When we talk about sales opportunities, we usually think in terms of a single sales order to be closed for a one-time sale. And for most businesses this holds true. But what happens if your company is a tier 1 or tier 2 supplier to the automotive industry, supplying components or systems to an end-manufacturer? What if your business is to sell consumer goods to a chain of supermarkets and your task is to get your products listed? In such cases your effort may not lead to a single order for a specific amount of your products with a delivery time and a fixed value. You may then ask yourself: can this situation be managed like other opportunities? Is it an opportunity at all?
To start with, we have to look at the characteristics of an opportunity. According to Keith Thompson’s definition in his book Sales Automation Done Right, an opportunity is “the chance that the customer gives a salesperson to sell a product or service”. This, of course, will only happen if the customer has a need.
The next characteristic is the existence of a sales cycle. An opportunity has a sales cycle with a beginning and an end. It starts with the day you learn about your customers purchase intention and ends with the customers purchase decision – the closing date. Closing an order is the goal towards which the sales person works.