As a seller, the term “opportunity” conjures images of potential growth, success, and of course, profit. But sales opportunities can also muddy the waters for already-busy teams, making it difficult to properly track, prioritize, and tackle leads.
This is particularly true when teams don’t have the right opportunity management strategy and tools to back them up. Account executives (AEs) often must jump between tabs and systems to effectively manage their deals, which reduces their efficiency by up to 9%. They struggle to understand where each deal is in the sales cycle, which hinders their productivity and ability to run effective deal review meetings with managers.
But competitive teams understand the importance of strong sales opportunity management, and reap the benefits of leveraging the right tools and processes. From faster sales cycles to higher productivity to improved pipeline visibility and more, effective opportunity management can take a team's progress and performance to the next level.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about sales opportunity management, including common challenges, benefits, stages, and best practices for success.
A sales opportunity is a prospect that’s already been deemed a qualified lead. Keep in mind, while 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to sales, only 21% are actually qualified; so it’s important to understand the exact moment a lead becomes an actual sales opportunity.
The qualifying moment differs from one organization to the next (depending on a variety of factors), but effective and standardized lead qualification helps sellers to avoid wasted time and to focus on the right types of leads. The thresholds and criteria by which sellers qualify leads might include the prospect’s pain points, interests, budget, readiness to buy, and more.
Once you’ve identified a prospect as a sales opportunity, you can begin moving them through the sales funnel and managing their progress.
It’s important to note that, while every sales opportunity is a lead, not every sales lead is an opportunity. A sales lead is any potential prospect who has demonstrated interest in your business’s products or services. They may have downloaded a gated asset from your website, attended a webinar, or filled out a "contact us" form.
But that initial interest doesn’t necessarily mean a sales lead meets the criteria to eventually become a paying customer. Let’s say Sam is a content marketer at a technology consulting firm. He might download a gated asset from a sales organization that offers digital marketing software; but that doesn’t mean he’s actually ready, willing, or authorized to make a purchase. For now, he’s just considered a sales lead.
On the other hand, if Sam downloads the gated asset, is contacted by the seller, passes the information on to an interested, authorized buyer at his organization, and an initial meeting is subsequently scheduled between that prospect and an AE, the lead is officially transitioned to a sales opportunity.
Converting sales leads into opportunities seems pretty straightforward, right? So why do so many sales teams struggle to manage them properly?
Although they’ve been qualified, not all sales opportunities are created equally. Because of this inequity, sellers often struggle to determine which opportunities they should prioritize. They waste time chasing opportunities that eventually stall out, and miss out on those that would have otherwise made it across the finish line.
For teams that use several disparate systems and tools, keeping track of where each deal is in the sales cycle becomes the primary obstacle. They’re slowed down by toggling between tabs and systems and often don’t have the most up-to-date information possible to fully understand an opportunity’s progress.
These inefficiencies — coupled with a lack of visibility across the pipeline — make managing sales opportunities a time-consuming headache; and one that doesn’t yield the results sellers want. Instead of moving opportunities forward with ease and confidence, sellers spend excess time identifying next steps, determining the actual value of each opportunity, and calculating lost/won ratio.
Sales opportunity management is the practice of tracking, organizing, and acting on deals in the sales pipeline. It’s an essential component of maintaining a healthy pipeline and more reliable growth.
The opportunity management process includes tracking and analyzing who’s in your pipeline, their exact location, and whether they’re likely to close and win; then retrospectively comparing this to the same period’s wins and losses. These insights help you understand what went right, what went wrong, and what needs to be fixed.
Over time, you can fine-tune your processes, activities, and interactions so opportunities get exactly what they want and need at the exact right time, making them more likely to make the purchase. Plus, real-time opportunity data allows teams to forecast with greater accuracy and ease, which saves time, instills confidence in leaders and key stakeholders, and supports better business decisions.
Laying the foundation for strong sales opportunity management can feel daunting, especially for teams that will need a complete overhaul of existing tools and processes. But the juice is well-worth the squeeze, as proper opportunity management can help businesses reap some significant benefits, including:
In order to qualify and convert a sales opportunity into a paying customer, sellers must move leads through their (ideally) well-defined sales pipeline. Though the pipeline may vary slightly from one company to the next, the most common stages include:
A solid sales pipeline is a great jumping-off point for managing your team’s opportunities. But revving opportunity progress and seller performance also requires the use of some tried-and-true best practices.
Because effective sales opportunity management requires the right processes and tools, some businesses take a fragmented approach. They still rely on manual, outdated, or disjointed systems in lieu of investing in modern tactics and technologies.
Some smaller businesses use spreadsheets to track and monitor each lead as they progress from prospect to opportunity to closed-won or closed-lost deals along the pipeline. But as they land more opportunities and as the business grows, this approach is difficult — if not impossible — to scale. Efficiency deteriorates, details fall through the cracks, and opportunities are lost before sellers can intervene.
Other organizations use their CRM system to digitize the process. But while these tools are great for managing customers after a sale has closed, they’re limited in terms of engagement capabilities. Yes, they can collect customer contact information and track activities, but they aren’t robust enough to streamline engagement interactions across channels or ensure speedy follow-up to keep leads hot.
To effectively and reliably manage your sales opportunities at scale, your team needs an intelligent deal management platform. The right technology offers insights-driven deal inspection to improve AE and manager efficiency so they can focus on closing more deals at a faster pace.
Some solutions even include conversation intelligence, real-time coaching, live notes transcription, automated follow-up, and actionable data. That way, sellers can spend more time actually selling, and less time on the repetitive, mundane tasks that otherwise divert their attention. Plus, a centralized, real-time view of the pipeline enables sellers and managers to easily inspect and resolve at-risk deals before it’s too late.
Sales opportunity management can become your team’s secret weapon in tracking and nudging deals through the pipeline. But your existing tools and processes might be holding you back. To improve deal progress and sales performance, your team needs a holistic solution that helps them create quality pipeline, maximize rep productivity, and drive predictable revenue growth.
Outreach’s Sales Execution Platform harnesses the power of effective deal management, pipeline management, sales engagement, and much more in a single, user-friendly platform. Its intelligent tools give leaders, managers, and sellers a snapshot of every deal with insights across the opportunity lifecycle; plus everything else they need to win more deals at a faster rate and with greater predictability.
Learn more about how the right tool can help your team improve seller productivity or request a demo today.