I was an early follower of David Allen‘s Getting Things Done (GTD) productivity philosophy. It immediately synced with my observations of what makes sales people productive. Allen’s techniques in personal productivity are most effective with busy people. Sales is a numbers game. Processing high volumes of opportunities–efficiently–makes GTD a bulls eye strategy for sales.
When I started applying GTD to my sales teams I was struck by how counter cultural it was. Then I tried to get my sales software to enforce the principles. It was impossible. That is when I knew there was opportunity.
Sales fundamentally is a high-stakes, big numbers game. That sounds like Vegas and most sales people manage their efforts like Vegas–roll the dice and hope for the big hit. However, the people I saw hitting big were methodical processors.
Processing Your Sales Pipeline
In GTD there is the concept of “Getting ‘In’ to Empty.” Our sales pipeline is nothing more than an Inbox and we are going to apply the same principles.
As you process your sales pipeline you should get a sense of motion. Each sales lead should be moving to a different status. Nothing should stay put.
Working through your pipeline should result in leads flowing through these statuses:
- Attempted: Every lead should get some attempt at contact
- Contacted: When you make contact a lead transforms
- Scheduled: Moves leads from routine processing to calendar
- Application/Proposal: This puts the deal on the table
- Processing: Can be a bit confusing, but this processing an order
- Closed: The order is processed, delivered, and you have a client
- Nurturing: This is where non-responsive prospects go
Allen’s GTD processing has some fundamental rules that we are also going to follow in GTD for Sales.
Top Item First
When I read Getting Things Done for the first time this was one of my first ah ha moments. As I looked around my sales floor I saw everyone “cherry picking” leads. For you non-sales types, that means looking at a list of leads and jumping all around for the “good ones.”
The habit of “cherry picking” is very natural, but easily the most devastating bad practice in sales. Intuition about what a good account looks like is nearly always wrong. What makes it even worse is that bad guesses lead to happy competitors that pick up that easy client you skipped.
All sales leads should be processed from the top down. If you do any prioritization it should be automated and completely obscured from your pipeline processing. Focus is critical. There should be no distractions in processing from the top to the bottom of the pipeline.
One Item at a Time
This is another powerful principle. People tend to mistake being surrounded by lots of stuff and multi-tasking with productivity. My experience is quite the contrary. Giving each item its due focus will move everything in your pipeline forward faster.
This principle is critical to sales, but rarely applied. Each sales lead that comes into your pipeline has an equal probability of closing with you–0 percent. That’s right, if you don’t make a disciplined attempt to contact cold or hot sales leads they will not convert. Therefore, there is no reason to do anything but attempt to contact one lead at a time, in turn, until all are processed.
Concentrating on each lead individually, one at a time, gives it the focus and attention that plays through on the phone or even in a follow-up email. Customers can tell a power dialed or automated email contact. They defensively reject it and you lose any efficiency you might have gained.
Processing one sales lead at a time makes sure nothing is lost, lacks follow-up, or gives that you’re just a number feel. It also gives you momentum. No more wondering what is next–simply get your next lead.
Never Put Anything Back Into “In”
It is ironic how many of these GTD principles most sales software and sales people violate. “Never put anything back into ‘in'” is another classic mistake. How many sales leads do you skip over everyday? Leads you are going to work later. Leads that are of lesser priority. How many ever get a second look?
You see the problem. If you leave leads in the inbox, in their initial state or status, they will never even get an attempt.
Some leads may truly be of a lower priority, but they should still be processed and attempted. Maybe you don’t want to call inquiries under a certain dollar amount. That’s fine, but at least send an email or delegate it to a telemarketer. It could still be a sale, just help the customer do a self-service order or go through a cheaper sales channel.
If you don’t sell that level or specific product at least tell the customer–better yet refer them to someone that does.
GTD has a lot of lessons for making your sales happen in greater volume and frequency. Batch processing your leads is just one facet of applying Getting Things Done to your sale pipeline. Stay tuned for more insights on applying GTD for Sales.
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