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.
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. That’s a quick way to lose both. And, you don’t want to be not selling to an opportunity. That’s a guaranteed loss. Since we’re looking at opportunity management, we can leave leads and relationships at that.
Categorizing an opportunity requires a set of criteria by which to distinguish one from another. In sales, these are time and probability and priority.
Time. When did the sales cycle start? When will it end? Where are we now? Which leads directly to how much time do we have left? Time is the sales cycle, and the sales cycle is your world. It is the only stage on which you get to practice your profession. Without a sales cycle, there is no need for sales, and no need for you unless you are an order-taker.
Start at the beginning. When did you become aware of the opportunity? Not when did the customer start his buying cycle. That time is long gone, no longer available for you to use, and you’ve lost that fragment of selling time. That’s why it’s so important to get in early, to make every day of the buying cycle a day of your selling cycle.
The start date is your anchor, the one time in the sales cycle that will not change. The end date almost always does, and that is the next point in time you need to identify and set. It will change for a variety of reasons, the most likely one is that your early estimate of the close date will be optimistic. Or there will be delays on the buyer’s end, or a budget freeze, or a new product announcement, or just about anything. Unless you’re selling in a very regimented environment, things will change.
And here is the critical bit of information about that – you had better change with them.
Think about that for a moment. Everyone has a sales process, acknowledged or not, that they follow. There are stages in that process. You do things early in the process that would be sales suicide at the end, and vice versa. So you’ve got your anchor date and your estimated close date and you follow your process. Great. Then something changes, and instead of being way out here, you’re all the way back there.
What just happened to your process? You thought you understood the sales situation pretty well, and then something comes along and turns it upside down. Are you going to stand still, hold onto your place in your process? Or are you going to adjust to the situation and go back to where you need to be for effective selling? Are you going to continue to practice closing skills when the buyer has suddenly gone back to an evaluation stage?
No, of course not. You’re going to adjust, and you need a time measurement system that lets you. Not just lets you, but that makes you.
It looks like I might have bitten off more than I can chew in trying to fit Allen’s Organize stage into one article. There’s a lot more to categorizing an opportunity into a trusted system than just start and end dates; certainly more than I can fit here. So I’m breaking it up. We’ll look some more at Organize in the next installment, focusing on what that time measurement system needs to do, and the questions you need to ask yourself as you work your way through the process and things inevitably change.
Here are all the installments in the Getting Sales Done Series:
- Getting Sales Done #1 – Introduction
- Getting Sales Done #2 – Collect: Gathering Opportunities
- Getting Sales Done #3 – Process: Sales Process
- Getting Sales Done #4 – Organize Part 1: The Sales Cycle
- Getting Sales Done #5 – Organize Part 2: Sales Phase
- Getting Sales Done #6 – Organize Part 3: Probability
- Getting Sales Done #7 – Organize Part 4: Priority
- Getting Sales Done #8 – Categories: Grouping Opportunities for Maximum Return
- Getting Sales Done #9 – Review: Reviewing your Opportunities
- Getting Sales Done #10 – Action Part 1: Applying Action to the Science of Selling
- Getting Sales Done #11 – Action Part 2: Selling your Solution
- Getting Sales Done #12 – Action Part 3: Making the Close