<img src="https://ws.zoominfo.com/pixel/4z2e82sWyhmveGlCzuJa" width="1" height="1" style="display: none;">
Untitled presentation (1)

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Opportunity Management

Authored by Ric Ratkowski on July 13, 2020

This next couple of blog posts will focus on Sales Opportunity Management.  This is the third category of blog series Best Practices for B2B Sales Pipeline and Forecast Management based on the original blog post for this best practice series started on January 21st.

Sales Opportunity Management

Sales opportunity management is a dance with the buyer and seller.  The buyer is leading the dance.  The buyer is in control.  The seller’s objective is to interpret the buyer’s lead and step accordingly to move in lock-step with the buyer to an ultimate “closed-won” conclusion.  

A dance is made up of moves, and moves are made up of a series of steps.  Similarly, the sales process is made up of stages and each stage is made up of milestones (also known as key inflection points or exit criteria).  

Stages and Milestones - the vocabulary of Sales Opportunity Management

Sales stages are created based on historic buyer behavior.  The stages should have a clearly defined objective of what needs to be accomplished.  Stages should be based on reviewing your historic buyer’s journey with a focus on how to complement buyer activity with the seller activities to help the buyer make a well-informed buying decision. 

The number of stages are based on the complexity and length of the sales process.  The simpler and quicker the sales cycle the fewer stages.  The more complex and the longer the sales model, the more stages you’ll have.  

Milestones are the activities required to meet the objective of the stage.  Once you complete the milestones (or at least the necessary ones) you will advance to the next stage.  The tendency will be to add too many milestones – so be careful of getting too detailed as you go through your buyer’s journey.  Our customers usually establish two to four milestones per stage.

Milestones are necessary because they help guide the sales rep on the next qualifying step in the process process and they help us understand the status of the deal.  Many sales models are fluid so it is important to understand the flexibility of milestones in your situation.  Milestones may not all happen in perfect sequence. 

Back to the Dance

As you advance in dance, the moves become more complex and build on the earlier moves.  Similarly as the sales opportunity advances the milestones become more complex.  Because the buyer is leading the dance, the sales rep needs to be ready with content and sales tools (i.e. ROI calculator, competitor comparisons, customer case studies)  to compliment the buyer's lead.

Sales Opportunity Management Process

The challenge with sales opportunity management is each opportunity has its unique DNA, no two deals will ever be the same, but they will have similar components and similar needs for additional information.

Sales opportunity management is a process of (1) tracking all potential sales deals as they move through the sales pipeline and (2) taking the appropriate action on the opportunities at the appropriate time to move them along to a “closed-won” conclusion.   

The tracking component of sales opportunity management  is designed to ensure you know the following about every opportunity in the sales pipeline.

  • Viability - is it real
  • Priority - which requires the most focus - which are going to close soon.
  • Follow up - next step for each opportunity
  • Ideal Customer Profile Fit - where does this fit in the spectrum of close won/close lost deals.

The previous best practice of “Monitoring the Pipeline from Different Perspectives”  from the prior blog category on the sales pipeline helps support tracking.

The action component is designed to keep nurturing the opportunity forward, or making a decision to “close-loss” the opportunity.  The action component must be in lock step with the buying team’s lead.  For the Opportunity nurturing may include:

  • Emails
  • Meetings
  • Demos
  • Customer Reference Calls
  • Educational Content
  • Identifying the buying team
  • Supporting each member of the buying team with content they need to know

For the sales rep, the action component could also include:

  • Identifying of sales aids such as checklists and competitive battle cards
  • “In-the-moment” training for the sales rep for meetings/or other situations they have not seen before.

The previous two best practices of “Proactive Follow up” and “Proactive Delivery of Sales Contentfrom the prior blog category on the sales pipeline support taking action on sales opportunities.

In addition to the above mentioned best practices, there are additional overarching best practices we need to cover::

  • Account Management - to nurture deals to become opportunities

To some, account management can be considered a superset of opportunity management and we should deal with it separately because it starts before you have an opportunity.  To others, it may not be considered in B2B Sales best practices at all, because it is owned by marketing. 

We are covering it here because B2B buyers start as a team well before they hit your website or respond to your marketing efforts and become an opportunity.  Account Management needs to be considered when taking a holistic approach to the revenue engine.   

  • Guided Selling - to close deals

Guided selling is the process of prescribing optimal sales execution steps to the sales reps to enforce an efficient sales process. The tasks and process are based on sales patterns of past close-won, and close-lost opportunities.

  • Always know the next step - keep the deal moving forward

The most important step in the sales process is always the NEXT step.  It is a hurdle that must be cleared to give you the right to move to the “NEXT, NEXT” step.  It has to be queued up with the buyer as you finish out the current step. 

  • Sales Post Mortem - what went right/what went wrong

Top sales teams must continuously improve to achieve better standards, no matter what level of success they have reached in the past.  Reviewing all “closed-won” and “closed-loss” opportunities provides a continuous improvement framework.  It creates a virtuous circle of improvement in the sales cycle.  The sales post mortem also helps support a best practice we discussed in a previous blog post supporting process improvement.

In the next couple of blog posts I will drill into these four best practices.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Lists by Topic

Leverage these best practices with automation and AI driven by TopOPPS

Learn how our customers are winning with artificial intelligence in their CRM:

  • Predictive Sales Forecasting
  • Automated Pipeline Management
  • Significantly More Updates from Reps

Watch Videos

More Recent Posts:

August 11, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Always Know the Next Step

The most important step in any sales process is the NEXT step.   It is a hurdle that must be cleared to give you the right to move to the “NEXT, NEXT” step.  The next step is not granted, but earned by successful completion of the current step.  The next step has to be set up with the buyer as you finish out the current step.  ...

AI for Sales, Guided Selling, sales best practices, Sales Pipeline Visibility, sales opportunity management

August 4, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Guided Selling

Guided selling is the process of prescribing optimal sales execution steps to the sales reps to enforce a consistent and efficient sales process. The tasks and process are based on sales patterns of past close-won, and close-lost opportunities. Dynamic guided selling is the automated collection of prospect interactions and seller activities with the application of artificial intelligence and pattern matching to prescribe optimal buyer role based sales execution steps  and coaching ...

AI for Sales, Guided Selling, sales best practices, sales milestones

July 28, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Account Management

This blog may be a little controversial.  Many blogs and white papers talk about account management as a sales function.  Sales reps target accounts to sell to.  They then flush out sales opportunities within the account and work on closing those opportunities.  At TopOPPS we take a broader approach to account management.  We believe account management starts with marketing.  It includes both marketing and sales. ...

Sales Funnel, Marketing Funnel, sales best practices, sales opportunity management, sales account management

July 13, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Opportunity Management

This next couple of blog posts will focus on Sales Opportunity Management.  This is the third category of blog series Best Practices for B2B Sales Pipeline and Forecast Management based on the original blog post for this best practice series started on January 21st. ...

Sales Pipelines, Guided Selling, guide winning behaviors, best practices, sales best practices, sales opportunity management

June 29, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales-Pipeline Monitoring & Closing Deals

This blog provides more details into the final two of the six tactical best practices outlined in the blog “Best Practices for B2B Sales - Sales Pipeline”.  It focuses on: Monitor the sales pipeline from different perspectives depending on the users role (sales rep, sales management, sales opperations, sales leadership) Focus on closing the best leads, nurturing the new leads and “close loss” opportunities as soon as possible Monitor the pipeline from different perspectives  The sales pipeline is the beating heart of the sales process and the revenue engine. ...

Sales Pipeline Management, AI for Sales, sales best practices, Sales Pipeline Visibility

June 17, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Proactive Follow Up & Content Delivery

This blog provides more details into the next two of the six tactical best practices outlined in the blog “Best Practices for B2B Sales - Sales Pipeline”.  It focuses on: Proactive follow up on opportunities in the sales pipeline Proactive delivery of the right sales content and insights to members of the buying team and guidance to the sales team It may feel like these two best practices could be consolidated into one called proactive selling. Both could be handled via alerting and prompting solutions or optimized with a process we call “Alerts Requiring Action”.    However, there are subtle differences between the two that make a big impact on sales.  ...

AI for Sales, Guided Selling, guide winning behaviors, sales best practices, Sales Pipeline Visibility

May 15, 2020

Best Practices For B2B Sales-Sales Pipeline Data & Process Improvement

This blog reviews best practices related to two of the six tactical best practices outlined in the previous blog “Best Practices for B2B Sales - Sales Pipeline”.  It focuses on: The ability to easily update the sales pipeline on a regular basis Sales process review and improvement An accurate sales forecast requires an accurate, timely and always up-to-data sales pipeline.  This data includes up-to-date: sales activity and buyer/seller interactions; buying team members and roles; opportunity descriptors and attributes; and company descriptors and attributes, in the CRM.  It also includes integrated reporting from the CRM to produce the sales pipeline, porting CRM information to Excel is not an option. ...

Pipeline Optimization, Sales Pipeline Management, AI for Sales, sales best practices

April 28, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Sales Pipeline

In my original blog in this series “Best Practices for B-2-B Sales,  I outlined five categories of best practices: The previous five blogs in this series, reviewed the best practices related to data.  The next three categories, Sales Process, Opportunity Management and Pipeline Analytics all are driven off of the sales pipeline. This blog introduces 6 different best practices related to the sales pipeline.  These best practices cut across all  three areas. ...

Sales Pipelines, Sales Process, Sales Tools, sales best practices, Sales Pipeline Visibility