5 Steps to Good Note Taking

5 Steps to Taking Good Notes

Note taking is a critical skill for sales professionals. How well do you take notes? What do you do with your notes after you’ve taken them? My thoughts turned to note-taking as two people commented on my notes recently. Note-taking is something I take for granted. No doubt, we all do. I thought I’d share my perspective as some ideas may be beneficial to you.

1. Use pen and paper. 
I went through a phase where I tried to be completely digital. My thinking was that everything valuable is going to end up in my computer so why not just enter it directly in the first place. Taking notes with a keyboard, however, disrupted the natural connection in the meeting. It’s somewhat unnatural to be in a conversation with one person typing. Most executives, however, will carry a physical notebook with them. Sales professionals should do the same. Writing with a physical notebook is natural and it creates a balanced dynamic as the executive you’re meeting with is doing the same thing.

2. Transcribe your notes as soon as possible.
It’s important to get your notes into your CRM as soon as possible. First, if other people on your team need to be brought up to speed, it’s important that you don’t run the risk of them not having the information in time. Second, if you’re like me, sometimes when you write quickly, you don’t always write legibly. If you revisit your notes soon enough, you’ll most likely remember what your writing is supposed to say. Today, many smartphones have a speech to text function enabling you to transcribe quickly and effortlessly. Also, applications such as Evernote will enable you to connect your notes directly into CRMs like Salesforce.

3. Look for goals, obstacles, and root causes.
I think the most important information we must capture in our notes is what our prospects and clients are trying to achieve. Ultimately, this is our value. We help people achieve their goals. All of our subsequent communications should be tied to these goals. Proposals and quotation letters should reflect how we help our clients and prospects achieve their goals. Subsequent projects and product sales should be measured in terms of how well they helped out clients and prospects achieve their goals. Obstacles are just a subset of goals. Helping clients and prospects remove obstacles helps them achieve their goals. Also, try to capture context for the need you are uncovering by getting to the root cause. Capturing root cause will enable you to be more thoughtful when crafting solutions.

4. You should also capture the metaphors your client or prospect uses. Why? Because metaphors are crystallized and succinct ways people capture what they are facing. After much thought and years of experience, a prospect may summarize a particular problem as a “deep groove” or as a “significant hurdle” or “driving with the hand brake on”. Whatever the metaphor is, it is shorthand for a world of experience. It reflects disappointment and hope. To really connect your value to your prospect’s world, you should frame your value using the same metaphor. For example, you could present your value as enabling them to smooth out the deep grooves, moving over obstacles at speed or shifting into high gear. How you extend the metaphor is up to you. The key is to connect to your prospect’s shorthand. Your value will be received much more enthusiastically.

5. Look for common themes 
With complex sales, you’ll be speaking with multiple stakeholders over months and sometimes years. Keeping good notes will enable you to spot common themes across functional areas and over time. Sometimes seemingly insignificant comments become more significant once you have a more complete picture. However, you need to have a system for capturing notes and referring back to them in oder to realize this value.

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