Staying Organized with Checklists and CRM Systems

Today, we’re going to look at organization. And before we jump in, I want to tell you the story of when I sold my very first car. My prospect was a surgeon. He was in Houston from Austin, which is about a two and a half or three hour drive away. He was looking to purchase a vehicle for his daughter. Now, he was in Houston because his daughter was unfortunately going through cancer treatment in the medical center. I remember thinking, “What a great opportunity. The first car I’d have a chance to sell is for someone who is buying a gift for his sick daughter.” It made me warm and fuzzy, because we always want to add value to people’s lives in sales, and this was a great example.

My prospect wasn’t young, and a little bit gruff in some ways. He was pretty direct to the point and easy to deal with. However, while I was already a professional salesperson back then, it was my first day at the car dealership. I sold a lot of things in the past, and I was even a sales manager at one time, but my product knowledge regarding cars was nil. Additionally, my manager was on vacation despite it being my first day, so I was kind of off on my own without a lot of guidance.

The car my prospect was interested in was this BMW 7 series, which is very technologically confusing and complicated. Especially for me, a newbie. But the surgeon ended up wanting to buy the car. He was ready to close. There were just a few things that needed to be done to the vehicle first before it would be ready. So he went off for a little bit, and he was going to come back four hours later at the end of the day. Then he would sign all the paperwork, collect the car, and drive back to Austin.

Well, I put the car in the back to be prepped, and then I got busy throughout the day interacting with other customers. When the surgeon came back at the end of the day, I went to get the car. However, I found the car on the rack with no wheels and in complete disarray. I realized immediately that there was absolutely no way I could deliver the car that day. There had been a fallout in communication. No one let me know that the car wouldn’t be ready. I just thought that if I send the car to the back, it would get fixed up, cleaned up, and be ready later that same day. Apparently, that’s not the way it worked. So, I had to have a very difficult conversation with my prospect. I thought I was going to lose the sale, but long story short, he came back the following week and picked up the car. Everything went fine, and he was happy.

But what I didn’t grasp there was the power of organization. Even though this was my first time and I didn’t know better, I was completely disorganized that day. I didn’t take the time to understand the process of delivering the car. There weren’t steps to follow. So what I learned was the power of developing a checklist. Have a checklist for everything in business, such as sales, delivery, etc. And that’s what I want to talk about next.

If I had a checklist, I would’ve definitely gone to the back throughout the day and checked on the progress of the vehicle. There were definitely other things I would’ve done differently as well. Many organizations already have checklists, and we simply don’t follow them. Or, maybe we as sales professionals or business owners have to develop those checklists ourselves. They’re extremely powerful, especially when we get busy, or if we have multiple clients and multiple transactions to deal with. We need a checklist so we can proactively think through what we should do to effectively deliver our product or service.

Now, fast forward to a day around six months later. This didn’t happen a lot, but on that one day I sold five cars. There was no way I would’ve been able to deliver so many different items unless I had a checklist to make sure everything was getting done in order. I wasn’t even thinking; I was just following a preplanned checklist. So the question is, do you have a checklist for all the different areas of your work? Are you following them? And finally, I know that many of you have been professional salespeople for a long time, so you have your checklists in your head. If that’s the case, I’m going to challenge you to write them down or type them up onto a physical piece of paper you could refer back to whenever you need to.

Why? Let’s go through two example industries. First is airlines. I don’t care if you’ve been a pilot for 40 years. Every airline pilot follows a strict checklist every time they get into a plane. Secondly, surgeons also have checklists and protocols set up for things they must do before, during, and after every operation. I mean, if you’re going to ride in a plane, or if you’re going to have surgery, would you rather the surgeon/pilot have a checklist that they follow consistently, or would you rather they just wing it? The overwhelming answer is obviously the checklist. So, why, as salespeople, do we not have/follow checklists ourselves?

Lastly, in terms of organization, I want to talk briefly about CRM. Where do you keep the data on all your prospects, and how do you separate hot ones from the cold, and from existing clients? Do you have a systematic way to follow up with people? What does your setup look like? This is very key. If you don’t currently organize your clients, prospects, and referral sources, you’re missing out. Similarly, if you don’t know which leads are hot, or when the last time you contacted each one was, you might as well be shooting yourself in the foot. What you should be doing is taking notes when you speak to each prospect, so that when you follow up with them next time, you already understand the details of their situation. You might even jot down any information about their personal lives that they happen to mention, so you can build better rapport. None of this is possible if you don’t record when you speak to your prospects and what you spoke about.

So I encourage you to go out and get organized. Create some checklists and look into CRM’s if you aren’t using one already. Have a better than amazing day.