Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Guidance to the New Sales Manager: Opportunity Identification

'Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.' Sun TsuIt's your first day in your new role. You've climbed out of the trenches, past the inside and outside sales roles to the point you wanted to be. Now you're a leader. Contrary to the belief of some organizations (and to the dismay of the newly promoted), being a superstar sales person does not automatically translate into being a superstar manager.Often sales managers are cast into the swift current of sales cycles, targets, client issues at the same time as trying to build personal credibility as a leader. And then it happens. You are expected to do a deal review/sales review/funnel review with members of your team.You know how you have operated in the past, how you have assessed your own opportunities and yet you find yourself in the unfamiliar territory of asking similar questions of your new Team. Herein lies the problem.Unless you picked it up from a sales leader that was particularly strong in sales process you may not be able to articulate to your Team how or why opportunity identification can be performed without appearing either as a micro manager who does not believe in their people or as a inflexible new manager that is 'picking' on members of her staff.Opportunity identification (and by extension opportunity reviews) are a necessary part of our role as sales leaders. Yet how do we approach them in the way that will enable our people to 'win first and then go to war'?Consider the following suggestions that I have used in many of my own transitions and taught to many new managers:1. Pick a methodology that you are comfortable with. In some cases organizations are following a set approach - MEDDIC, TAS, Consultative Selling, SPIN Selling, QBS, Sandler - if this is the case, be sure you are prepared to guide the conversation down the appropriate path. In other organizations the use of the CRM is paramount and the leader is given latitude to choose their own path. Regardless, have a system that you can consistently implement and execute with your Team Members.2. Share the methodology and expectations with your whole Team. Ensure that the Team knows why the opportunity identification process is important to them as well as to you. Make a clear linkage between following a set path and increased wins (and compensation) for the salesperson.3. Begin scheduling one on one reviews. In these reviews, focus on the Opportunity and the Client. Not on the salesperson. Failure to do this could set up a dangerous precedent in how you relate with your Team. You will have time for formal coaching/review meetings but during an opportunity review is not the right time to do this.4. Systematically work your way through the assessment questions you have developed (or inherited). Discuss each and allocate one of three ratings - yes, I know/can prove I know this; it's an unknown for me and I need to spend more time here; no, I do not know/cannot prove that I know. I prefer to allocate a score and deal with these items in absolutes. We'll look at some sample questions you may want to consider shortly.

5. At the end of the discussion/question and answer period you will have a 'score' for an opportunity and also a list of things your salesperson needs to check/find out before the final proposal is submitted. You may also find that you won't have any hope of winning a particular opportunity or that it is an education session for your client. In these cases you can make a recommendation to your leader to engage or not. Remember, if you win first and then go to war you will be victorious. Rushing to war (or the opportunity) without knowing all you can leads to defeat.6. Initially these may be difficult questions for you to ask your staff. You may feel uncomfortable poking into their opportunities and identifying shortcomings. However, it is far better for you and your staff member to do this collaboratively than for the salesperson to include a deal in their call for the month when they do not have all the information and you have not helped them determine what is missing. It is far better for our people to feel foolish with us than to wonder 'what happened' to the deal they were resting their month/quarter on.Now you're ready for the conversation with your sales team member. What do you need to ask to determine what is really going on and how you can help your Team member to close a specific deal? Yes you need to know about BANT - budget, authority, need, and timeline - but what else would be useful in determining if there is really an opportunity for you to win? In the years I've been working with sales people and training sales managers, I have used the following types of questions to determine the status/actions that need to be taken on an opportunity:1. Determine that BANT exists.
2. What is the compelling event that is pushing the client to act now (a deeper dive on Need)
3. Do we have supporters inside the client organization?
4. Is the person we are dealing with really the decision maker? (Deeper dive on authority)
5. Who are we competing against?
6. What is the competition's position in the account?
7. Have we analyzed the competitors vis a vis our solution?
8. Do we know the formal decision criteria?
9. Do we know the informal decision criteria?
10. Who are the influencers on the decision?
11. What is the risk to us of bidding/not bidding? (Is the solution new?)
12. Is this profitable business we want to win?
13. Do I have the internal support I need from my organization to win?These questions will lead you deeper into the opportunity so that you can assist your Team with better opportunity identification. After all, better identification leads to a better use of resources and ultimately winning business that you want to win.-----

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