Setting Priorities: How Do You Spend Your Selling Day?

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When I did my research for this article, trying to see what statistics are available about how sales professionals spend their time, I got some very useless information. Things like “24% of the salesperson’s time is spent on generating leads and researching accounts.” How is that useful information? First, is 24% of my time working at this too much? What is the right amount of time? And why do they bundle generating leads and researching accounts? These are very different activities with very different goals and skills.

There was a lot more of these statistics that seem, on a quick read, like valuable information. But when you stop and think about it, what benefit is it to you in your selling or sales management role? I did find some good advice, though.

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Getting Sales Done #4 – The Sales Cycle

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Sales Cycle

Ed. In the Best of this week we’re re-publishing the fourth article in the 12-part Getting Sales Done series where we looked at David Allen’s popular Getting Things Done book and applied its principles to professional sales.

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.

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5 Apps to Keep You Personally Productive

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Post It Face

Chris Hamoen wrote about his favorite iPhone apps for business last week, and that got me to thinking about what apps I use, and what for. The what for was easy – productivity. With so much to do, so little time, how can we possibly keep track of it all? Without constant reminders, alarms and notifications, I would be lucky to get to work, let alone make it through the day.

For the most part, our lives have become automated and routinized, which is good news for those of us who were not blessed with the ability to multi-task. There are hundreds, even thousands, of tools and applications to help increase productivity in our day-to-day lives. But which productivity apps are making life easier, and which are just cluttering up our daily task lists? Productivity tools are only useful if they are easy to use. Less is more and simple is better.

We cannot manage time – we can only manage ourselves. So, here is a list of five of my favourite productivity tools, the ones I use everyday to do that:

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Getting Sales Done #3 – The Sales Process

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Yes No Maybe

Ed. As you might have noticed, the “Getting Sales Done” series is slowly getting re-published in the “Best of” every Saturday. This week, we’re up to number 3 where we look at David Allen’s Process stage in Getting Things Done. The entire series is listed and linked at the end of the article.

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.

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Getting Sales Done #2 – Collect: Gathering Opportunities

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The Best of today brings back Number Two in the Getting Sales Done series. We look at David Allen’s time management step one, Collect/Capture, and discuss its relevance to sales. Not to time management in sales, but to opportunity management.

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

Ed. – The Best of today brings back the first in the series that looked at David Allen’s Getting Things Done time management process, and applied it specifically to opportunity management. This was a 12-part series, and we’ll bring back other installments as we go. Links to all of the articles in the series are added at the end.

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.

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Getting Sales Done #12 – Action Part 3: Making the Close

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Alec Baldwin

This is it – the last in my series on Getting Sales Done. The previous eleven articles covered each step in David Allen’s Getting Things Done process and equated it to the processes of opportunity management. Others will add more articles on this topic from time to time, but for now, I’m CLOSING.

And I confess, the close is my least favorite part of the sales cycle. Don’t get me wrong, I close all the time, but unless it’s a natural flow from the probing I did in the beginning and the proving I did after understanding the sales environment, it’s an effort for me. Almost as if I have to adopt another persona and act the part of the salesman.

The good part is that it usually is, and should be, such a natural flow. The transition from proving to closing should be indiscernible, and the first Trial Close indistinguishable from any other of the questions you’ve asked so far or points you’ve made.

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Getting Sales Done #11 – Action Part 2:  Selling your Solution

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We started the final stage of David Allen’s Getting Things Done process – Act – last week with an examination of the start of the action. There we looked at the four distinct issues the salesperson must address early in the sales cycle if he is to be effective. These issues are the customer, his organization, needs, and budget, and the competition.

That does not mean that a one-time examination of the issues listed is adequate – it is not. These are issues that you need to be constantly re-examining as the sales cycle progresses right up until an award is made because they will change.

You no doubt noted a glaring omission in the list of issues – your solution to the customer’s needs. That is what we will examine in this installment.

You position vis-a-vis the competition is not static. They are constantly trying to improve their position vis-a-vis you, so you had better be acting to maintain and improve your position. Customer’s budgets are not in an escrow account somewhere waiting for the final decision. Until an invoice is submitted and paid, they are in play and at risk based on business vagaries that you’d better be aware of.

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Getting Sales Done #10 – Action Part 1:  Applying Action to the Science of Selling

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OK. It’s time to act. You’ve done the collecting and processing and organizing and reviewing, so the preparation is complete and now you get to implement your strategy and tactics to win the sale. And you’re better armed and ready to act efficiently and effectively because of the groundwork you’ve done.

This is the point where many (most?) sales people go wrong.

You’re eager to get on with it, to grapple with the challenge of getting that customer to do the right thing, which is of course to buy your solution. So you jump right in and start ad-libbing a conversation.

But what do you talk about?

The answer to that is the science of selling, and we’ll discuss that in depth in other articles. Briefly, the science is knowing what to talk about, and when. The art is actually doing it, and doing it well.

Today we’re sticking to the science. And the science says you have three sales cycle phases that correlates to the customer’s three-stage buying process (need recognition, solution research, negotiation). What you need to know, and what you ask for, are dependent on where you are in that sales cycle.

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Getting Sales Done #9 – Review:  Reviewing your Opportunities

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So far, following David Allen’s Getting Things Done process and applying it to opportunity management, we have collected our leads, processed them through our own lead qualification method, started the organization process by setting up the sales cycle, established a time reckoning system to monitor our progress, set the probability of winning, assigned a priority value, and categorized all of our opportunities for review and action.

The five categories we established included the expected first, second, and third levels, and two unusual ones specific to effective opportunity management – Leave It Alone and Breakthrough Strategy Needed. All of our open opportunities were placed in one of these, organized for review. Let’s look at how we can most effectively accomplish that.

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