Structure – Is it important for those of us who work with sales? What is structure, actually?
An initial reaction can be that it sounds extremely boring. On about the same level as processes. I am convinced that those of us who work with sales are creative people who find solutions to most things in order to provide customers with what they want, right?
A sales process (which is a part of the structured elements in sales) is not otherwise all that complicated. You who have worked with sales for a while know how it works. We have an initial contact phase, which is followed by an analysis/needs phase. After this, we prepare a solution that we go through with the customer in the presentation phase, before moving on to negotiations and closing the deal.
Is it really any more difficult than that? My tip for you: Read the chapter on the sales process!
Structure is good for salespeople
Yes, you have read that correctly. Structure and processes are good, and even essential for those of us who work with sales.
Everything in life is about processes and structure. Without this, life would be complete chaos. Try going a week without using your calendar. How many meetings do you think you would miss? Look at nature. A flower blooms and then withers. A person is born, lives his or her life and then dies. The next person is born.
Imagine an intersection without traffic laws, where everyone drove as they pleased. Or imagine a pilot taking off without going through his or her checklist. And why even bother going through a checklist when the pilot has already done it 150 times before and knows exactly what is on it? Probably for the same reason a surgeon works motorically so as not to miss anything. Because the truth of the matter is, it is the simplest things we miss, not the more complicated.
This is why we remember to prepare the complicated calculation and tender for the customer but forget to call and confirm the time set aside for the meeting, as we had promised. You know what? It is usually the simplest things that make the difference, not the complicated.
Structure gives you creative freedom
There is a preconceived hypothesis I often encounter and it is that you must have chaos and disorganization on your desk, or in your head, because it is only then that you are truly creative.
I have never really understood this even if I have practiced it myself. I didn’t really want stacks of papers and such, laying about in messy disorder. It was only after I began structuring things more that I realized that everything has its place.
Routinely clearing my desk, writing out meeting notes – this is when I suddenly became more creative.
Imagine sitting at a clean and newly cleared desk. You take out a sheet of white paper and start thinking, mind-mapping, drawing, creating. This is when you become productive. Because when you know how to find your way back, you can start thinking outside the box.
But if you do not have a common thread to return to, your thoughts will probably be somewhat restrained, or in the worst event, you manage to think outside the box but completely forget where you started and the reason for thinking so freely.
Your calendar, your CRM and your to-do list
Imagine going a week without your calendar. This would make your job much more difficult. It is not that easy to remember all the meetings you have booked, who you will be seeing and the purpose of a meeting if this is not written down (I’ll return to that last point a little later, but I suspect that you don’t always write everything down, even if you have a calendar).
Your calendar gives you a visual presentation of how much time you have booked and how much time you have for scheduling new activities.
Imagine that you have a one-hour customer appointment. This will require one hour of travel time and say a half-hour for follow-up, summation and thoughts about the meeting, as well as for determining what the next step will be in your dialog with the customer.
I strongly advise weekly scheduling in blocks. Is administrative work needed? Put it in your calendar. Do you need to plan and prepare for a large presentation in two weeks? Add a few blocks in your calendar during the weeks before so that you won’t have to do everything at once.
In your CRM system, add your visits to customers, all follow-up activities and your current business operations. Make a habit of really working with your CRM system. It is there for you, not the opposite. If you do not see the value of the information there, you either have the wrong sales process or the wrong sales manager. You can read more about the sales tools I use here.
Speak with your sales manager and explain how you want to work with your CRM system so that it helps instead of hinders you in your sales.