What are sales opportunities?The old sales adage goes: “Sales opportunity is a deal that you have the possibility to close.” In all fairness, there is no set-in-stone definition of what a sales opportunity is, but the industry agrees that a sales opportunity is a qualified lead. Now, the process you choose to qualify a lead is entirely up to you and your sales team. Many bases their qualification process on the BANT (Budget, Authority, Needs, Timeline) method and use their CRM’s smart lead scoring to weed out leads who aren’t likely to turn into opportunities and later, into paying customers. The basic criteria for a sales opportunity are always the same:
- it’s a potential customer that you have already met or contacted;
- you have also established that there is a pain point;
- the customer shows interest in solving that pain point (quite urgently);
- you have confirmed a technical fit.
What is the difference between a lead and a sales opportunity?Many seem to be using the terms interchangeably, but it’s far from being correct. The best way to think about the difference between these two stages is in terms of their place in the funnel and also as a part of the qualification process.
- A lead is a contact or an account that you know very little about. Those business cards you bring back from trade shows and conferences are a good example of leads – you’ve swapped introductions, exchanged business cards, and agreed to catch up later. That’s all you’ve got. Essentially, a lead is the first step on the ladder towards a sale. Before you declare this lead an opportunity and climb further, you’ll need to qualify it. Generally, there are far more leads in a sales pipeline than there are real sales opportunities. That’s why setting up a robust lead scoring and qualification process to nurture leads into opportunities is so critical.
- An opportunity is a contact or an account that has been qualified. There is a real potential that a sales opportunity will translate into a sale because it has been weighed against the most important criteria: there is a budget, a need for a solution, your product is the right technical fit, the customer is ready to buy now and you’re speaking to the right person. Once a lead gets to the opportunity stage, there are only two possible outcomes – won sales opportunity or lost sales opportunity.
Place of “opportunities” in the sales funnelThere’s plenty of fish in the sea, but you’re only going to catch a few. At the top of the sales funnel, you have all the cold and warm leads that have expressed some interest in your product. The common scenario is that prospects choose to pay with their email for various types of content offer that you might have on your site, including eBooks, templates, webinars, and other. Once you have their email address, all you need to do is throw an effective bait to attract some of them into deeper waters. Progressing down the funnel, we pass two more stages – marketing qualified lead (MQL) and sales qualified lead (SQL) – before we reach the opportunities stage. In terms of positioning in the sales funnel, opportunities are just before the most favorite stage of all sales teams – customers.
Find opportunities vs. Create opportunitiesSimply put, there are two types of customers – those who come through the door themselves and those who you need to convince to enter. So when you think about your marketing and sales functions, you need to consider and strategize for both types. Find opportunities. Unfortunately, for most B2B businesses, “find opportunities” make up only up to 12% of prospects. Generally speaking, these prospects are well educated about the problem they have and its negative impact on their business (it’s enough to make them seek to change) and they are actively looking for a solution. They typically have a strong opinion about the price they are willing to pay for the right product, too. To nudge them in the right direction, businesses can use such marketing tactics as advertising, content marketing, and SEO. On the sales side, BDRs (business development reps) are often deployed to find and qualify these opportunities for sales reps to seal the deal. “Find opportunities” could also be interpreted as those that:
- Are about to renew services;
- Can switch products;
- Can be easily educated or intrigued;
- Have well-known problems (when new solutions are developed).
- Buyers need to understand the problem. The most likely scenario is that buyers aren’t looking for your product because they’re not aware they have a problem that needs solving. It’s also likely that they know the problem exists, but they don’t fully comprehend the impact it’s having on their business and aren’t prioritizing it.
- Buyers need to understand the causes of the problem. It’s not uncommon for the causes of the problem to get misdiagnosed. The buyers might be actively looking for a solution in a wrong place.
- Buyer misperceptions about product implementation, team competencies, etc. need to be addressed. Buyers often have deeply rooted misperceptions and biases that need to be addressed and overcome to create a sales opportunity.