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Opportunity assessment is perhaps the most important function that first line sales managers should perform. It is the process of evaluating a seller’s opportunities against six key qualifiers to proactively identify and rectify problems, both with the opportunity itself and with the seller’s skills, and then also to assign the correct stage. It should be performed as early as possible in the life of an opportunity and periodically thereafter.

I am a firm believer in its importance for a number of important reasons.

  • The sales manager will be able to identify whether the opportunity has problems that need to be fixed.
  • Depending on the resolution of those problems, the sales manager can determine whether the opportunity should be disqualified. This is the “tough love” aspect of a sales manager’s job.
  • Opportunity assessment provides a clear view into how well a seller executes key selling skills during their sales calls. Those skills include need development, qualification, control, and negotiation. In effect, it is the best way for the sales manager to identify a seller’s skill deficiencies so that he or she can put the appropriate skill development plan in place.
  • Once conducted the manager is able to 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 that the sales manager should assign the stage. Sales people tend to not remember stage definitions, don’t adhere to them, or tend to be “wishful thinkers” (especially if they are at 50% of quota.) It is a requisite to being able to trust information across the sales operation.

Here are the six key questions a sales manager should ask a seller to properly qualify an opportunity:

  1. 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”?
  2. Have you developed a clear solution in the mind of your buyer?  Can the buyer literally see themselves using the solution so that the CBI can be eliminated? Can you establish a clear advantage over your competition?
  3. Have you proven that you can provide the capabilities that make up the solution?
  4. 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?
  5. Does the buyer have a clear sense of the value the solution brings, and does that value meet their return on investment expectations?
  6. Have you and the buyer agreed on a clear sequence of events, or go forward plan, defining the remaining steps leading to a buy decision?

These six qualifiers can be summarized in a simple equation that sales managers should instill in their sellers:

Sale = CBI X Solution X Proof X Power X Value X Plan

Consequently, if any of these qualifiers gets a low score then so too does the seller’s probability of winning that opportunity. Where 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 then 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 seller skill deficiencies, pipeline balance and management, and accurate forecasting.

Bob Junke

Bob Junke

Founder & CEO

Bob Junke is the Founder and CEO of Adventace®. He is also the author of the bestselling book, Create the High Performance Sales Environment® and creator of the Adventace Sales Management System™, a Salesforce-based application that enables a high-performance sales environment. You can learn more about him at Bob’s Bio, and reach him directly at bob.junke@adventace.com or +1 724-443-2383.