Sales Opportunity Management: The Ultimate Guide (2024)

  • Brandon Boushy by Brandon Boushy
  • 2 weeks ago
  • Blog
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Smartly dressed man surrounded by orange upward trending arrows with the words "Sales opportunity management best practices + beyond" hovering overhead

Every interaction counts in the dynamic realm of sales. Each prospect holds the potential for growth. That’s why mastering the art of opportunity management is crucial to your success in a competitive market.

We’ll explore opportunity management by guiding you through its definitions, synonyms, and fundamental goals within the sales landscape. We’ll provide strategies, best practices, and software recommendations to empower your business to manage sales opportunities effectively.

What is opportunity management?

Concept of woman working on tablet with upward trending graph and pie chart holographs hovering above the screen to show what she’s working on

Opportunity management is a collaborative process for businesses to identify and pursue sales opportunities. The process is used to track and manage opportunities throughout the sales pipeline to increase sales and revenue. Opportunity management helps businesses:

  • Gain insights into customer needs and preferences
  • Prioritize deals that are most likely to close
  • Optimize internal resources by focusing on leads with the highest chances of conversion
  • Target customers with personalized offers
  • Strengthen their sales approach

Activities in the opportunity process generally fall into one of three categories:

  1. Lead management: You want to take leads through the lead generation, qualifying, nurturing, and conversion process.
  2. Process tracking: This refers to tracking and analyzing who’s in your pipeline, their path to becoming a customer, and the communication.
  3. Process improvement: You’ll also want to review your process, disqualify poor fits for your service, and remove wasteful steps.

Synonyms and definitions

There are numerous terms that you will see used in management opportunity discussions. We’ll discuss:

  • Synonyms for opportunity management
  • Sales leads
  • Sales opportunities
  • Opportunities in customer relationship management
  • Differences between leads and opportunities

Synonyms for opportunity management

There are some terms you will see used interchangeably when researching opportunity management, including:

  • OM
  • CRM opportunity management
  • Pipeline management
  • Sales opportunity management

They all mean the same thing: identifying, pursuing, and managing sales opportunities.

What is a sales lead?

A sales lead is a person or business that might become a customer. Leads are the earliest stage of the customer journey. Leads might not be ready to make a purchase, but they need what you offer.

A lead will always be someone who has expressed interest in your business by clicking on a link, filling out a form, signing up for an offering, or asking a question. You might find sales leads through:

  • Advertising
  • Direct mailings
  • Referral from an existing customer
  • Direct response through advertising or publicity
  • Trade shows
  • Third parties
  • Other marketing efforts

What is a sales opportunity?

Business owner pointing to graphs on a laptop while conducting a sales opportunity management tutorial

A sales opportunity is further in the lead management pipeline than a sales lead. When a contact becomes a sales opportunity, they are a qualified prospect, likely to become a customer.

By qualified prospect, we mean you have already interacted with them, established their pain points, and confirmed your product or service will solve their problem.

Once you have reached this stage, you are more likely to make a sale.

Sales opportunity planning is a complex multi-step process including researching, then qualifying the individual, and then developing a strategy to solve their problem. It is helpful to have a documented process, guide, and training to help your sales team manage opportunities.

Some of the best ways to identify or create new sales opportunities include:

  • Creating buyer personas
  • Using a CRM software to manage client interactions
  • Pursuing customer referrals
  • Establishing affiliate programs or third-party referral streams
  • Going to events, expos, and conventions

What is opportunity in CRM?

In customer relationship management (CRM), an opportunity is a qualified lead that has shown interest in your product or service—and with the proper nurturing is likely to become a customer.

Opportunities are used to manage your business, not people or client companies. They’re identified and tracked through the sales process from inquiry to contract to satisfaction. Measuring opportunities is most successful for longer sales cycles and maintaining ongoing relationships.

What is the difference between opportunity management and lead management?

Opportunity management is a subsection of lead management. Lead management focuses on the acquisition, assistance, tracking, and converting of new clients; opportunity management is focused on assisting, tracking, and converting the leads who are most likely to convert into customers.

As you can see in the picture below, opportunities are several steps closer to becoming customers than leads, but they’re still part of the lead management process.

Sales opportunity management goals

Opportunity management is used by a business owner, sales manager, or sales opportunity manager to increase three main metrics:

  1. Conversions
  2. Revenue
  3. Profitability

To attain these objectives, sales entities need a system for overseeing and monitoring opportunities within the sales pipeline. Additionally, they should employ strategies to engage with potential clients throughout the sales journey, ensuring the timely delivery of relevant communication aligned with their decision-making stages.

Next, let’s look at how to manage sales opportunities.

How to manage sales opportunities

The opportunity management process can be complicated, but if you use a strategy and implement a sales pipeline, you’ll find the sales process gets easier as time goes on. You’ll want to:

  1. Understand the sales cycle.
  2. Track communication.
  3. Standardize the sales cycle.
  4. Create a sales pipeline.
  5. Research the prospect.
  6. Qualify leads.
  7. Follow up appropriately.
  8. Review your process.
  9. Disqualify dead prospects.
  10. Refine the opportunity management process.

Understand your sales cycle

Potential customers will go through a series of steps before they become paying customers. In most purchasing decisions, prospective customers will:

  1. Realize there is a problem they need solved.
  2. Research how to solve the problem. It’s common for purchases to start with an online search, so part of your business strategy should be content marketing optimized to help potential customers understand how to solve the problem.
  3. Research alternatives to solve the problem. Customers might look at options like which company to use, reviews, and alternatives such as replacement or repair. You’ll want to address all of these to help build customer relationships and prepare them for what comes next.
  4. Request information. Customer behavior, like sending an email or signing up for a free trial, shows they are interested in your business. You need to provide them information in a timely manner.
  5. Choose a provider. Customers might contact a single provider or multiple. Then they’ll choose the one who solves their problem best.
  6. Make a purchase. Once the customer has chosen you, they will want you to solve their problem and pay as conveniently as possible.
  7. Evaluate the product or service. Your new customer will evaluate your work, so make sure to ask for customer feedback.
  8. Appreciate the company’s work or become dissatisfied. Hopefully, you’ll have another satisfied customer and be able to build an ongoing customer relationship. Do everything you can to fix it when customers aren’t happy with your product or service.
  9. Make future decisions based on their experience. Existing customers will make decisions based on your customer relationship management. Satisfied customers will probably return to do business with you. They might even refer their friends.

In our interview below, Neel Parekh discusses how he approaches the opportunity management process. Check it out.

YouTube player

Track communication

As a busy entrepreneur, you’ll want to track communication during the opportunity management process. CRM software will help you track all the communication you have with sales leads. There are numerous sales CRM tools you can use, which we discuss in our reviews of client management software.

The most important thing to know right now is you need all your points of contact to connect to the CRM software. This allows you to have a single place for you (or your sales team) to refer to previous customer data, like referrals, previous conversations, and customer lifetime value.

Standardize the sales cycle

The next step of your opportunity management strategy should be to define exactly what your sales team does when managing sales opportunities. This step will probably be performed by a sales manager who is familiar with the opportunity management process flow, while the next step will normally be performed by someone well-versed in automation software.

The more defined the process is, the easier it will be to manage your sales and automate portions of it using a sales funnel.

Create a sales pipeline

Teammates discussing the sales pipeline, shown on a tablet, during a meeting

Sales pipeline management normally requires someone well-versed in automation technology. It helps you effectively manage your sales opportunities by providing the steps your sales team needs to take while managing opportunities. Each step will have a specific goal.

Many of the tasks can use automation. For instance, when someone books an appointment online, you can automatically send an email that confirms the appointment through the CRM system. The more tasks you can automate, the more efficient your sales representatives will be and the more potential sales you can close.

Research the prospect

This step is important. According to LinkedIn’s 2022 State of Sales report, 42% of potential customers leave because sales reps don’t understand their needs.

Salespeople should prioritize opportunities and focus on the most qualified leads first. Before reaching out to a lead, the sales team should research the prospect to understand as much about them as possible. You’ll want to identify sales opportunities based on their business objectives, pain points, budget, and team size.

Understanding this information creates effective sales opportunity management because you can provide the prospective customer with the right information at the right time without repeating yourself during each interaction.

Qualify leads

Not all sales opportunities are created equal. During the early stages of customer relationships, the sales rep should gain valuable insights to establish what the customer’s needs and limitations are; then they should help them make informed decisions. 

One of the things many small business owners struggle with is trying to make everyone happy. While everyone likes closing deals, some customers aren’t a good fit. Just because they don’t have purchasing authority isn’t a reason to rule them out, but as you learn more about the customer, you should consider whether they are a product-service fit. 

If they aren’t a fit, consider referring them to someone who would be a better fit. Using this strategy for sales lead management can open up business opportunities.

Want to learn more? Check out our interview with Joshua Brown. He explains how bringing in a sales manager helped him double his business in a year.

YouTube player

From this point on, only qualified leads should be considered sales opportunities.

Follow up appropriately

As customers progress through the sales opportunity stages, they’ll want different information. At first, they’ll want to understand what impacts the success at solving their problem, followed by looking at your product catalog, then they’ll want to know which product or service will help them best, and, finally, how to become a customer. 

Make sure to tailor the information you send them to the individual, reiterate your key points, and help them progress to making a data-driven decision.

While you’ll want to keep track of lead conversion ratios, a low ratio doesn’t always mean you’re missing potential sales. It can also mean that you need to narrow the requirements to identify sales opportunities.

Review your process

In addition to managing opportunities, you need to review your opportunity management process. You should have sales data that paints a picture of where your sales funnel is doing well and where the sales strategy needs improvement.

Your opportunity management system should have a dashboard that tracks:

  • Churn rate: This key metric represents the rate a business loses customers over time. A low churn rate is better because it means a business is losing fewer customers and potential revenue.
  • Win rate: The percentage of sales opportunities that a sales team successfully closes. A higher win rate means a sales team is more likely to close more opportunities, which can make a business more profitable.
  • Sales cycle length: Tracks a prospect as they move from lead to customer. A shorter sales cycle length means a business can earn money faster.
  • Average deal size: The average revenue generated per deal. This metric helps businesses understand the value of deals and plan for the future.
  • Customer satisfaction: This helps boost sales and is a key factor for acquiring a new customer base.
  • Lead response time: In some industries, a quicker response to a sales prospect’s inquiry can increase the chances of getting a sale.
  • Net promoter score: This is a reflection of how well a business satisfies its customers. It’s derived from a simple survey question: “On a scale from 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this product or company to a friend or colleague?”

You might also want to keep track of the following metrics on the dashboard.

  • Revenue growth rate
  • Gross profit margin as a percentage of sales
  • Net profit and net profit margin
  • Cash flow
  • Accounts payable turnover
  • Cost of goods sold
  • Customer acquisition cost

Disqualify dead prospects

Many CRM systems charge based on the amount of automation actions that are used. Leads that have been dormant for an extended period should be removed from the sales funnel. You might not want to, but you’ll close more deals if you focus on hot leads.

Part of opportunity management is focusing sales activities on people who are interested. Don’t jeopardize your business over people you have to chase down. Focus on identifying the difference between qualified leads and dead leads so you can find a way to stop sales outreach to people who are unlikely to respond.

Explaining automation actions and their impact on business expenses

Automation actions are any step taken in an automated workflow. Companies will often bulk-send automated emails to people on their email list. If you have 20,000 people on the email list, that would cost between $230 and $535 per month on MailChimp.

Imagine 10,000 of them haven’t opened an email in three months. You can cut your costs by creating a new list called inactive contacts, stop sending those people emails, and save between $120 and $185 per month.

That’s why paying attention to the automation actions is important during opportunity management.

Refine the opportunity management process

Opportunity management is the process of improving your sales results, so make improvements when you find something isn’t working or isn’t adding value. Each sales call will be more productive when your sales reps can focus on closing the best leads.

Best practices for managing the sales process

Team learning about opportunity management in a small meeting room

It’s important to follow opportunity management best practices so you can avoid many of the reasons a sales team fails to close a deal.

Remember, over 40% of potential customers leave because sales reps don’t understand what they need. This is preventable with better training and a good CRM software.

That means you’ll need to focus on following best practices to close more deals. Best practices like:

Set responsibilities and tasks

Each step in the opportunity management process should be well defined and have a designated employee or team who handles it.

When you first start, you might be the one working on all the tasks, but as you grow, you might need to hire sales reps, sales managers, and maybe even entire sales teams.

Leverage data

You’ll have data coming in from marketing campaigns, accounting software, social media, sales calls, and other sources. If you don’t have all the information in real time, your sales marketing strategy probably won’t work. Make sure your opportunity management system provides you with the information you need to succeed.

In addition, you’ll want to automate to simplify data entry. You can do this by investing in a CRM with opportunity management tools.

Opportunity management software

Woman logging into a sales dashboard on her laptop

Business owners and sales reps need CRM software to adequately manage their account planning, contact management, and communication. A good CRM software will also help decision-makers, project managers, and sales teams identify data-driven sales opportunities and conduct risk management.

Let’s discuss the CRMs with the best opportunity management tools and systems.

Jobber

Jobber is one of the most user-friendly opportunity management systems. Monthly plans start at $69 for one-person businesses, but they get dramatically more expensive if you want the best features. 

The $349-per-month plan will make it where all you really need to run your business is your equipment and Quickbooks.

Monday Sales CRM

Many sales teams use Monday.com’s Monday Sales CRM to identify sales opportunities and manage their interactions. They have four tiered plans starting at $45 per month for three users and increasing to $99 monthly before going to the quote-only enterprise plans.

Learn more in our overall Monday.com review.

Salesforce

Salesforce is one of the most sophisticated CRMs on the market. Pricing starts at $25 per user but goes up to thousands per month.

One of the real benefits of this sales opportunity management platform is that it has some of the best training courses in the opportunity management field. This is a real positive for people who want to save money by setting up their opportunity management process themselves.

Check out Salesforce.

Start managing opportunities better

We’ve concluded our journey through the realm of opportunity management. We’ve navigated the depths of its meaning, explored synonymous terms, and outlined the fundamental goals that set your business on the trajectory for success in sales.

Understanding how to manage sales opportunities is not merely a skill; it’s an indispensable strategy for any thriving business. Armed with best practices for managing the sales process, you now possess a toolkit for optimizing and maximizing the potential of every interaction.

Yet, in this digital age, the integration of technology plays a pivotal role. Opportunity management software has emerged as an ally to streamline and enhance your efforts. They create a structured approach to handling opportunities and boos overall sales efficiency.

Mastering opportunity management isn’t just seizing moments; it’s about creating a sustainable, strategic approach to unlock success. We hope the insights shared above help you harness the full potential of every sales opportunity.

Which parts of the sales process would you like to learn more about?

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