Getting Sales Done #4 – Organize Part 1:  The Sales Cycle

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Sales Cycle

There are five steps in David Allen’s Getting Things Done time management program. We’ve looked at the first two – Collect and Process – and fitted them quite comfortably into a “customer retention cycle” which carries your relationship through the full circle of marketing, sales, and support. Both Collect and Process equate more to marketing and lead management than to opportunity management, but the lines are grey and many of us find ourselves crossing over and back to get the job done.

The third step – Organize – is clearly the province of opportunity management. In other words, full-on sales. So let’s have a look at how we get sales done in the organize stage.

Allen’s Organize stage is built entirely around the need to get your information properly categorized and entered into a trusted system from which it can be reviewed and acted upon as appropriate. There are several concepts here that apply directly to opportunity management.

I’ll start with the first, and I think the most important – Categorize. How do you categorize an opportunity? Well, first of all, it’s an opportunity, and not a lead or a relationship. This is an important distinction. You don’t want to be selling to a lead or a relationship.

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Getting Sales Done #3 – Process:  Sales Process

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Yes No Maybe

In the previous installment, we equated David Allen’s “Collect” to identifying your leads and the need to collect every scrap of information that might result in a sales opportunity. In Allen’s Collect process, you capture every task that clutters your mind to free it from stress. In sales, you capture everything that affects your sales opportunities to increase your success, and at this first stage in selling, that means leads.

The result of this is a heap of everything from disjointed snippets of information to inquiries from ads to specific requests for information, all pointing to particular target customers who may or may not be in the market for your product/service. Heap in hand, we move to Allen’s “Process” stage, the determination of what goes where. In our profession, it’s called lead qualification.

Allen has a very specific workflow, a path to follow at this early stage in order to identify each item and decide what it is and what to do with it. Note that there is no doing at this point, only deciding and cataloging.

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Getting Sales Done #2 – Collect:  Gathering Opportunities

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Collect Collect (or Capture) is the first stage in David Allen’s popular time management process, Getting Things Done. In this stage, Allen emphasizes that everything in your mind that is task-focused must be recorded somehow in a place that isn’t your brain. A scrap of paper, a diary, your computer calendar or task list, text messaged to yourself, just somewhere external that can be later processed.

I won’t go into the background of Allen’s reasoning for this. You would be well-served to read his book for that, and for a lot of other valuable advice that doesn’t apply to our look at his concepts related to opportunity management. The purpose here is to see if there are analogous stages in sales that can be defined and implemented to make you more successful.

In sales, what do we collect that is specific to opportunity management? Leads. They are the raw material of your manufacturing process, and the product you produce is wins. Leads come from everywhere, and depending on what your customer acquisition process looks like, they might well come from you.

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Getting Sales Done #1 – Introduction

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Getting Things Done This is the first in a series of articles that will examine David Allen’s bestselling book and wildly popular time management concepts, Getting Things Done. I’m sure every profession and segment of society has their own take on applying these concepts to their specific environment, but we’ve got sort of an endorsement that relates to sales from the author himself.

From the sequel, Making It All Work:

“But can you really train someone to get things done? Can a definable set of behaviors increase that facility. Popular belief still holds that certain people are by nature more productive while others just aren’t born that way. A similar preconception used to be applied to salespeople until one day someone woke up and realized that there was a characteristic, identifiable sales process. Some individuals understood it more intuitively and spontaneously than others, but it actually involved a particular set of procedures that could be taught, learned and implemented.” (Emphasis mine.)

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Complexity Is the Enemy of Productivity

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When things become complex there is a high risk that productivity suffers. Unfortunately, selling is a very complex profession. For management, this often turns into a nightmare, and there is no doubt that in most sales organizations there is a great potential for increasing productivity. But why is it so difficult?

First, we have to look at why sales is so complex. Sales organizations are faced with dynamically changing markets and increasingly demanding customers. Every customer is different and each asks for solutions tailored to their specific problems. In response, the product spectrum must become increasingly complex.

The buying process can involve many people who focus on different aspects of the buyer’s needs, apply different criteria depending on their job, and have varying influence over the decision. On the seller’s side, there are teams involved as well which may include internal sales, engineering, after sales service, and accounting. Selling often goes across different sales channels simultaneously, with engineering houses, agents and distributors involved.

On top of all this, sales organizations have to manage many sales cycles simultaneously, all of them having a different cycle length, and each situated in a different stage.

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The Sales Productivity Category – Less Can Be More

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Productivity is the measure of the efficiency of production. If it takes me an hour to do a task, and I find a way to do it in 55 minutes, I’ve increased my productivity. In sales, production means the number of opportunities worked, and the ratio of wins to losses. Increasing my productivity means more opportunities worked in the same amount of time, and a higher number of won sales in relation to my total number of opportunities.

Sounds simple enough.

So first, increased productivity requires increased efficiency in the number of opportunities worked per unit of time. I can increase my efficiency through technology by automating tasks, or through tools to triage my leads and opportunities and separate the wheat from the chaff, or through processes that keep me organized and focused and use my time effectively, or through territory management to eliminates wasted travel time, or through … well, the list goes on and on, doesn’t it?

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