Getting started with sales opportunity management.
Sales opportunity management is the process where you track sales opportunities as they move through the sales pipeline.
What is an opportunity?
Opportunities are leads who have shown interest in your product or service and are ready to make a purchase soon. This stage is the final phase of the deal, where the sales rep and the client negotiate the pricing, terms of service, etc.
However, without a structured sales process, it becomes difficult to point out which lead is an opportunity, and which is not. More importantly, when there are multiple opportunities with a single lead, it becomes hard to keep track of all of them. Therefore, to be able to handle numerous such leads, you need to practice sound opportunity management.
Before we get into the opportunity management best practices, let us first talk about the basic requirements of opportunity management.
1. Set up the pipeline
The entire opportunity management process is dependent on the well-defined series of steps in the sales process – known as a sales pipeline. A sales pipeline is essentially a visual tool to see different stages of the sales process. You can see where a potential customer is and what they should do next to advance to the next phase. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for this. Every business has a different sales process. Therefore, one must carefully define the sales pipeline. How effective your sales pipeline is will also depend on how you segment leads.
You can manage your sales pipeline with the help of CRM software. In most CRMs, you will find that a sales pipeline has stages like “appointment scheduled,” “qualified to buy,” “contract sent,” and so on. The terminologies may differ, but the context will remain the same. You will have to sort these items and create a sales pipeline that suits your business requirements.
2. Understand your leads
When you set up a pipeline, keep your customers in mind. More importantly, know that each customer is different and will interact with your business differently. Some leads may be genuinely interested in your product or service but may respond slowly. Alternatively, someone may show genuine interest and drop out. Therefore, you must must understand the intent of the prospects/potential customers before you create the pipeline.
3. Maintain consistent contact with your customers
Interact with your customers at every stage of the sales process. In a sales pipeline, you must define a fixed set of actions. When a customer performs those actions, they must move from one stage to another. By being in constant contact with them, you can understand if they are ready to move to the next stage of the pipeline or not.
For example, let’s say a person subscribes to your email newsletters. So, the person enters your lead funnel and is in the lead stage. A week later, he receives a webinar invitation email from you. He registers for the webinar, and after the event, shows interest in your product demo. So now, the lead transitions into the opportunity stage. This way, by maintaining regular contact with the lead, you can encourage them to proceed to the next phase of the buying journey.
10 Best practices for sales opportunity management
Just setting up a sales pipeline is not enough. You must also learn to use the sales pipeline effectively. For instance, you may have a sales pipeline set up, but you do not know which opportunities to focus on first, or you take too long to reach out to those who are truly interested. Such delays may account for losing the sales opportunities. To avoid such instances, you need to get organized. Here are ten tips on how to get better at sales opportunity management.
1. Follow-up as and when needed.
Today, buyers have a lot more choices with them. If they do not feel interested in a brand, they can switch to a competitor who offers a similar product. Hence, effective communication is crucial in selling. Also, note that some leads will need fewer follow-ups, whereas some will need more. Therefore, you need to identify these preferences. You can use behavior tracking to decide when to follow-up. The goal should be to provide a good experience even when you’re following up with them for pitching your product.
A decade ago, it took less than four phone calls to make a sale. Now, it takes eight. However, most sales reps give up after two calls – which should not be the case. Sales reps must diligently follow-up with leads.
Follow up communications are not always easy. However, by using a CRM suite, it becomes easier to follow up with your leads. The CRM software lets you create automated communication workflows and reminders to follow-up with a lead.
2. Focus on the best leads
To achieve your targets, you must focus on the best leads in the sales pipeline. Your CRM platform will help you segment leads based on multiple metrics, such as buying intent, engagement with your content, etc. So, look up those sales-ready, high-value leads. These are the people who will require minimum effort for closure. Once you have identified the leads that are the most engaged, prioritize follow-ups with them.
3. Review and update the sales pipeline regularly.
A periodic review could expose bottlenecks in the sales process. When you review the sales procedures, note down what changes you have to make. Often, this will involve re-training sales reps, cleaning up old contacts, and more. However, you should never leave these tasks for later. Because when you postpone modifying the sales pipeline, you may need to make a much larger change to your sales pipeline later. It may even lead to chaos.
With periodic reviewing and updating, you can make small incremental changes to the sales pipeline.
4. Optimize your sales cycles
A good opportunity management practice is implementing short sales cycles. B2C sales cycles are generally short, but B2B cycles can be longer. Often, B2B sales will take over a quarter to close. Some of them can even take a year. A longer sales cycle gives your opportunity the time to explore other options and change their mind.
“We have seen a 182.14% increase in quality conversations with the help of chatbots. The lead closure time for chat leads is 18-20% faster than any other inbound leads.”Meenu Joshi, Director of Content, LeadSquared.
When you shorten your sales cycle, try to reduce the time between follow-up communications. However, do not annoy your opportunity with multiple follow-ups in a day.
Another way to shorten the sales cycle is to provide custom product demos. You can offer pre-built custom demos to let the prospect experience the product as close to their use case as possible.
“We saw a 40% increase in conversion rates when we started personalizing product demos according to the user.“Murali Krishna, Director – Sales Operations, LeadSquared.
5. Standardize processes
Even though each customer is unique, they all have a lot in common. You can find the common traits by looking at the ideal buyer persona. Even though your sales reps have their personal touch, they all follow a similar sales procedure. Therefore, you should standardize the sales process in your business. It will allow your sales team to have a clear idea of what to do next. Custom sales techniques often add a redundant overhead. It is better to start with a standard process and fine-tune it as the business grows.
6. Offer relatable content
One way to keep your opportunities engaged is to offer them content that they find useful. Help them understand more about your product or service. It could be via blog posts, articles, product demo videos, case studies, and more.
You can even segregate content based on where the customer is in the sales funnel. For instance, share articles, infographics, etc. with your top of the funnel leads. Those in the middle of the funnel will expect more specific content. You can provide them eBooks, case studies, white papers, and more. Those at the bottom of the funnel are ready to buy your product. You can give them a free trial or coupon codes.
Do you want to influence your prospects ’ buying decisions with the right content at the right time? Download the B2B sales and marketing playbook now!
7. Discard dead leads
While it is important to focus on the most engaged leads, it is also crucial to know when to let go of one. Letting them go can be a difficult task. A business can get invested in a lead as they nurture them. However, if the lead is not interested, it is time to move on.
Another aspect to look at is – prevent the lead from getting cold. That is, strengthen your lead nurturing strategies and keep them engaged. If it still does not work, you know what to do next.
8. Keep a tab on metrics.
Your pipeline metrics can tell you a lot about how well your sales team is performing.
A sales pipeline has numerous metrics associated with them. These include how many leads or opportunities are there in the pipeline, the average size of a deal, close-ratio, and sales velocity. Make sure that you set aside some time to check these values. Sales pipeline metrics are a good indicator of how well your business is growing. It can also show you which parts of the sales pipeline need improvement.
9. Understand regulations
Businesses must comply with the local government and other regulatory bodies.
For instance, companies had to change their sales process with the introduction of GDPR in 2018. Not complying with these regulations may incur charges to the organizations. Moreover, you may lose opportunities with companies that look for certified vendors.
10. Use a CRM
To manage a sales pipeline efficiently, CRM is a must. A CRM platform will allow you to manage your sales pipeline efficiently. It can automate numerous tasks and track all the leads automatically. Moreover, it can also schedule appointments and send out reminders.
The sales pipeline is the heart of a business. Managing sales opportunities effectively is crucial for business growth. Therefore, setting up a sales pipeline and implementing a CRM platform becomes essential.
I hope these ten practices will help you optimize your sales pipeline and speed up your sales cycle.
If you are looking for a solution to capture, track & close all opportunities from every single contact, manage multiple products, and spot upsell/cross-sell signals, check out LeadSquared Opportunity Management CRM.