I would like to continue our discussion about the must-win deals that are the key to hitting our number for any given quarter and any given fiscal year. We began by reviewing the questions from the last blog that haunt sales management and executives—THE QUESTIONS THAT HAUNT.  In this blog we’ll delve deeper into the question ‘Is the opportunity real?’

I am purposely steering away from the concept of “qualified” as I’ve found it to be contentious at best and something that varies greatly from company to company as well as within the sales organization of any given company. Instead we’ll explore something a little bit less controversial—what makes an opportunity “real”. By “real” I mean is the customer prepared to commit resources if a viable solution is found? This is an insight that should be important to any sales leader. There are several key components that make an opportunity “real” which we’ll explore.

What Business Problem or Opportunity are we addressing?

At the end of the day, businesses will spend money and commit resources to solve a current problem or pursue a new opportunity. Too often I find that sales reps have been trained to only look for the “pain” or current problem. This can often be shortsighted and result in missed sales opportunities. As a general rule, I’ve found businesses will typically spend more money on new opportunities that represent additional revenue to the company – and they will be eager to spend those funds.

If the account team can’t definitively answer the question of what business problem or opportunity we are addressing, there is a good chance this sales opportunity is not real. It may be a nice to have or, at best, this is a small opportunity without much urgency attached to it.

Who is it important to and what Outcomes do they want to achieve?

This tells us that we are selling to the right people – hopefully those that own the problem or opportunity and can commit resources to addressing them. Too often I find that we aren’t talking to these people but rather those one or more levels below them. That can still work for us if they are adequately prepared to sell up the food chain on our behalf and can answer the second part of the question.

Customers pay for our products and services, but they are actually buying an outcome. If we don’t understand what the outcome is, how can we be sure we’re offering the right solution?  If the lower level people we are selling to don’t know the desired outcomes, I find that the selling motion devolves into a “feature, function and price” conversation.

How will they measure Success and When do they want to achieve it?

This is a deeper level question that usually requires numerous conversations with the right people. The insights they provide are critical. How a customer measures success is ultimately how they will measure value and value is why they will ultimately buy from us. If we don’t understand how the customer measures success, it will be very difficult for us to put an irresistible value proposition in front of them.

If an opportunity does not have a “when” attached to it, then all sorts of red flags should be raised. Any business outcome of any import always has a desired deadline. Often our value proposition to the customer can be that we will produce the desired outcomes sooner than that deadline. This is especially interesting to the customer when the outcomes involve new revenue. The deadline also allows us to “reverse engineer” implementation, etc. and determine a close date that is not just our commit date, but rather is the customer’s close date. Without a “when” this opportunity is most likely a nice to have.

Is it a high enough Priority to commit resources?

We can only get this assurance from the buying influencers who both own the outcome and have the authority to commit resources to address it. If we are getting this assurance from lower level contacts, we have to take it with a grain of salt. How often have things been important to lower level people but aren’t even on the radar of the real decision makers?

In short, these questions tell us that we are helping the customer achieve meaningful outcomes that are important enough to commit resources. By understanding how the customer measures success, we know how to present value in a highly relevant way. By understanding when they want to achieve the outcomes we can determine a reliable close date that belongs to us and the customer.

In the next blog in this series we will explore the question of are we aiming at the right target?

Good Selling!