Opportunity Management – Making A Change

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Ed. This is Rainer Gerlach Week here at The HUB. After two new articles, we’re pulling out one of his old ones for the “Best of” article. Rainer talks about one of the biggest difficulties in sales automation – user adoption and managing the change.

We all can agree: professional opportunity management is good for both the sales person and for the company. It generally takes the form of a defined, consistent sales process, designed for the company’s organization and goals, and shared data for transparency and teamwork.

So, why doesn’t everybody jump on it? What makes people sometimes feel wary? And what can be done to make implementation a smooth and successful process?

The introduction of professional opportunity management means change – change for the better, but change. In order to manage the implementation for everyone’s benefit, we must understand what change means to people.

First of all there is uncertainty. People get used to their own way to work. They develop routines and habits that they feel comfortable with, and although these may not be optimal, they provide confidence and make life easier. Changing the way you work means learning how to do things differently, adjusting habits, and hence giving up routines. This can cause uneasiness, which makes changing anything difficult, not just the implementation of a professional opportunity management.

For the implementation of opportunity management, one has to look at the life of a sales person without it. A sales person has a lot of freedom, much more than most people in the company. They often work far away from their boss, schedule and organize their own work, set priorities based on their gut feel, and share only the information they want to share. Since nobody else knows the details and connections within the opportunities, nobody can interfere. There is little transparency, and they control the situation.

Many sales people become a lone-wolf and see transparency as a threat. They may regard tools such as sales automation and CRM as unnecessary bureaucracy and a waste of time. But they may forget the downside of not sharing information.

First of all, it is very difficult to discuss a sales situation without using a common understanding and having an efficient means of exchanging views and information. How can you get advice from a colleague if he doesn’t understand the problem? Or, even worse, you lost a sale and your boss needs to know it wasn’t due to a poor sales job. Without shared information and a common platform, there will always be suspicion.

The sole reliance on “gut feel” without some foundation can easily cause orders being lost. The life of a sales person is far too chaotic and complex to be managed without proper tools. It is easy to misread a situation, or set the wrong priorities at the wrong time. The result will be a lower productivity and an increased, sometimes unfair, pressure from management. This clearly is the downside!

So, if a proper opportunity management tool would be advantageous to both the sales person and the company, what needs to be done? What are the prerequisites for a successful implementation?

The number one prerequisite is trust. An opportunity management system should not be the Big Brother. If it is used for that, opposition is certain and failure is likely.

The other key to success is to involve people. They will support the implementation because they have influence and take part in the decisions. They will also help to make sure that the new system and the related processes are practicable and useful for everybody.

And, last but not least, there must be persistence. Company management has to make sure that the new opportunity management system forms the backbone of the sales processes, and the information coming out of it is used as the basis for all individual sales discussions and sales management meetings.

Following these guidelines, everyone will love opportunity management and sales will go up.

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