They had just wrapped up a “sales” call that I was listening to and I sat there with a shit-eating grin on my face, as their meeting stretched over an hour, and ended with an inconclusive, “So, let’s connect again next week and talk about more ideas.”
This was not a lead for them.
To label it generously would be to call it a distraction.
To label it accurately would be to call it a complete waste of time.
And so, after they had finished that call and we’d started ours — an hour-plus of their time, which was then cutting into my afternoon — I was blunt.
“This call should be short, guys,” I said.
I wanted to set the expectation that we’d be getting straight to the point.
“Both of you just spent an hour-plus on a call with somebody who is not going to be a client and who is likely not going to result in any sort of meaningful partnership. And! You didn’t even set a clear next step, and committed to wasting even more of your time with them next week!”
They both just hung their heads in shame.
And then I continued, explaining how their choice — and it is a choice — to continue to waste their time in ways on bad leads and with people who they don’t care to work with is the reason why their revenue-growth has been static.
They were constantly wasting time on conversations with people who either didn’t buy into what they were selling, or wanted to come up with ways to basically work with them for free under the false pretense that it might later be a “lucrative partnership.”
Their revenue wasn’t growing not because they had a bad product or bad ideas or didn’t know how to sell or whatever other crap people come up with — if you talk to enough of the right people, somebody will buy your f**king product, trust me.
It wasn’t growing because they were afraid to tell people ‘No’, and worried they might look like villains for wanting to spend their time productively.
A few years ago, I discovered this tool called Notion — at first, it was far too intimidating, the learning curve far too complex, and felt no more than an Evernote wannabe that was trying to do everything.
As I started to play around with it, that changed — I realized that because it did everything relatively well, it could eliminate A LOT of other tools in my arsenal.
Since then, it has become my favorite tool of all-time — I use it for everything, from writing, to daily reflections, to mapping out my goals, to recording books I’ve read, to, of course, sales and partnerships.
To say that it has radically changed how I go about my day would be grossly underselling it.
And beyond the obvious benefit of eliminating about a half-dozen other monthly subscriptions and apps — from tools like Asana and Basecamp, to writing programs like Hemingway or Byword — it has also helped me to stay focused.
I have set it up in a way that, instead of constantly thinking about what the hell should I do next?! it basically dictates my day to me.
This is important, because sales professionals especially often frequently find themselves caught up in low-value, shallow activities that seem productive but typically aren’t — think email, messaging on channels like LinkedIn, and so on.
What’s often far, far more productive is to go about your day with a plan — sharing valuable information, being seen as an expert in your field, and reaching out to potential partnerships in a very thoughtful manner.
Writing long-form posts and articles, creating valuable content and ideas, doing deep, methodical research on subjects that few other people have knowledge about.
In this article, I’m going to walk you through a step-by-step process for turning Notion — or really, any note-taking tool, but I’ll focus on Notion here because it’s my jam — into the ultimate tool for spending more time on productive sales conversations, and less time wasteful bleh.
Step 1. Mind-map a 3-6 month vision.
Often, we will go about our days without any specific rhyme or reason behind the things we’re doing, or why we do them.
I did that for years and often still find myself going through life in a general malaise.
But recently, I’ve been taking to mind-mapping and really enjoying the process.
For the purposes of this process, I’ve been using a tool called Miro because it blends well with Notion. It’s free for up to 3 boards.
Here’s what that mind-map typically looks like:
- I first come up with a core ‘Why’ behind everything I do. With lots of reflection over the past few months, I’ve realized that relationships — building great ones with great people — are often at the core of creating unique, and interesting experiences in life, and without them everything else is rather meaningless. You can make all the money in the world, but if your relationships suck, you might as well be broke. So, that’s the core of my mind-map.
- Everything else that branches out from that, is an extension of what I refer to as ‘Rocket-building’ — in order to build great rockets, you need the rocket itself (the idea or ideas), fuel (sales), and astronauts (great people). Without any of those components, your rocket becomes Apollo, like, 1 or something.
- The branches of my mind-map are then just all of the creative vomit that I can come up with to help realize those things. Potential sales opportunities, great people I’d love to work with, and hobbies and activities that will help me find creative inspiration in order to generate more rockets.
What you get from that, is a mind-map that ultimately looks something like this:
All of my future projects, goals, and tasks are then a by-product of that.
Step 2. Build a Dream 50 of Potential Clients, Partners, etc.
The typical shotgun approach of the sales professional works — cold-calling strangers at random and landing conversations and growing revenue — but if you really want to build meaningful relationships and connections, and you sell a product that’s expensive, then that transactional approach towards selling might still work, but it won’t be quite as rewarding as the approach I’m about to suggest.
I’ve learned this system from Videofruit and their Partnership Accelerator — the core of it is this notion of creating your Dream 50 of potential clients and partners.
Basically, in it you just list out the dozens of people who you’d absolutely dream of working with — the logic behind it being that if you write it down, it’s more likely to come true.
(Which has plenty of research-based evidence to support it.)
So, the next step I typically go through with my clients is thinking — OK, who are your Dream 50 clients?
In my case, since I’m often working with productivity-minded professionals, mine is focused on people with deep experience in the world of Notion and productivity, who are teaching others how to leverage their time most efficiently in order to focus on the activities, goals, relationships, and hobbies that they really want to focus on.
So, my Dream 50 will look a little something like this:
As I reach out to people throughout the week — typically just one person a day — I’ll move them around on the board, and make sure I’m checking in with people and moving conversations and partnerships forward that I need to move forward.
That’s at the core of my day-to-day, and really only a few hours a week of outreach is more than enough for me to connect with people who might go on to become great marketing partners, or future clients.
Step 3. Create a Daily Digest for Your Day.
The challenge I’d often run into when I first got started into Notion is figuring out just what the hell I need to do throughout my day, and figuring when and where to allocate time.
There are a lot of methods that people recommend — calendaring your day, chunking time, time-blocking, blah blah blah — none of them I really enjoyed, or really seemed to work for me.
What I’ve found, over time though, is that I love writing and I can typically only write in the morning.
Before things turn to chaos in the afternoon — if I need to edit something, and I do it in the morning, I often won’t have the energy to write anything in the afternoon.
As a solution to that, I came up with a process that I now quite thoroughly enjoy that seems to work pretty well, which I call my ‘Daily Digest’.
It is effectively my entire day, mapped out from start to finish, with ‘Quests’ and things that I can and should complete throughout the day.
Here’s a quick overview of what that looks like:
For me, it simplifies my day by forcing me to NOT THINK about what I have to do — all of my thinking and planning is typically done on Sunday, for the rest of the week (or sometimes the month).
That way, I can simply go throughout my day, write, dump tasks as need be, check email when I have time, and then work on projects in the afternoon as I see fit.
And then even beyond that, make a concerted effort to connect with people in a meaningful way, at least one hour a day.
Instead of bombarding people who don’t care about me en masse, I’m now making a much stronger effort to reach out to people who I genuinely want to work with, in a super meaningful way.
I have my Daily Digest setup in a way so that, when it comes time in the afternoon and I’m like, “I’m tired, I don’t want to reach out to anyone!” I’ve got a clear list of people who — thanks to my amazing VA Terence — would be good potential partners, along with extensive research and a few ideas on how we might be able to work together.
It works so, so well.
When I first got into sales, my only perception of what made people successful in sales was grinding.
If you wanted to be a successful salesperson, you should spend all of your time and energy grinding away and making calls and booking deals.
That approach might work for transactional sales — one-off sales that are typically below $2500 and in which the salesperson might never see the other person again — but it often leads to burnout, too.
The approach I suggest is far different, and more sustainable.
It’s rooted in the theory that in order to become a real, trusted professional you must do great, valuable work — that’s what your morning hours should be committed to — and build high-leverage relationships with great people who you admire and want to work with.
If you’re constantly working with people who you don’t care about or despise, no amount of sales success will make up for the fact that your relationships still suck.
You’ll be miserable.
Through my approach, not only will you be approaching people in a way that is exponentially more likely to result in a ‘Yes‘, but you’ll also be working with people who you actually care to develop a relationship with.
Which means that you will be more excited, and your work will be better, too.
(This is anecdotal — but I’m sure there’s evidence that supports this.)
Good luck selling!
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