March 21, 2022

#32 - Chatting About Sales Checklists

#32 - Chatting About Sales Checklists
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Sales has lots of steps, plenty of follow up, and all sorts of details and paperwork. So...How do you keep track and stay efficient?

Try a few simple checklists. 

Atul Gawande's book, The Checklist Manifesto, got us thinking about how to apply them effectively in the sales process. And in another very tight (~12 minute) episode, Brendan and Bob list a few ways to apply this simple concept to keep your deals from dying on the table.

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Okay. So you've stumbled onto another episode of Let's Chat Sales. And this time we're talking about checklists of all things and how do you use them to be effective in your sales process? So I hope it's helpful. I would be like, if you do like, and subscribe and, uh, let's dive in. All right.

 All right. Hey Bob, here's a confession.

I like these chats simply because it gives us a chance to kind of rattle through some sales stuff. It's just an effort for me to think about some, and I'll probably  turn this into a blog post. I just read Atul Gawande's book.

 What is it called now? I don't remember the name. It's the, The Checklist Manifesto?, that's it. Thank you. The Checklist Manifesto. Nothing like reading a book and not knowing the title. Oh man. I tell ya. So  it got me thinking, and I thought what we do is we brainstorm a little bit today about a sales checklist. I'm saying in that, knowing that you're not a huge fan of them, 

I'm not a fan of checklists.

I find that when I get very stressed, yeah. I write a list of all the things I have to do to keep my sanity. Yeah. And I put that list in my pocket. And then I find it in my shirt pocket three weeks later. 

So it doesn't, 

it's the writing of the list. I'm good at writing lists. I'm not really good at checking the things off and I'm not really good at going back to it, but the therapeutic part for me is just putting it all on a sheet of paper.

So I don't forget if you oh, 

that's that is what , I would consider that a to-do list.    It's a shame. You hadn't read the book. It's quite good. 

I actually read the book. I don't know, seven or eight years ago. I, 

you know, it's funny,  it's a pretty good book. It could have been a long blog post, but he's got some very good stories in it.

And, because he's a physician and kind of a world renown doctor and a scientist, he made it a study. And so he was quite rigorous in terms of understanding and importance of checklists, especially  in the application of surgery, because there are a lot of mistakes that there are a lot of moving parts.

There are a lot of steps along the way. It's easy to miss one and you don't want them to miss them. We both ended in the beneficiaries of a rather complicated surgery and you do not want your doc to miss a step along the way.  That was his motivation for understanding the importance of checklists. And they were invented originally,

or so the story goes, at the beginning of World War II, because Boeing had come out with the B 17, which was absolutely revolutionary as a bomber, but very complex. And it was killing the test pilots and the reason it was killing the tenor was literally killing them.


Yeah. It sounded metaphorical, 

but I think he meant literally. No, no, they were crashing and the planes were smashing up in little pieces. That's a problem. Yeah.  So as a result, they came up with these checklists  for the pilots to remember to do all the steps along the way in order to get these things into the air, flying, keep them up upright and the land properly.

And they created these sets of checklists and that, and the consequence of that is the pilots were able to fly these planes quite successfully and without problem.  And we defeated the Germans.  So. I was just thinking about the importance of that  in the sales capacity, like going into a sales call or as you're going through the sales process.

My sales process is something of a checklist, but it's kind of too many steps. 

Well, I think, I think a complex process is really a good idea for a checklist. Yeah. You know, I think of if you watch a SpaceX. Yeah, you see the checklist and they're going through it step-by-step because there are a million steps and you can't miss one, right?

It'll go wrong. Right. I think sales works that way. What I would really caution against for me, if I'm doing a sales call and I have a checklist, I'm always afraid that I'm just going to. Yeah, the language list. And if they answer the third question first and I don't log it, I'm going to ask them the same question.

 That's not really what I'm thinking. I'm thinking in terms of preparation. I talk about having a sales toolkit. And okay. And having things in place and ready to go. And so a checklist in Atul Gawande's world, Dr. Gawande's world, is, it shouldn't be long. It should be a one page. It should be seven to 12 steps. They should be only the major steps. And so one of the things I always talk about is getting prepared for a sales call. What are the steps that happen in order to get prepared for sales call?

And, you know, one of them is, you know, we've talked about before is Is confirming the call the day before, right. Making sure like a day or more before. So the day of the call, the moment of the call and nobody shows. Another one is, is there an agenda,  have you created an agenda for the call?

It could be three or four simple bullet items. Who should be on that call? What are the key objectives that you want to accomplish in the call? What are the things you want to learn?  What are the two or three things you want to learn? And these are all kind of steps along the way.

What are the two or three things that the customer wants to get out of the call? Can you satisfy both of those? Another one would be, what resources do you need for the call?  Do you need a specific sales presentation? Do you need to have a demo set up? If it's a demo, what parts of the demo are the most important parts to show?

What do you anticipate? Because nothing's worse  than having some rote demo that you go from a, to B, to C to D all the way to Z... and you force the customer to listen to all sorts of crap that doesn't matter to them. Right. And so,  can you distill the demo to the things that matter and then bounce to those things and, whomever's doing the demo?

Are they prepared to do it?  Is it set up, do you have the zoom call scheduled? Now that now these days.  Sort of stuff is almost  second nature now, it just happens automatically. If you're going somewhere, do you need directions?

It's like, like what things do technology? 

Yeah. All those things. , just a quick story. I had a meeting with the law firm and I go into their office. I'm all set to do a PowerPoint on my laptop. Yeah. They're all iPad people. And they're like, we don't it. You can send us your presentation.

You have to send it up to a cloud to this location and then we'll download it. It worked for them, but it was a huge delay in the  process.  I didn't ask in advance. I'm like, so tell me about your technology because I could have sent it to them a day early. 

Right? Like  certain projectors don't handle HDMI or they, or they're Mac or you need to bring my own clicker. Right.  Whatever those things are. So  what's in your checklist, like,  do you have to carry business cards?  Is that important? Right? You know those sorts of things, like what goes into the leave 


If you have a leave behind.

That's one good example of the use of a checklist. And for me having a set of items that,  have I done these things? Boom, boom, boom.  At some level, you know, you can go through them in your head.

 But it doesn't hurt to have them written down somewhere. So, you know, like, oh, what am I, am I missing anything? So that would be one. Another might be  what about when you get to the contract phase? What needs to happen at that point? 

Who needs to see it within your organization?

Right. You need to see it within their organization? 

And when? 

Where's the language 

coming from? Yeah. Yep. Is it their contract or your contract? Have you allowed enough time to get the contract done? If you're talking to a major corporation have to back into how much, how quickly can they turn this around?

You know, you can, you might get a master services agreement, that's 30 or 40 pages. Like, Hey,  We're going to be at this point in the process in a few weeks, who else needs to be involved?

What other approvals do you need to get?  That's part of a checklist the idea of like, who needs to see it on your side to your point and who needs to see on their site that's... those things are, those  are questions you have to have to ask. 

I think one of the other areas, Brendan would be valuable as I think through it is if I'm a founder and I'm not accustomed to doing the sales process, or I'm not comfortable with that sales process, having that checklist is going to keep me much more focused and much more reigned in so that I don't go astray in an area that frankly, I may not really feel comfortable. I may not want to be doing it, but it's a necessary part of what I need to do to grow my company.  

Right. This is essentially like having a process.

Like having processes and, and being able to document the process. And so something as simple as a checklist is also a useful tool to be able to communicate with members on your own team. So when you're in a sales situation, here are the 10 things that need to happen between now and the end of the sale.

 If you can send that around to people ahead of time, they know what to expect. They know when to show up. They know what their role is. They know what they need to be prepared to do. And, and so it's, it's a useful tool in that 


Do you have any checklists that you share with your customer as you're going through this whole process?

Yeah, it's funny. Miller Heiman used to have these things called blue sheets. And 

you are going way, way, way back. That's like a 

history lesson.   I'm a, I'm a.


early 80, 80, certainly eighties. Yeah. Nineties. Yeah. Wow. Yeah. Oh yeah. And I, I, so I have a variation on that.  I use it for enterprise accounts in particular.

And I have it, several occasions shown it to my customer. And one of the things that I operate off of is this idea of org charts and the importance of understanding how an organization breaks out and the various roles and so forth. And I've had customers tell me, oh, you're missing so-and-so in this org chart, or you need to really need to talk to this person.

Or these people are tight. These two, or these people don't get along. And so the org chart, the account planning document acts as a form of a checklist. Who's uncovered? One of the things that this goes back to Miller Heiman, and just sales in general is, in an enterprise sales situation...

who's involved in the sale and who isn't covered? Who haven't you talked to? It's oftentimes the people you don't know, or you haven't talked to that can cause you the most trouble  or can prevent, can prevent the sale. Right. And so in that, in that regard, the account plan acts as a form of a checklist.

 I'm curious, 

you have all these checklists. Do you use them religiously or if I were to go back, do you literally print them out and check them off on a sheet of paper? Not at all. Have you ever had a situation where you didn't follow your checklist and it bit you?

Oh, yeah, of course.  I don't use them all religiously. I have been quite religious when it comes to the discovery document that I use. I'm pretty good about that because...  it really acts the two things. It's a reminder to make sure that I'm covering certain questions. I'm making sure that I'm getting the right, getting answers to things that are important to the deal.

Number one. And it also works as a note pad or as a it's basically it allows me to kind of organize my thoughts and take down my notes in one place. And so that effectively acts as a checklist. That's one. The other is I do the account plan because I find that that's a great way for me to think about who I, I need to talk to, who I haven't talked to, what happens next and being able to see the org chart visually and

being able to see all the things that are going on in that deal condensed. I find to be really helpful for me. So yeah, those two instances I do. 

Okay. And tell me a story about when you didn't use your checklist to its fullest potential and how that bit you. 

Oh, well... I I've been known to fly by the seat of my pants from time to time and I, and yeah.

And I find that being overly prepared... it's not my it's just it's, what is my mantra? The perfect is the enemy of the good. And there you go. And a B plus performance delivered right away is better than an A minus delivered in a week or two. So, I don't know if one in particular that I've had, but I've had a bunch. I have, I have traveled to all on a plane flight, ended up in a place and then had the people not there because I didn't, I didn't, I didn't confirm that.  Oh, we didn't have it on a calendar.


I didn't know. You'd go that dark. That's dark. Yeah. 

Yeah. Well, it was just clumsy on my part, where was it? I think I flew to Boston.  And it was in the lobby calling. Oh, they're not, oh, no, they're not here.

And then I reach him finally. What do you mean you're not here? Oh, geez. We didn't put it on the calendar.

I appreciate you sharing that. That made 

my day. Yeah. Well, this is great. And here's why, because I'm going to write this up. This is a blog post. All right. This is useful. This podcast thing is useful. Awesome. I hope, I hope other people get as much out of it as I do.

thought that was your mantra. We'll see you really 

soon. All right, sounds good. Thanks Bob. 

Okay. So that's another episode of Let's Chat Sales. Thank you for watching. And by all means, check out one of the other episodes, which I think will be sitting right here. I think so. Thanks. And like, and subscribe.