The Art of Note-Taking: Crucial Skills for Account-Based Selling
The most crucial thing about account-based selling is the ability to manage and develop the relationships within an account. This means building relationships with a broad set of people throughout the organization. Some will turn out to be involved in the decision process, as influencers or stakeholders, and some will not.
As you cannot know in advance who will be relevant, you need to develop relationships with a wide variety of people across different functions, and at different levels in the organization. Within one account, that can mean tens or even hundreds of relationships to manage. Across multiple accounts, the number of relationships you are managing can end up in the thousands.
Many of these relationships need to be built prior to, or outside of, a direct sales effort. They will need to be built over time so that they are built and in place when an opportunity to sell presents itself (or is presented to you because of the relationships). This means that you need to build a foundation of knowledge on who each person is and what they are interested in so that you do not miss any opportunity that arises to restart a conversation, help someone, or build trust.
This requires a structure for note-taking that goes beyond ad hoc scribbles in the margin of a notebook. You must be thoughtful in guiding conversations to help you learn more about each person and their interests, and you need to be diligent and precise in recording your notes on their interests, motivations, and personality.
Each note you take should give you an opening to build the relationship. Here are the 7 notes you should take on each person you hope to build a relationship with:
1) Hires Needed & Skills Sought
Are they looking to hire anyone for the team? Do they need to learn more about an area? Each of these notes gives you an opportunity to look in your network for introductions that might make for a mutually beneficial conversation.
2) Next Career Move
While you won’t want to disrupt a prospective customer’s business by having a key person hired away at the wrong time, it’s well worth knowing what’s ‘next’ for a person. Connecting a person with a career move that is the next step in their career is a wonderful way to help both the leader doing the hiring and the person you are recommending. Even if the conversation does not result in a job change, knowing that you put your reputation on the line for them without asking anything in return will generate a lot of trust and good feelings.
3) Interests, Sports, and Hobbies
The best conversations are often on topics outside of work. Be sure to remember and take notes on any areas of interest that they shared. A follow-up on a non work-related topic is often a much easier conversation, especially for relationships that are not likely to be directly involved in any near-term deals, but are worth keeping engaged.
An obvious topic to remember well is family. It is a key topic for conversations and a chance to show that you remember the small details, which are surprisingly easy to forget without diligent note-taking. More than that, however, there are often opportunities for you to proactively offer help, especially when kids who are looking for summer internships or starting jobs are involved.
5) Major Project Initiatives and Timelines
If they mention a major project or initiative they are working on, be sure to remember its timeline. A quick follow-up around the time it’s due to be completed to ask how it went shows that you were listening and remembered the details well.
6) Upcoming Trips
Remembering vacation destinations adds a personal touch to any follow-up conversations if you’re able to ask them how they enjoyed it. At the time of the conversation, it can seem like an easy thing to keep track of in your head, but it’s surprising how easily the timing and location of the vacation will slip from your memory. It can also present a wonderful opportunity down the road, should you find another person with similar plans, to make a connection between two people in your network who can compare notes on the best things to see and do at that destination.
7) Identification with Teams, Community Groups, or Charities
Almost everyone has something they identify with outside of work, whether it’s a sports team or a charitable cause. Good note-taking will pay dividends if you’re later struggling to find the right way to get back in touch. A major upset or a big trade can give you a solid reason to reach out to someone you had a good sports conversation with.
Account-based selling will always be challenging, and it will always involve managing large numbers of relationships over a long period of time. Building relationships is all about finding and remembering the things that make a person unique, and using that as a foundation for conversations and opportunities to help them.
Most people struggle to remember the necessary level of detail on even a couple of hundred people, which is not sufficient for the volume of relationships to manage in most account-based sales processes. A good note-taking strategy, focused on the right topics, can make the difference between long term success and failure.