You won’t even go to the grocery store without it, yet you expect your high performing sales teams to do their best work without this tool. What is it? A checklist, of course.
I’ve written about the power of checklists before, and my team has written about how they work on our platform. But what I haven’t really talked about is how to implement them within your sales team to supercharge your effectiveness.
It seems such a simple thing, to write down a list and head to the grocery store. Yet its simplicity belies its incredible power. In The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande describes how he learned from the airline industry to reduce death rates in hospitals by jaw-dropping rates of 47% in hospitals - not through hiring, or training, or technology, or superhuman effort - but through checklists.
For salespeople, simple checklists can help ensure that critical tasks don’t get dropped, while simultaneously freeing them up to focus on the creative and skilled aspects of their job. But how, exactly, do you go about implementing an effective checklist system on a sales team?
Most people use checklists at some point in the course of any given day. Whether it’s a work to-do list jotted down on a napkin, a house cleaning task list in a purpose-built app, or a grocery list printed out from a simple document, most of us are using them constantly in some form.
But to harness the full power of checklists for sales effectiveness, they need to be part of a larger system, consistently capturing the routine steps that are repeated at various stages of your critical processes.
In a hospital, establishing a checklist library for a surgical team means documenting every step the surgical team takes before a surgery, such as routine cleaning and sanitizing and prepping activities. Then documenting the routine tasks within the surgical room during the surgery, the routine procedures around completing the procedure, and the routine procedures for delivering the patient safely to the recovery team.
To harness the full power of checklists for sales effectiveness, they need to be part of a larger system.
Such a system helps to avoid critical errors and frees the medical team’s brains to focus on the unpredictable aspects of the surgery in progress.
On a sales team, you must first start with your sales process. Look at each stage of the process, the milestones within each stage, each step required to move through the process, and the activities required to complete each step. Within each aspect of the process, there are routine tasks that your salespeople complete every day in order to continue to move each sales project forward.
Document these tasks in checklists and make them accessible during each portion of the process so that salespeople always know what they need to do and never miss steps.
A library of checklists won’t help your team if they can’t quickly access the checklist they need when they need it. To organize your checklist library, you may try using:
Or any number of other methods. They all have their pros and cons.
Paper checklists can be useful for tasks that are location-specific. For instance, reminding everyone to clean up after themselves in the breakroom is probably best done on paper, and posted in a visible location, with the relevant checklist.
But in most cases, a digital format is more effective. Spreadsheets can be useful for organizing large numbers of checklists in a central location, but it can become cumbersome and difficult to navigate. Not to mention, easy to mess up.
Trello boards are effective for certain types of project management, but are not purpose-built for sales.
Purpose-built sales tools are probably your best option, but very often they are tacked onto the CRM as an afterthought and require app-switching, work-arounds, or custom coding in order to implement.
You won’t be surprised to hear that I believe the best tool for sales team checklists is the tool my company built - Membrain.
With Membrain, checklists are an integral part of the salesperson’s workflow. They are dynamic, customizable, flexible, and enabled by training content.
Integrated: When a salesperson logs into their workflow and begins their day, their checklists are instantly and seamlessly available to them for where they are in each project, giving them immediate ability to dive in and do what needs to be done and check it off the list.
Dynamic: Checklists can change as the project progresses, based on triggering events within the process. For instance, you can set up a rule that says “If we’re up against competitor A, use this checklist,” and the system will deliver the correct checklist within context for immediate use, as soon as the salesperson records that competitor as active. In this way, the salespeople always only have the checklists relevant to each project, and they always have everything they need.
Customizable: You are in control of the checklists, and customizing them is simple and intuitive. No custom coding required.
Flexible: You can change checklists on the fly, updating and upgrading them as you go. No limits.
Enabled by training content: You can attach training videos and other content to specific tasks in a checklist. When the salesperson reaches that item of the checklist, if they need a little help completing it, they can grab the training on the spot and then move forward. This is especially helpful with onboarding or when adding new steps to your process. No drawn-out training programs just to help salespeople learn one new thing - instant upskills.
There are lots of reasons to love Membrain for complex b2b sales, but this is one of my favorites. No one else is doing this quite like we are, and our customers and partners always get excited when I show them the power of our checklist capability. I would love to show you - reach out to book a demo.
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.
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