How to Improve Sales Using One Simple Tool


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Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and writer for the New York Times, told a story of a man who came into the emergency room with a stab wound, “It was a single wound, about an inch in size, in his belly.”

The wound didn’t appear life-threatening, but after about 10 minutes his condition worsened.

He crashed.

When they got him on the table and opened him up, they found the wound was a foot deep (he was a pretty big guy) and cut his aorta. When they asked how the stabbing occurred, he told them it happened at a Halloween party and the other guy had a bayonet.

The doctors reflected and determined that if they knew it was a bayonet, they would have acted differently from the start.

Gawande uses this example—a simple miscommunication with big implications—to illustrate the central case in his book, The Checklist Manifesto. Even after 20 years of practice, doctors miss things. They make mistakes. And it’s all due to complexity.

Gawande then visited Boeing to watch them design and manufacture planes. Because the work is so complex, they did almost everything by checklist. Gawande surmised that checklists might work when dealing with emergencies, such as preparing for surgery.

To see if checklists might work for the surgery, he built a two-minute checklist for operations in 8 hospitals. Basic tasks were listed such as making sure blood was available, antibiotics were present, and so on.

So how did it work?

“We got better results. Massively better results.” Gawande said.

The same situation is true in sales. Even after 10 or 20 years of selling, opportunities can be complex. You miss things. You make common sales mistakes.

If you’re wondering how to improve sales, using a checklist will help you avoid those common mistakes.

Employing a checklist during your sales process will help you approach sales systematically and achieve massively better outcomes.

The #1 Sales Skill

The #1 sales skill in both Value-Driving Sales Organizations and Top-Performing Sales Organizations is: Driving and winning sales opportunities.

91% of Value-Driving Sales Organizations agree their sellers have this skill compared to only 47% of Non-Value-Driving Sales Organizations. The difference here is alarming.

This is where your checklist comes in handy.

With the proper training and the right checklist, you make fewer mistakes, better action decisions, and don’t miss important steps.

Think about your sales. Do you always:

• Talk to all of the right people in an opportunity?
• Conduct a completely thorough needs discovery?
• Make the most compelling value case to the buyer?
• Plan specifically to beat the competition?
• Have an impressive action plan to win as you advance the sale?

A seller rarely does this with every sales opportunity.

Take making a compelling value case, for example:

You have to make a persuasive case to each buyer for why this decision is important, why they need to act now, why you’re the best choice, and how you’re going to achieve the desired outcomes.

Making sure these 4 simple questions are answered is essential for every sale. While the answers may share similarities, the value case is typically different for each buyer based on their unique situations and needs.

With the right checklist, you can approach sales and cover all your bases. Most sellers aren’t doing this. You will differentiate yourself from the competition and massively improve sales results if you can.

All this with the help of one simple tool: a checklist.


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