Getting Sales Done #8 – Categories:  Grouping Opportunities for Maximum Return

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The last of the Organize articles in our look at Getting Sales Done, the selling adjunct to David Allen’s popular Getting Things Done book and process.

We’ve previously looked at the criteria for organizing your opportunities, and now it’s time to actually do it. We touched on this last time and you will recall that we created the 27-point Priority Cube using probability and time as the criteria. We then compared three very different opportunities that, surprisingly, had the same priority. Today we’ll look at all the appropriate categories for all twenty-seven priorities and define them.

We’ll use my desk drawers as the illustration. I have three, all shallow, maybe four inches deep, and stacked one above the other. Everything that hits my desk goes into one of them. The top one is for things that I have to get done today. It never happens, but I keep trying. The middle one is for things I should get done this week, and it never happens either, but I keep trying. The bottom one of for everything else, or as I refer to it, Zombieland, because I hope they won’t wake up and bite me.

The reason for this rather revealing and embarrassing example is that three categories are usually enough for anything. With sales opportunities, it’s not, but we’ll get to the special cases later.

The first category is for everything that needs your immediate focus. Maybe not your immediate action, but you need to have it handy and conspicuous so you remember it’s importance. These opportunities are typically ones where there is a good or certain probability that the sale will happen and someone will get an order. This means the sales person is less likely to be wasting time on an order that doesn’t emerge. And the amount of time remaining plays a big role in your ability to persuade the customer and therefore in categorizing. Usually, the less time remaining, the higher the priority (but not always). And finally, these opportunities are usually those where you haven’t yet done that, where you are not yet well-positioned, and because there is a sale here, you had better fix that.

Priority 2 opportunities are ones where you need to keep focused but there isn’t necessarily a pressing need to do anything beyond what you have already planned and scheduled. Usually time is less of a factor here, lowering priority because there is enough left to do the job. Your probability of winning affects this category because if you’ve already positioned yourself well, then you are in a maintenance mode, protecting your status. The thing that most often drops an otherwise high-priority opportunity to the second level is the customer’s commitment to buy something. If that isn’t there, then there is little you can do.

Just because an opportunity is a Priority 3 doesn’t mean it’s in the bottom drawer, in Zombieland. The thing that drives opportunities to this level is the customer’s intent, and all opportunities at this level are there because that is weak. But that can change, and you need to be aware so if it does, you can do your job.

I mentioned that there are two special categories, and they are really two sides of the same coin – an opportunity that is closing immediately and you’re not going to win, either because you’re badly positioned, or the customer’s commitment to a purchase is weak, or both. In the first instance, you’d better do something quick and come up with a breakthrough strategy to vault yourself into contention. This situation, by the way, is most often caused by getting into the sales cycle too late and most often cured by the unpleasant application of discounting.

In the second instance, zero hour is fast approaching and the customer still is not committed to a purchase, and even if they do commit, you’re not well-positioned. What do you do? Leave it alone. Walk away.

That’s it, a five-category system that will let you organize you opportunities to be ready for the next step – Review.

Go here to see a lot more detail on the Priority Cube and the combinations of time and probability that put each opportunity into one of the twenty-seven cells.

This post is part of the Getting Sales Done series. Here are the other articles in this series:

[display-posts tag=”getting-sales-done-series” author=”john” posts_per_page=”20″ order=”ASC”]

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