I’m a firm believer in opportunity assessment – perhaps the most important function frontline sales managers should perform.
What is opportunity assessment? It’s a very deliberate process of evaluating a seller’s opportunities against six key qualifiers. This evaluation will help sales teams proactively identify and rectify problems, both with the opportunity itself and with the seller’s skills, and assign the opportunity to the correct stage in the sales process.
Opportunity assessment should be performed as early as possible and periodically thereafter. Here are a number of key benefits you’ll get when you practice opportunity assessment.
- The sales manager will be able to identify whether the opportunity has any problems.
- Depending on the nature of such problems, the sales manager can determine whether the opportunity should be disqualified. (This is part of the “tough love” aspect of a sales manager’s job.)
- The sales manager can get a clear view into how well a salesperson executes key selling skills during sales calls. (Those skills include need development, qualification, control, and negotiation) In effect, opportunity assessment is the best way for the sales manager to identify a salesperson’s skill deficiencies and put the appropriate skill development plan in place.
- The sales manager can accurately assign the appropriate stage to an opportunity. This is very important because it sets the stage for accurate communications about the opportunity, and it is a fundamental requirement to accurate pipeline management and forecasting. (And yes, I did say the sales manager should assign the stage. Salespeople tend to not remember stage definitions, don’t adhere to them, or tend to be “wishful thinkers” – especially if they are at 50 percent of quota.)
As a sales manager, how do you properly assess an opportunity? Here are the six key questions you should ask.
- Have you clearly identified a critical business issue (CBI) that will drive the buyer’s need to act? Is it significant enough to cause a buyer or buyers to take action; or, put another way, is there enough “pain” to cause “change”?
- Have you developed a clear solution in the mind of your buyer? Can the buyer literally see themselves using the solution so the CBI can be eliminated? Can you establish a clear advantage over your competition?
- Have you proven you can provide the capabilities that make up the solution?
- Have you gained access to the buyers who are “above the power line,” and thus capable of both driving the opportunity and making the decision to go forward?
- Does the buyer have a clear sense of the solution’s value, and does that value meet their expectations for return on investment?
- Have your salesperson and the buyer agreed on a clear sequence of events, or a “go forward plan” which defines the remaining steps leading to a purchase decision?
These six qualifiers can be summarized in a simple equation sales managers should teach their salespeople:
Sale = CBI x Solution x Proof x Power x Value x Plan
Consequently, if any of these qualifiers gets a low score, so, too, does the seller’s probability of winning that opportunity. Whenever a qualifier is low, the appropriate action or actions should be identified for the seller to take with the buyer, and there are two possible outcomes:
- If your seller is successful you will have an opportunity that is back on track.
- If your seller is not successful, then, in all likelihood, you should disqualify the opportunity.
So, in my view, consistent opportunity assessment is critical. It is key to winning more opportunities, shortening sales cycles, uncovering and resolving skill deficiencies among salespeople, maintaining a clean sales pipeline, and forecasting accurately.