I remember when I was a kid and starting to understand the concept of business. One of the first things I learned was the tenant “Get it in writing.” Many years have passed but the importance of getting things in writing remains relevant today - particularly for sales leaders.
Of course any type of formal business deal will have the terms and conditions in some form of a contract. But think of all the external and internal conversations that occur within the sales leadership domain. If the parties involved don’t have a mechanism for capturing and acknowledging what was discussed, bad things are bound to happen.
I’ve observed countless examples of sales leaders getting negatively surprised by deals not closing when forecasted, sales reps being shocked when learning their performance is below expectations and customers threatening to leave because verbal promises were not kept.
I recommend that sales organizations make it a practice to document the following:
- All customer conversations from initial discovery to close to on-going support
- Internal conversations that generate action items
- Performance reviews especially for under performers
- Internal conversations regarding inappropriate behavior
Documentation needs to be as thorough and specific as the situation requires. For example, if a customer is engaged with you in a sale cycle, validate the evaluation, approval, and contracts process. This entails sending an email that describes the steps, what happens in each step, who is involved, and the expected timeline from now until a contract is executed. Your understanding is not “validated” until the customer replies (in writing) and confirms that you are correct. Frankly I would NEVER commit a deal until I had validated the approval process in writing.
To reiterate, the validation step with the other party completes the process. You are forcing people to either correct your understanding or acknowledge their agreement. If the recipient does not respond, that’s an indication of a potential issue - continue to follow-up.
I’m astounded by the number of sales leaders that don’t utilize “get it in writing”. I hear excuses like “we don’t have the time” or “documentation of conversations makes people uncomfortable” or “we trust what people tell us”.
Stop with the excuses. Stop being lazy. Get it in writing.