Accelerating the Sales Cycle: Lesson 3 – Keeping Score: How to Prioritize the Right Opportunities
In a previous post we discussed the advantages of mapping your sales process to your buyer’s purchasing decision process. From a sellers perspective, during the “qualify stage” we should be proactive in identifying whether or not the customer has intent to purchase measured by a specific timeline, a committed budget/resources and the authority to execute the transaction. Assuming we’ve done a thorough investigation of these areas, we then move the customer forward in the sales cycle by prioritizing our selling activities (primarily) driven by the timing of “when” the customer plans to make a purchase or the total dollar value.
It’s reasonable to assume that the deals that are scheduled to “close” earlier in your pipeline should be the ones that you focus the majority of your efforts around. Yet, month after month, quarter after quarter, your win/loss ratio remains stubbornly high and/or shows little improvement.
Perhaps it’s time to start keeping score and prioritize the right opportunities.
Opportunity Scoring Approach: While the buyer’s purchasing timeline and transaction value are critical factors in qualifying opportunities for pursuit, they should not overshadow other critical factors—both positive and negative– that play a key role in determining which opportunities you will prioritize.
Below is one example of a scoring matrix (you can devise your own that is unique to your product or service) that helps isolate both the advantages and risks associated with an individual opportunity:
For each criterion, we then develop a clear definition that allows us to consistentlyevaluate every opportunity and apply a consistent score– without prejudice to the rep, client or situational circumstances that can often skew the prioritization scoring results. To illustrate we’ve defined the first two criteria of advantages and risks noted above in the table below:
Once we have defined all the relevant criteria, definitions and applied the scoring, we can then move to create a matrix or dashboard that helps visualize which opportunities will deliver the greatest value with the lowest amount of risk or cost:
With this measured, objective perspective of our opportunities in hand, we can view not only “all” the open opportunities that are qualified, but more importantly we can isolate those specific opportunities that have the highest objective probability of resulting in sales. In addition to helping prioritize which opportunities you choose to pursue, scoring your opportunities can bring additional benefits to your sales organization:
1. Prioritize Profits Over “Deals”: Often times we see sales teams focused exclusively on chasing the highest dollar “deals” instead of the pursuing those opps that have the potential to generate the greatest profit margin to the company. Viewing opportunities in a measured manner helps reps to see that they can close more deals – and generate higher commissions overall—than focusing on one or two deals in a period that may not generate the best return for them– or the company.
2. “New” Does Not Equal “Now”: Sales reps (and some managers) can get enamored with New Business “wins” and in the process run the risk of “over-investing” in New Business opportunities to the detriment of more valuable opps in the pipeline. Using a scorecard diagnostic can help place your new business opps in the proper perspective and maintain focus on active pursuits resulting in higher close rates.
Keeping score of your opportunities provides a consistent methodology to measure and prioritize the right opportunities you should be pursuing in your pipeline. Opportunity scoring is also a powerful tool to help you separate the winners from the losers.
This is the third in a series of blog posts specifically written to provide sales leaders with insights and best practices on how your organization can accelerate your sales cycle. Please enjoy our first and second posts in this series as well and add your feedback to the comments section below.