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.
In Allen’s process, you collect everything so you can relieve your mind of the burden of remembering those things. In sales, you collect every scrap of information about potential customers, from rumors to announcements in some government publication to the simple knowledge that Company X makes things that use your parts, and maybe you should call on them. You collect these because in there somewhere there might just be the kernel that leads to a big sale. Capturing this initial identification-of-a-possibility relieves you of the concern that something might get away.
The collect/capture process is preliminary to opportunity management, but for many of us, it is still a part of our job. It’s why we attend conferences and trade shows, it’s why we search the internet for business news or even job openings that might signal an expansion or change by a customer, it’s why we send newsletters and emails to flush out some bit of news, it’s why we pick up the phone.
The ultimate purpose of the collect/capture process is to make sure we don’t miss anything, because the most important thing a sales person can do is identify an opportunity as early in the sales cycle as possible. To do this requires two steps. First you must find the lead, and then you must qualify it. These processes are covered later when we get into the Process and Organize stages of GTD. For now, the most important thing is to recognize that getting into the sales cycle, that is getting into the customer’s buying cycle, as early as possible gives you a huge advantage.
To do this, you must identify the opportunity as close as you can to the time when your customer identifies their need, and therefore starts their buying cycle. Let’s take the example of a highly structured government procurement. These are typically advertised as open for bidding in some publication so all vendors get an equal opportunity to participate. But is that opportunity really equal? What about the specifications for the procurement? Who developed those? Why, the government agency, certainly. Did they do that in secret, closeted in some pale green room in a nondescript government building somewhere?
No. They might have tried, but in all likelihood some enterprising sales person recognized the need and got there early. Without violating any protocols, he was able to influence the engineers who set the specifications to favor his product. He was able to establish a set of expectations in the buyer’s head that set the evaluation bar where he wanted it. By the time you read about it, you’re already at a disadvantage and will probably resort to discounting in the hope that a low price will overcome you inability to meet their expectations. Not a ver good strategy.
Instead, you need to be the one setting the bar, setting the expectations. So you to collect and capture everything that you can for processing through your system. Being the first to arrive at the party means everyone coming in later is playing catch up.
Here are links to all of the articles in the series.
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