There are two major segments into which sales activities can be categorized: opportunity creation and opportunity capture. They are different, and success in one does not mean success in the other.
If there is anything that most salespeople and sales organizations could stand to improve, it’s opportunity creation. Opportunity creation requires that one nurture their dream clients and prospect. It also requires that they follow up on leads.
The work of opportunity creation tends to be neglected. It’s the hard work of trying to open relationships, something that many people struggle with, and one of the more difficult aspects of sales for many salespeople. This is made worse by so much noise about how none of this work is necessary, that inbound marketing and social channels will fill the pipeline beyond anything a salesperson could produce otherwise. A lack of opportunities is often exacerbated by sales managers who don’t like to have to hold their people accountable for the activity that generates new opportunities. They don’t want to be micro managers, and they don’t know that they should start as macro managers and work to micro when necessary.
But, without opportunity creation, there is no opportunity capture. And without opportunity capture, the end is not far off.
Opportunity capture is a game of effectiveness. It isn’t enough to create opportunities without also possessing the ability to play the end game and win deals. If prospecting is difficult, winning can be even more difficult.
Winning requires a complex array of attributes and skills, some of which look like voodoo and black magic, and some of which are simply difficult to obtain. There are a certain set of attributes that build influence, the known, liked, and trusted part of sales (these make up the first half of The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need). Then there are a number of skills that must be mastered, like commitment-gaining, leveraging business acumen, managing change, and leading your clients as a peer (these skills make up the second half of The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need). This is the advice part of the two ingredient recipe that makes one a trusted advisor, a title that can only be bestowed upon the holder by their client after is has been earned.
If opportunity capture was easy, win rates would be much higher than they are for most sales organizations. But the attributes are too rare in the right combinations, and even rarer in their development. The skills are difficult to teach, and more difficult to master.
Most salespeople and sales organizations would do well to separate these two activities in their management, their reporting, and their development. For most, equal attention to both would provide the best plan for an overall improvement in their results.