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.
It is imperative that the salesperson have a lead qualification workflow of their own to decide what each item is and what to do with it, quickly and efficiently. There is nothing more wasteful to a salesperson than spending time on something that doesn’t either result in a sales opportunity or maintain a relationship with a customer against a future opportunity.
To qualify as a real sales opportunity, the salesperson must be able to positively answer the question, “has the customer started a buying process?” Different industries and companies will have different methods for determining this critical piece of information, but there must be a consistent and realistic process to reach that answer, across time for individual sale people, and across the team where multiple people are asking the question.
There are three possible answers to the question, and each has a different path.
A “No” answer results in information but nothing more. The lead is closed, but the information is saved against the likely possibility that this target will reappear in the future. And, depending on your process and the quality of the lead, it should be tagged for future action.
A “Maybe” answer means more qualification needs to be done. More or different questions, possibly a different questioner.
A “Yes” answer means that this is a genuine sales opportunity and you must initiate a sales cycle. We will deal with these in the next installment, Organize.
In all cases, the effort and the results must be documented in what Allen calls a “trusted system.” It is this system that will guide and support you through future lead qualification and opportunity management, and the information could make the difference between a win and a loss.
The goal of lead qualification is to identify genuine opportunities at the earliest possible moment in the customer’s buying process and initiate your sales cycle to monitor and manage the opportunity. It is this early entry into the customer’s buying cycle that will give you huge advantages as the opportunity evolves and you struggle to distinguish your product as best suited to meet the customer’s needs.
Next week we’ll look at Allen’s Organize stage. In sales, this is starting the sales cycle and everything that means for planning strategies and tactics.
Here are links to all of the articles in the series.
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