“To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” — Benjamin Franklin
Of course, before you put your gym shoes on, you need to step back and look at your sales process. Does your sales team know what distinguishes sales opportunities from leads? Are they prioritizing their time and channeling their efforts where they get the most returns?
It is important to define what a sales opportunity is. As basic as this sounds, your definition becomes the qualifiers that move people from lead to opportunity. It gives your sales reps guidelines to follow so they can manage their leads consistently with the rest of the team. And, in turn, you get forecasting accuracy and a true picture of where people and accounts are in your sales pipeline.
Leads VS. Sales Opportunities
Simply put, sales opportunities are people or accounts that have been qualified. You’ve called these contacts and talked about their needs. You’ve assessed their fit. They’re in your pipeline and are in touch with you. You feel good about the possibility of closing the deal.
Contrast this with leads. A lead is just a contact that you have few information about. It could be a marketing-generated lead, which is inbound and top-of-the-funnel. The contact might have downloaded content or filled out a form. Or, it could be a sales-generated lead, gathered through efforts of your outbound sales team or SDRs.
Communication lies in between. You need to talk to your leads, and gather enough information to help you qualify them. Do they share the top characteristics typical of your sales opportunities? Can you justify devoting more of your time and effort to nurturing these leads?
Top Characteristics of Sales Opportunities
“Find your trigger. Find the qualities that make a lead more likely to convert, and focus on those leads.” – Brian Kardon, CMO at Lattice Engines, a B2B cloud applications company.
In time, you will notice similar characteristics that are shared by leads who convert to sales opportunities. Take note of the top three: need, interest and fit. These characteristics help you come up with an accurate profile of your ideal customer. You can then focus your efforts on nurturing leads that more or less fit into this mold.
Need: This pertains to the common pain points shared by your ideal customers. Your qualified sales opportunities experience a similar problem. The primary motivation to buy is to fix this problem and lessen the pain. Your sales rep’s job is to help identify the pain and frame your product as the best-fit salve.
Interest: Having a need for your product – or a pain point that has to be resolved – is just the start. Need does not always translate to interest. For instance, a start-up might need a CRM software. But, if they’re set on using MS Excel for their client management needs, a CRM system is going to be difficult to sell.
Fit: Here, you need to consider your product and how it fits into your lead’s current business and its capacity. Because, as much as you are able to lessen pain points, a SMB is not a good fit if your product is enterprise-scale. A business with a few hundred bucks to spare will not be able to buy your million dollar solution.
How to Manage Your Sales Opportunities
“It’s not about having the right opportunities. It’s about handling the opportunities right.” – Mark Hunter, author, speaker and lead expert at The Sales Hunter
In a lot of ways, the line between closed deals and lost sales depends on how you manage sales opportunities. Here are some things to consider:
1. Accurately qualify your leads: There may be cases wherein you promote your leads to sales opportunities prematurely. It could be that the lead needs further nurturing, and is not yet sales-ready. When you inaccurately qualify your leads, you end up devoting your efforts on opportunities that take longer to close.
2. Know your buyer: It takes trust and rapport when you want to develop business relationships from your sales opportunities. To get to this point, you need to know your prospective buyer like the back of your hand. So, do the groundwork and understand your prospect’s business, their buying processes, needs/ motivations and the decision-making team, among other aspects.
3. Know your prospect’s obstacles to buying: There are always perceived risks when buying a product or solution. Understand what might keep a prospect from making a purchase and address these issues.
4. Track the deal’s progress: Once a lead becomes an opportunity, it becomes more important to track deal milestones, instead of monitoring activity levels. A prospect’s time on your website, their downloads and all that are still good indicators of interest. However, you need to focus more on where they are in the decision-making process and their requirements to move this process along.
5. Don’t be afraid to disqualify: Not all sales opportunities move to the next stage. Some of them become lost opportunities due to something that you discover as you engage with them. When this happens, don’t be afraid to disqualify. This is ultimately better than devoting your time to opportunities you can’t close.
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