When talking about GTD, most of us think of it as a general productivity system, but today I’m going to share with you how to use the same GTD principles to boost your sales results. This blog post will be especially useful for sales professionals, business owners and entrepreneurs who require a simple, methodical system for processing leads and closing more sales.
Understanding The Sales Cycle
A sales cycle is the structured progression of a sale from the initial lead acquisition all the way to the deal being closed and all the steps in between. Structured sales cycles are usually deployed by businesses who deal in professional services, intangible goods, complex products and high-ticket products. A business owner or sales professional needs to know where exactly in the sales cycle a particular prospect is and they need to know what the next step is that will move that prospect closer to making a purchase. A sales cycle will vary from business to business depending on the products or services being sold, but generally it follows these six steps:
- prospecting for leads
- qualifying leads
- setting appointments
- making a sales presentation
- negotiating terms and pricing
- making the sale
Within each stage of the sales cycle are individual actions that move the sales process forward.
Why GTD Is Built For Sales
GTD has proven itself worthy as a productivity solution in workplace environments where the work product consists of many small “widgets” to crank, such as general office work or running a small business. Running a structured sales system fits within this paradigm as well because very rarely is it ever a one-step action that wins you a sale. A sales deal is a project, consisting of many action steps that must be perfromed before the intended outcome is achieved. That very definition of a sales deal makes it perfect for integrating GTD into any sales system.
Two Possible Outcomes For Every Deal
When you qualify a legitimate sales deal and enter it into your sales funnel, there are only two outcomes that can happen to that deal:
- you close that deal with a win when a sale is made
- you close that sale deal with a loss when the lead says, “no.”
A “maybe” answer doesn't really qualify as a legitimate sales outcome because it requires more clarification as to whether that "maybe" actually means "no, not interested" or "Yes, I'm interested, but I can't commit to it right now.” So ultimately, your push is to drive all your sales to close with either a win or a loss, but preferably a win since that's what brings in the revenue.
Next Actions Are What Drives The Sales Machine
In GTD, it's the "next action" that drives the whole system forward. The next action is that granular unit of work that you can get done in one sitting. Next actions can also be applied to the sales environment to produce results as well. In fact, experienced sales professionals use GTD methodology without realizing it.
Here's how GTD next actions work in the sales environment - for every sales deal that you have, you create at least one next action step that will move that deal forward. Let's say, for example, that you get an inbound lead from your website that may be interested in purchasing your product or service. Your first next sales action would be to call them, which you do, but you're unable to reach them and get their voicemail instead. So you mark that action as completed and you replace it with another next action to call them again on a certain date and time. The key here is that you always replace a completed action with a new next action before putting away that sales deal. That way, no matter what sales deal file you pick up, you'll always know what action you must perform with that deal to drive it towards closure. As you accumulate completed next actions for your sales deals, you'll have verifiable evidence that you're making progress on that sales deal to one of the two outcomes that I've stated before.
Just like any GTD system, weekly reviews are the oil that keeps the sales machine running smoothly. Weekly reviews provide a top-down look at all your sales deals and how you're performing. If you work in a company with a structured sales department, then weekly reviews are probably already part and parcel to your work week anyway. If you're a small business owner or entrepreneur, then you should still have a weekly review of your sales activities and performance because doing so will reveal alot about what's working and what's not working with your sales machine. Use your weekly review sessions to analyze the data and make adjustments to your sales machine so that it runs like a performance engine.
Paper or Computer?
Just like with traditional GTD systems, running a GTD-focused sales system is device agnostic, meaning that you can use whatever tools you want to maintain your system, so long as it remains true to the GTD methodology. And there are legitimate uses for both paper-based and computer-based systems.
A paper-based system is easy to implement immediately. It’s low-tech and doesn’t require much training to implement. It also can run without power and without the internet. Finally, a paper-based sales system is also good if you have a lot of paper files associated with each sales deal.
If you're going with a paper-based system, then dedicate one manila folder to each one of your deals. Supporting documents such as contracts, proposals and correspondence can be placed inside this folder. On the outside of the folder, you write down each next action made on the deal to push it forward. When you finish one next action, you write down what the next follow-up action is before you put that file away so that you'll always know what is needed to push that deal forward.
Computer-based systems, known in the industry as CRMs are pretty much a digital version of the paper system I described above. Of course, it’ll have many more bells and whistles, but they’re still designed for you to keep prospect information in one place and manage your actions associated with each deal. The same rules apply. CRM software is a good choice for those who are comfortable with computers and exchange a lot of digital communication and documents back and forth between their prospects. There’s actually a fairly good CRM solution that was built on the GTD methodology if you're interested in checking it out. It's called One Page CRM (onepagecrm.com).