Every potential customer is unique in his or her own way. Selling to them often means understanding their most important characteristics in order to identify their needs and to communicate that your product or service is the right solution to the problems that are holding them back.
In the vernacular of sales intelligence, those characteristics are called opportunity attributes.
Without an accurate understanding of the current state of an opportunity, you as the sales manager must interrogate your sales reps every week on their key opportunities before starting to strategize on key next steps. This makes your weekly one-on-ones a compliance review rather than a strategy session.
Without recording the current status of all opportunities in a CRM application, the sales rep’s prioritization of opportunities as “most likely to close” becomes more of a gut decision rather than a fact-based one. Even more damaging, potentially, some of the opportunities with the highest likelihood of closing are overlooked.
Without an accurate understanding of an opportunity, it is difficult to know where the opportunity is in the sales cycle. That’s why it’s so important to nail down the opportunity attributes.
Opportunity attributes help optimize the sales process in two ways:
- If the attributes describe the opportunity sufficiently, sales management does not need to rely on the sales reps’ descriptions and weekly interrogations. The weekly one-on-ones become strategy sessions. The sales rep-sales manager meetings spend more time on next steps with an opportunity, not on bringing the sales manager up to speed.
- If attributes are consistently recorded, patterns emerge across opportunities that help identify opportunities with the highest likelihood to close. The attribute patterns help derive a fact-based ideal customer profile and help tune it for different market segments and close ratios. This also helps focus marketing and sales efforts on attracting those deals with the highest likelihood to close.
If you want your reps to participate fully in identifying opportunity attributes, you must make sure they have the tools to do so:
- Make it as easy as possible for the sales rep to update opportunity attributes
- Wherever possible, give the sales reps pick lists, toggles, and checkboxes rather than free-form text
- Have the system work where the sales rep works, email, calendar, and mobile.
- Provide multiple methods for the sales rep to update information via:
- A mobile interface with the ability to dictate information.
- From within the email application beyond just collection of emails but allow attribute editing through an email add-on.
From within the calendar application, beyond just collection of meetings, but allow the addition of meeting summary and additional attribute editing through a calendar add-on. That sounds reasonably easy, but how well do companies handle this information? We like to break it down into four categories of success: baseline, good, better, and best. At the baseline, Sales reps update their SFA application for opportunity attributes. It’s entirely dependent on the sales reps keeping the CRM system up to date; while this makes the sales manager’s job easier, it gives nothing back to the rep. This is what currently happens in most companies. At the Good level, the system understands the significance of different types of attributes. It’s configured to assign different attributes at each sales stage to help judge which stage the opportunity belongs in. For example, it might break these interactions down into groupings as milestones, ideal customer profile attributes, next steps, or next status. The CRM system integrates with data providers like Zoominfo and allows reps to review roles within the target company and manually add them to their CRM customer records. More advanced solutions like Zoominfo also integrate with different CRM systems and allow users to select contacts and export them from Zoominfo into the CRM with the push of a button.
At the Better level, The system provides a configurable mobile interface to collect the opportunity information and work where the sales rep works. It also provides an email and calendar interface that allows sales reps to update opportunity information while in their email or calendar. Contacts and roles can be added to the opportunity from email addresses attached to an email or calendar invite in addition to already known opportunity contacts. Rather than playing “by-guess-and-by-gosh” on who to add to the opportunity, the system uses the buying team members on emails that are not known to the opportunity.
The Best level combines concepts from the Good and Better approaches and makes suggestions about who should be added to the opportunity based on the typical buying group from past closed-won opportunities and sends alerts when all buying team roles are not present. The system provides “alerts requiring action” to the sales reps identifying missing information on each opportunity based on where the opportunity is in the sales process. The system allows sales reps and sales management to take action to resolve the alert from within the email add-on, mobile interface, or desktop application.