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To reach your goals as a sales manager, you need your team to hit their targets. Hitting those targets requires them to create new opportunities with existing clients and win new logos. When a salesperson logs a new opportunity in your CRM, you don't know whether they will win or lose the deal. You don't know if the new opportunity is real or another first conversation that is the salesperson's last conversation.

Managing the Creation of Opportunities

One critical task of a sales manager is managing opportunities. Sales managers who rarely manage the creation of new opportunities discover that they have too few deals and too little net new revenue at the end of a quarter. Good opportunity management starts with new opportunities. This is what a sales manager does.

A territory and account plan ensures your team creates the right opportunities with desirable companies. By deciding what clients you want your team to win, you provide strong direction on what your sales force does with their time and energy. You make it easier to manage opportunities when they are right for your company and your goals. This is the first step of good opportunity management.

Opportunity Management for Qualifying New Deals

You may have an opportunity stage that requires the salesperson to qualify the prospective client. The salesperson believes the deal is qualified, but before you allow that opportunity into your pristine pipeline, you want to make certain it is a real, winnable opportunity. It’s nice that the client passed your qualification requirements, but it still may not be an opportunity.

You improve the integrity of your pipeline presentation by refusing to add opportunities to your pipeline until the salesperson has a second meeting with the prospective client. After that, you can add it to the opportunities you are managing. When a salesperson doesn't get a second meeting, it is evidence they didn't have a value creation model that the client would agree to giving the salesperson more time.

You will have an easier time and be more effective when your opportunity management is limited to real opportunities, without spending time on things that are not deals.

Opportunity Management for Pursuit Plans

One best practice is to require the salesperson to outline their pursuit plan, or how they intend to create value for their prospective clients through the sales conversation. There are several questions you can ask to vet the salesperson's plan to win the opportunity. For example, you can ask the salesperson how much experience the contacts have buying and using what you sell. A contact with experience will not need the same conversation as a person deciding for the first time. You might also ask what the prospective client has done in the past and why they are exploring change. These factors can provide strategies to create value.

Because we believe our salespeople know how to sell, we leave them to pursue clients in a way they choose. By intervening and engaging with them about their plan, you ensure your sales force is better prepared to pursue and win the client. This is not micromanaging. It's good opportunity management. This is about sales effectiveness. The reason sales managers often need more opportunities is because they don't improve their sales force's sales effectiveness.

If you worry about this, know that the offensive coordinator of a football team calls the plays. You may call plays of your own. Effective sales management starts with leadership.

Stakeholders and Opportunity Management

One area sales leaders and managers don't give enough time and attention to is ensuring their salespeople acquire access to the stakeholders they need to be able to move the opportunity forward, and eventually, win it. In Eat Their Lunch, there is a chapter about consensus building. It looks at consensus on the vertical, meaning the department that will buy and use what you sell. But it also provides guidance on the horizontal, which refers to the other departments to be included in the decision. You need to know who should be in the room.

Even though deals may be made by consensus, there will be a specific person who signs a contract and agrees to pay for what you sell. It makes it more difficult to manage an opportunity if you don’t know who that person is, what they want, why they want it, their pain points, and what they need to say yes. It is poor opportunity management to let the salesperson avoid doing the heavy lifting necessary in deals. Time here is time well spent.

Opportunity Management for Stuck or Stalled Deals

There must be a deadline for an opportunity that ages out. If there has been no activity or forward momentum for a long time, it is no longer an opportunity. Remove these opportunities for two reasons. First, you don't want to miss your number because you believed you had enough opportunities, and enough of them were zombie deals that you fall short. Second, and more important, is that when you allow stalled opportunities to remain in your pipeline, you condone the practice of pretending they are real.

Great opportunity management would have you talking to your salespeople about stuck or stalled deals. By addressing these opportunities, you help with strategies to reengage the prospective client and put the train back on the track. The longer an opportunity goes without activity, the longer it will go without activity. If you can reanimate the opportunity, you have a shot of winning it. If you can't, remove and replace it with a deal that has a better chance of crossing the line before the end of the period.

Your Guide to Opportunity Management

Opportunity management is a large part of sales leadership, starting with identifying the opportunities you need your salespeople to pursue. More conversations about what the client will need to prefer to buy from your salespeople instead of your competitors will help your team with the better sales performance that allows them to close more deals. Trading your time on internal obligations for more time coaching opportunities is a sure path to increased sales and better results. Better opportunity management is better sales leadership. It's also what delivers net new revenue and goal attainment.

Post by Anthony Iannarino on December 24, 2022
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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