Dealing with probabilities is a way that gives greater consistency and credibility to the projection of future business. When addressed through the answers to three simple questions (Will we get the business? What is the assurance that there will be business? When will it happen?), we define what we call the “essential aspects of opportunity” and introduce a sense of urgency or, in the language of our sales model, priority.
We now have all the factors that determine this priority. It is obvious that the probability of a successful sale directly influences the allocation of resources to work the opportunity, but another factor to consider is time. If an opportunity has just been discovered and it’s early in the buying cycle and we find we have a low probability of winning, should it go to the end of the list? Does it make sense not to pay attention to this opportunity? I wouldn’t do that!
Instead, it should be worked because it is in the beginning of its sales cycle, and there are chances that the probability of success can increase with your skill and effort. On the other hand, if the same opportunity is found late in the cycle, and also classified as low probability, it should not deserve such a great effort, because there is not so much time to turn the game around.
It is prudent to check the probability of each opportunity on a regular basis throughout the sales cycle because it will surely change, and that will change your priority.
Imagine an opportunity with an eighty percent probability. Does it need the same amount of effort in the first week of its six months cycle as it would require in the week of closing the sale? Probably not. In the first case, there are still five months left, which means that the activities that we schedule should cover the bases and protect the sale. In the second case, when there is only one week left and the customer has already decided what to buy, the maximum effort should be dedicated to close the sale as quickly as possible.
Low probability sales that are in the beginning of the sales cycle deserve attention. With hard work and dedication, there are chances that this probability increases as you will have time to work and demonstrate its advantages. If your current sales automation methodology simply organizes your opportunities list by placing the highest probability at the top, it’s time to consider alternatives. You might be losing sales!
The priority of a sales opportunity is determined by its probability of success as well as by the current phase of the sales cycle. You may, instead of saying you’re in the sixth week of the cycle, get used to considering the skill phases and ask yourself, “Which Skill Phase am I in – Probe, Prove, or Close?” This eliminates the problem of dealing with sales cycles of different durations. Probability combined with skill phase is equal to priority.
All you need to prioritize your portfolio is to answer to the three simple questions identified above that determine the essential aspects of the opportunity. From the responses, we can determine the probability and evaluate in which skill phase we are. The opportunity will be qualified and prioritized in your Portfolio. And the good news is that we just need to track the sales cycle evolution and reevaluate the key aspects time to time and that the prioritization will be continuous.
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