of sales processes to document

Onboarding

If your company hasn’t set up a customer-facing help center yet, it’s crucial to document product knowledge in an internal wiki. For Michael Sharelis, Director of U.S. and European Sales at customer service QA software brand Playvox, it’s the first place his new hires go to learn about the product they’re about to sell.

“It’s mission-critical that your new hires know the product’s backend infrastructure so they can actually sell it,” says Sharelis. “During the very beginning stages of learning and development, this documentation essentially serves as their training and onboarding.”

Your sales methodology

At Animalz, the company compares closing a deal to cooking a meal. The salespeople are the chefs. And the sales methodology is the recipe, which is why its documented in such great detail.

“We look at our sales methodology like a recipe to a meal we love. It’s great to know, step by step, how to get the result we want,” Housman says. “And like a well-trained cook, we hope that after a while we don’t have to always refer back to the steps, or to follow them to a T. There’s always room for improvisation and experimentation as long as you stay within your proven framework.”

Here’s what that documented framework looks like:

  • What to do in the CRM when a prospect comes in
  • How to prepare for a sales call
  • How to lead a sales call (helpful questions to ask, their value proposition, which packages to offer to prospects, and an ideal way to end the call)
  • When to follow up
  • A follow-up email template
  • How to prep for a new customer

As you can see, every step of their sales methodology is carefully laid out and serves as their guide to closing deals.

Methods of collaboration with other departments

As a salesperson, collaboration is crucial for closing deals. But working with other members of your team is not enough. You must also work with other teams across your company to truly succeed. For example, the marketing team can send you helpful content for your prospects. And the product team can answer your questions about any product features you might not fully understand.

sales documentation - collaboration with other departments flowchart

With a wiki tool like Tettra, your sales team can set up a Slack channel where people can ask your product managers questions about your product. Then, your product managers can send documentation from your wiki about product features to your team without ever leaving Slack. Sending sales documentation in Slack also allows the entire sales team to access all the info the product team has provided. In other words, nothing will be siloed.

sales documentation - Tettra/Slack integration

Before you set up any methods of collaboration with other departments, though, make sure you document them, so people know that they exist and understand how to execute them.

Types of sales collateral to document

Like we mentioned before, 79% of B2B buyers report that the content provided by salespeople hugely influences their purchasing decision. With this in mind, we asked Sharelis and Housman what sales collateral they think every sales team needs to document to consistently hit their quota.

Here’s what they shared:

  • Sales decks – Lets you personalize customer calls and product demos
  • Case studies – Proves that your product or service is worth its salt
  • One-pagers – Helps prospects understand your product’s benefits and features
  • Pricing docs – Helps prospects understand if they can afford your product or not
  • Email response templates – Helps salespeople reach out to more prospects in less time

Sales collateral are like weapons in your arsenal. But if you use the wrong one or can’t find the right one in time, it could be a lethal mistake.

Always Be Documenting

As a salesperson, you always want to be closing. But before you can do that, you must always be documenting. Because, just like a great chef, you need to follow your own recipe for success. And the best way to follow that process is by documenting it first.