Posts Tagged ‘Getting Sales Done Series’

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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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.

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Getting Sales Done #7 – Organize Part 4:  Priority

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In the first article in our Organize step in David Allen’s Getting Things Done process, I noted that there are three factors that categorize an opportunity so it can be organized. We’ve covered time and probability, and now we’re ready to see what happens when you link those two. You get the final factor, priority.

Mathematically, Time + Probability = Priority. Or maybe it’s Time x Probability = Priority. It doesn’t matter. It’s not so much a calculation as it is an evaluation.

That’s because there are too many variables in the equation. Time is infinite, and absolute. As we discussed, you must somehow normalize time to bend with your sales cycle while at the same time being meaningful. So we did that with three flexible phases.

And probability defies quantification. Not only variables, but moods and personalities are involved, so forget a precise number. Go with six approximations. That’s the best you can do, and in the imprecise world of sales, it is very effective and accurate.

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Getting Sales Done #6 – Organize Part 3:  Probability

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Categorizing a sales opportunity to organize all of your opportunities has been the subject of the previous two articles in our Getting Sales Done series. Both have dealt with time as the first factor to use to differentiate opportunities for sales tracking, but time is certainly not the sole factor. If it were, you’d always be working on the next opportunity to close and doing nothing to develop your other opportunities to position yourself for this last phase of the sales cycle.

The factor we’ll look at in this installment is probability – what are my chances of winning this sale?

Probability is a simple concept, just a percentage, really, that in practice evades our best efforts to define. What is the probability that I will win any specific sale? There are a multitude of factors to consider in that question, and every one will change the result.

There are customer factors. How strong is their need? Do they have the budget? Are there decision-makers who recognize the need and the value of a solution? And so on. These are factors that you can evaluate and estimate, but they are out of your control, and likely out of your sphere of influence.

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Getting Sales Done #5 – Organize Part 2:  Sales Phase

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In the previous installment on the Organize stage of David Allen’s Getting Things Done process, we looked at time as one of the most important criteria for categorizing an opportunity. We covered the start and end dates of the sales cycle as its defining points, and offered that you need a time reckoning system in sales that is flexible, because your sales cycle will certainly change.

A flexible time reckoning system is not fixed to days and weeks and months. How could it be? Your sales cycles have different lengths, so how could you do the same thing on Day 12 of a 5-week sales cycle that you do on Day 12 of a 5-month sales cycle? So it has to be proportional. This is what most stage-based systems do – they divide the sales cycle into stages for appropriate action at each one no matter what the sales cycle length.

Sounds reasonable, right? At stage one I do an initial call, at stage five I do a demo, at stage seven I send a proposal. Pretty nifty. So now I’m at stage 8 and I follow up on my proposal and learn the close has been delayed. Doesn’t matter why or how long. I’m at stage 8, ready to proceed to stage 9.

But the customer just jumped back to stage 6. Your time reckoning system can’t cope with that, it can’t go backwards. What do you do? You adjust, of course, and you trick your time reckoning system to adjust with you. Not elegant, but it gets the job done.

Doesn’t it make more sense to have a time reckoning system that adjusts automatically? It doesn’t have to go backwards, it just has to adjust. You stay put, time flexes, and you are where you’re supposed to be, doing what your supposed to do. In other words, you have normalized time around you.

This is not as complex as it sounds. You just need to build your reckoning system around something relative, not something absolute like days or stages. In sales, that something is the buying cycle and the corresponding skills you practice as your sales cycle progresses in tandem.

According to Neil Rackham’s groundbreaking work, the buying cycle has three phases – recognition of a need, evaluation of solutions, and negotiation of value. The sales cycle must have three corresponding phases for you to stay abreast of the customer. It’s all relative, to quote Einstein. The buyer back-peddles to evaluating solutions, and your time reckoning system goes with him and you’re in the same place at the same time, just as you’re supposed to be.

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Getting Sales Done #4 – Organize Part 1:  The Sales Cycle

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Sales Cycle

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.

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Getting Sales Done #3 – Process:  Sales Process

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Yes No Maybe

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.

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