One of the most difficult tasks a first-line sales manager has is ensuring that the sales opportunities recorded in the CRM system are accurate and up-to-date. Sales data accuracy and compliance is a Top 3 issue stated by most sales managers worldwide. CRM compliance is critical for accurate sales forecasting, sales resource allocation and sales opportunity coaching. But one of the most important reasons to keep your CRM system current is to identify higher value opportunities at an earlier stage in the sales process--opportunities that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.
Not all sales opportunities are created equal
Deal size, earliest close date, and greatest win probability are important, but are not the only criteria by which to assess value. While scanning your sales pipeline look for the hidden benefits from opportunities that have the following characteristics:
A customer “must-solve” issue
A must-solve issue often stems from a regulatory or government mandate, a competitor’s market disrupting technology or an extremely obvious and short return-on-investment timeframe. Identifying and prioritizing must-solves will decrease the probability of delayed or no-decision outcomes. A 2011 CSO Insights survey of 1500 sales leaders reported a "no decision" rate of 24% in forecasted sales opportunities.
An early stage co-venture opportunity
Not every joint-venture requires formal shared economic interest to be attractive to potential customers. Be creative and consider deploying your executives and subject-matter experts, in addition to your sales account team, to improve and build upon the prospect’s initial requirements. In competitive sales situations, it's the most innovative and practical solution with the greatest economic value-- rather than salesmanship or pricing--that wins the deal.
A solution that can be replicated across your customer base
What can you learn from this sale that you can apply elsewhere in your sales pipeline? Could it become a case study? Or, maybe a differentiating reference into a new market? Determine how many additional companies in your target market would be interested in this new offering. Also consider the value of any ancillary sales opportunities that might be created.
Remember, not all sales opportunities are equal. The biggest advantage to an accurate and up-to-date CRM system is the ability to assess all opportunities, for their true value, at an earlier stage in the sales process. Examine your CRM system regularly to identify the opportunities where you can differentiate your organization and add the most value to your customer's business.
Mike Peters is the managing director of the Whitespace Consulting Group, a global business development strategy firm. The Whitespace Consulting Group has been helping multi-cultural clients optimize their business development strategy since 2005. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.