This is an excerpt from my second book, Managing the Sales Process, available on Amazon.com. You can find a series of these excerpts in a dedicated blog category to get a broad overview, post-by-post, of the book (they are listed in reverse order in the category, so start with the oldest).

From Chapter 2 – The Right Skills

When I started selling, I worried a lot about making promises to clients, losing track of my commitments, and forgetting to follow through. So I quickly embraced contact management software. Most companies have some form of contact management system, and the “what’s next rule” works with all of them.

It works like this: Each time your salesperson ends a conversation with a prospect or customer, he should ask himself (or better yet ask the customer) some form of the question “what’s next?” The follow-up question to that, of course, is “when?” Once your salesperson knows the next thing that should happen with a contact and has a date associated with that, it’s time to enter the next event into the contact management system.

Voila ─ relationship management across the entire customer and prospect base!

I used to schedule a task for myself each month to go through my entire database with the SOLE purpose of making sure that each contact had a scheduled activity associated with it. Most modern CRMs make this easy work. Anyone in the database should have something scheduled in the future or be classified as some form of “inactive” lead from the perspective of sales. There is no middle ground here; prospects and customers should be in a relationship that is managed (i.e. one with ongoing communication) or they should be considered something other than prospects or customers.

If you are interviewing prospective new salespeople, ask how they kept track of prospects and clients in the past. Whatever they answer, follow up with a question about how exactly they used their customer management system to stay on top of all of their active client and prospect relationships. You want to hear some very specific answers here; answers based on systems rather than instances are best. If a candidate did not make systematic efforts to manage the relationships with existing clients and other opportunities, you need to dig for a satisfying reason why that was the case, or consider another candidate. You simply can’t afford a salesperson who will pursue only what is in front of his or her nose and let the rest fall through the cracks.

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David