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For 90% of salespeople, a “maybe” is an opportunity to do what they most enjoy: selling; and do less of what they don’t: prospecting. Combine that with a generally buoyant nature and the result is exaggerated expectations about deal size, probability of close, and the buying decision process, including decision date. If the cost of opportunity pursuit were zero, then we might be indifferent. Quite to the contrary, the cost of pursuit can be very high both in accounting (proposals, trips to the prospect, marshalling experts) and economic costs (lost selling time, lost time of experts, revenue not pursued). For these very reasons, organizations rely on the objective and skilled opportunity assessment of sales managers. Assessment leads to a go/no-go decision to pursue and to the development of an attack plan. The sales manager is central to the coordination of that plan. The allocation of finite resources to opportunities that have the highest probability of closing is one of the most important jobs in a company and one of the top responsibilities of the Sales Manager.

But what happens in most organizations? Here is a sample of comments we have heard from executives:

Managers need to inspect in a common manner. Everyone does it differently so results are across the board.

Opportunity assessment and management is done via brute force.

Because we have weak pipelines managers allow sellers to chase anything and everything.

Our forecasts are inaccurate because opportunities we were counting on go into the loss column or experience significant delay.

We end up blaming our products for losses on opportunities we never had a chance to win.

(A VP of Sales referring to one of his sellers) That dog can’t hunt.

We don’t effectively sell our low-end products. How will we make the jump to selling solutions? It’ll be like jumping to hyperspace.

High Performance Sales Environments depend on the objective, skilled, and surgical Opportunity Assessment of sales managers. In our next post we’ll explore how sales managers should assess opportunities and what the outcomes should be. Stay tuned!