Best Practices for Using Microsoft Outlook from a Sales Perspective

Arrow-Tip #55 What Is Your Sales Checklist?

As a nod to my husband’s great post on using a check list to help our son get organized, I decided to resurrect this draft post regarding using a sales checklist that I started back in 2008.  Interesting side note: my original post was inspired by an article listed in a Verne Harnish newsletter that my friend Cindy Roberston referenced in a comment on Mush’s post last week – as my grandfather used to say “great minds think alike!”

Verne Harnish listed a great article on his blog recently about how checklists are helping save lives in Michigan hospitals. Coming from the aerospace industry, I’ve got a strong appreciation for checklists and how mission critical they can be. So if checklists can help prevent a plane from crashing or save a life, what can they do to help close a sale?  Below is a list of items you might want to consider adding to your daily business development checklist.

Make at least one new contact– Sales is all about keeping your pipeline fed and your pipeline starts with prospects or people who are not currently clients, but who you think are great candidates to become clients.  Adding people to this list is as easy as attending a networking meeting, checking out some profiles on and interesting LinkedIn forum, or asking an existing client or partner for a referral. 

Update contacts in Outlook – Once you meet that new contact, don’t forget to add them to your Outlook Contacts folder and create a journal entry to record when, where and how you met them and establish a follow-up activity.  Also, as you receive new or revised information for existing contacts, make sure to keep them up to date so that you aren’t getting bounced emails when you get ready to reconnect. 

Qualify your prospects – Just because someone initially looks like a great prospect doesn’t mean they will really be a good client for you or that your solution is the right one for them.  You should have a process in place to define what makes someone a great prospect for you (the qualification process should have its own min-check list) and religiously follow that process before investing too much of both your and your prospect’s time.  Consider adding some custom fields to your Outlook Contact form (Huntress users can use the Sales Cycle field) for each item on this mini-check list.  Alternatively, you could use a set of tasks that you cut an paste for each new prospect contact record to generate your mini qualification check list.  More on this item later.

Daily call back list – You should have a call back list with high priority (“urgent” if you are a Huntress user) calls for the day clearly defined.  Great sales people make calls every day, but some days where you have a lot of meetings or proposals to write, you may just have time for your high priority calls.  Thinking of your daily call list as a task in itself (rather than each individual call as a task) helps getting those high priority time sensitive calls made less overwhelming.  See Arrow-Tip #2 Don’t Use Your Calendar to Manage You Call Backs or Arrow-Tip #50 Keep-in-Touch with Your Contacts

Reconnect with an existing client– The old adage it takes less effort to sell to an existing client than to get a new one is all too true.  Not only will you show your continued appreciation for your existing clients by keeping in touch with them, but you will have the opportunity to learn why they appreciate your product or service and use that information to help you better qualify and acquire future clients.  And don’t forget client referrals tend to have a much shorter close cycle than cold calls.

Learn something new– Whether it is enhancing knowledge of your own product or service, increasing your understanding of your client’s industry, or improving your sales skills it is important to stay well informed and keep learning every day if you want to be competitive.  I like to keep a sub folder in my Outlook Inbox called Reading List where I collect newsletters or blog articles I send myself if they are not time critical and I don’t have time to read them at the time they come in.  That way there is always a good repository to go to if I ever find I have an extra few minutes between appointments.

Work your pipeline – Feeding your sales pipeline with new items is important, but don’t forget to spend time moving your existing prospects further in the sales process.  Progression could mean following up with prospects whom you have sent information to, scheduling the next meeting, delivering promised information, submitting a proposal or best of all getting a signed contract.  Constant movement of items on your sales pipeline is vital – otherwise you may need to re-evaluate your current list to see if you would not be better off moving some items to your back burner list and re-focusing your efforts on the items remaining.  For Huntress users, I recommend adding “0% Back burner” to your sales cycle drop list and assigning that value to items that are not moving on your pipeline.

You might use some of these items every day especially if there is an area you are specifically trying to improve – for those items consider creating a daily recurring task e.g. a daily call list task.  Or you might incorporate some of these check list items into specific processes.  Look for a future post regarding a prospect qualification check list because that is an area where I find many of my clients struggle.  In the mean time, what are some of the items on your sales check list?

This post was written by MistyKhan and published on May 9, 2010 in the following categories: Arrow Tips, Contacts, Front Page, Huntress, Inbox, Journal, Management, Tasks. You can leave trackbacks on this post at this address. To follow the comments on this post subscribe to the RSS feed.


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