Managing the Bigger Sales Picture

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Selling is one of those professions in which the gauge of success is assumed obvious. Selling more product is a sure way for a salesperson to get recognition and financial reward. It’s no surprise then that an industry has arisen around teaching salespeople to sell more effectively. If salespeople or sales managers are looking for sales education, then it’s easy to get it. There are an abundance sales gurus ready to teach their own spins on selling, with a plethora of books, videos, programs and systems to back them up. But only a few have come up with the ground breaking thinking that reshapes the way people sell – they can be counted on the fingers on one hand.

I see one flaw in most sales training. The focus is on getting things right in the selling experience in a single opportunity. How to listen? How to ask questions? Making sure they are the right questions. Sure, this is important – direct conversation with the customer is the essence of selling. But a salesperson has more than one opportunity to sell. They can have a large number of ongoing deals that a vying for their time – I know cases where a salesperson had over one hundred open sales opportunities. That has to present a huge challenge for resource management especially in creating as much time for direct customer interface as possible.

Depending on the market they serve, a salesperson could be working on ten to a hundred or more sales opportunities at any one time. Which should be worked first? What is the priority of one against the other? This is a tough question, because any list of opportunities typically has wide variance within it—in deal size, complexity, competitive issues and overall potential to the salesperson to win, or to lose.

That’s why I developed a course that we teach to support our Sales Automation Products. I call it “Opportunity Portfolio Management” or OPM.

OPM teaches salespeople to treat their sales opportunities like financial investments. A list of current, unresolved sales opportunities is similar to a portfolio of investments. The objective is to tune and refine the content of the portfolio to maximize its overall value over a period of time. OPM shows a way to cut through existing ideas of valuing the sales opportunity, and proposes that there is an intrinsic value to the opportunity, not currently realized in selling, which is a reflection of the elemental nature of the sales itself. Recognizing intrinsic value and using it in working the opportunity load can unlock potential that was previously overlooked.

Using intrinsic value, the opportunity portfolio can be prioritized such that a fundamental tenet of OPM can be realized—the salesperson can allocate their skills from the beginning to the end of the sales cycle, knowing they are not pulling resources unfairly from one opportunity to another. The result is increased potential for more sales to be won, which is the end goal of sales teams everywhere.

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