How to Work an Opportunity

What is an Opportunity?

An Opportunity is a CRM term used to describe a deal-record. Opportunity records are created when there’s a real deal with real sales potential being discussed (to buy products or services).

An Opportunity differs from a Lead because a lead is a person-record while an opportunity is a deal-record. A lead’s person-record would hold information about a person such as First Name, Last Name, Email, Lead Status, etc. An Opportunity’s deal-record would hold information about a transaction such as Create Date, Close Date, Amount ($), Products/Services, Opportunity Type, and Opportunity Stage.

New to sales terminology? Check out our glossary.

Why Track Leads and Opportunities Separately?

At first glance, it might not make sense to track a Lead and an Opportunity separately. The person buys the product/service, so why have information about the purchase stored on a different record?

Because 1 person or business can have many transactions.

The Opportunity you close with Walmart might not be the same opportunity the next year. People on the first Opportunity could be promoted, fired, retired, laid off, etc. If all your transaction information is tied to a single person (and that person leaves), you’re essentially starting from scratch on a new Opportunity.

By storing transaction records separately (including Closed Lost transactions), we give our sales team insight into the opportunities affiliated with a given company, person, or team of people.

The Ultimate Goal of Working Opportunities

Remember, when you’ve created an Opportunity record, you’re no longer qualifying their fit; you’re now moving them through your sales process.

The ultimate goal of working Opportunities is to move people through your organization’s sales process to the Opportunity Stage “Closed – Won”. This means the contract was signed and the deal has closed (earning your business more revenue).

How to Work an Opportunity (7 Steps)

Your chances of closing winning Opportunities dramatically increases when you have the items in place:

  1. Use a Pricebook
  2. Follow a Sales Process
  3. Take Leadership Over Opportunities
  4. Say Typically & Normally, Relay Confidence
  5. Mark Deals ‘Closed Won’ and ‘Closed Lost’
  6. Update ‘Reason Closed Won’ and ‘Reason Closed Lost’
  7. Always Require a Contract Signature

1. Use a Pricebook

Pricebooks outline the products and services a business offers. However, more importantly, pricebooks articulate what products and services a business does not provide.

The benefits of pricebooks are:

  • Makes the products and services you sell more standardized
  • Eliminates the randomness of custom jobs
  • Becomes easier to explain, promote, and scale the value proposition
  • Makes the value proposition easier to understand, use, and explain (helping customers share word of your business).

Need help creating a pricebook? Learn how to create and use a pricebook for sales operations.

2. Follow a Sales Process

Sales processes allow entrepreneurs to save time while enabling their business to grow through effective processes. Instead of treating every opportunity differently, entrepreneurs and sales people simply follow a defined process.

The key benefits of having a sales process are:

  • Standardized processes, making sales cycle management easier
  • Easier onboarding of sales personnel
  • Makes the sales cycle more efficienct and predictable (forecasting)

Need help creating your sales process? Learn how to build a sales process for your sales operations.

3. Take Leadership Over Opportunities

An Opportunity won’t close itself. Closing deals means increasing revenue. When your business is the entity increasing revenue, it’s expected that you will step up and lead the sales process.

Never lay back and wait for the customer to loosely decide whether or not to engage with your business or make a purchase. If you’ve already qualified the lead and determined that they are a good fit for your business, it’s time to fulfil your greater responsibilty and guide them.

If your business requires human interaction to close a sale, do not try to automate the entire sales process. When Leads yield Opportunities, there’s money on the table. This is the moment when salespeople should be most engaged. Attempts to over-automate the sales process can deteriorate the perceived value of your value proposition or offering.

4. Say Typically and Normally, Relay Confidence

The words ‘typically’ and ‘normally’ lower perceived risk. When buying a new product or service for the first time, people can be nervous. They might not know the pricing model, how contracts works, terms of service etc.

Instead of leaving potential customers in the dark, use the words ‘typically’ and ‘normally’ to lower the risk associated with a decision.

Sample Dialogue with “Typically”
Have you ever hired a consultant before? No? Okay, well we typically run through our sales process which has 5 steps. Right now, we’re at the stage we call ‘Discovery’ – it’s where we focus on the current needs of your organization. And just so we’re clear, we’re not chasing wallets here. If we don’t think we can provide actual value to your business, it’s going to hurt us in reviews, testimonials, etc. We’d rather make sure you will realize the value of our work before we get into any contracts or spending thousands of dollars.

5. Mark Opportunities ‘Closed Won’ and ‘Closed Lost’

Think of Opportunities like shopping carts at a grocery store. It makes sense for managers to know when people are abandoning their carts and when they complete their purchases.

A lens salespeople can assume is that the Opportunity Stage, ‘Closed Lost’, is a poor reflection on their performance — this is not necessarily true.

Sure, a salesperson might be bad at sales compared to their peers, but that’s when managers should recognize additional training or resources should be invested in staff. The bigger reason for marking Opportunities ‘Closed Lost’ is to gain a better understanding of whether or not people/the market values the product or service your business provides.

6. Update ‘Reason Closed Won’ and ‘Reason Closed Lost’

Updating the CRM properties ‘Reason Closed Won’ and ‘Reason Closed Lost’ is often neglected — hence why it gets its own step.

Too often managers and entrepreneurs falsely assume why people buy their products and services. They identify themselves as high quality, convenient, thorough, etc. They build long-term “strategic plans” that dictate their market position, and even position themselves away from what brought them customers in the first place.

For entrepreneurs working to obtain Product-Market Fit, ‘Reason Closed Won/Lost’ is your greatest insight. Use it, track it, read it. The insights found with this field will guide your product development, marketing programs, audience efforts, advertising and more.

7. Always Require a Signed Contract

In any undergraduate degree in business, it’s assumed people learn to use, sign, and store contracts. Yet in practice, contract signatures are often missed.

Some salespeople view contracts as meaningless bureacracy efforts or boring paperwork; that contracts get in the way of their working relationships and impact their abiity to close Opportunities.

If you, the entrepreneur, don’t emphasize the requirement for contract signatures early into your operations, the task to acquire signatures will spiral into a painful activity. Salespeople awkwardly re-approach contacts they’ve already closed, reports get messed up, and finance is unsure where revenue amounts are.

At the worst end of neglecting contracts, salespeople preemptively close deals on verbal commitments and manually updating reports — this is bad business.

  • If the contract isn’t signed, the deal isn’t closed
  • If the contract isn’t signed, accounts receivable isn’t being updated
  • If the contract isn’t signed, the revenue doesn’t get reported

Do we need to say it? Get contract signatures. The best place to include them is as part of your sales process (attached to a proposal or price quote).

The Customer Experience Sales Experience is in Your Hands

Ever have a bad sales experience? A time when you’ve asked an employee for help but they replied “I don’t know, good luck”? Or perhaps a more expensive purchase like a car. Did the salesperson not follow up with you, behave strangely, or conduct himself in a non-professional way?

These moments describe touchpoints within the sales experience. In your role as an entrepreneur or a sales professional, you carry the brand’s reputation, trust, and experience; either meeting, exceeding or failing someone’s expectations.

If your product turn-around times are long, let the customer know. If it’s unclear how often you’ll be communicating with the customer, make that point clear.

Whatever it is, be sure to consider how activities or steps within the sales process affect the sales experience (and how you can prepare for them).

The power to deliver an amazing sales experience is in your hands.