What can CRM do for SMB? (Part 3, Opportunities)

In my last post, I discussed the concept of a Lead. The Lead was ultimately qualified (turned into) an Account, a Contact and an Opportunity. In this post I want to do a deeper dive into what an Opportunity is in CRM.

First of all, an Opportunity does not represent a person or company, instead it represents a Deal. A Deal is whatever a deal is to you; a contract, order, engagement, assignment, case… whatever you sell to make money. An Opportunity record is a connected pane of information related to a particular deal. The Opportunity record is connected to anyone on your team that needs to be, so any activities undertaken by anyone are known to all. It is also connected to the related Account and any Contacts within that Account that are involved, including decision makers and influencers. It can also be connected to any vendors, contractors or suppliers that you use to fulfill your deal requirements. It is also connected to your product catalog, service and price lists. It is also connected to originating lead sources and campaigns. Sounds like this pane must be a real spiderweb of data, but don’t worry, it’s all neatly organized.

In my last post we left Horatio, who had just “Qualified” Becky and created an Opportunity for 50 Widget#47s. Now what? First of all, Horatio may or may not actually sell Becky 50 Widget 47s. An Opportunity does not represent a sale, but rather a prospective sale. It may end up quite different by the time it closes, or it may not close at all. Horatio created the Opportunity based on what he knew at the time, it is a starting point, the first step beyond an unqualified Lead. Depending on what you sell you could have thousands of active Opportunities, or just a few. Qualifying Leads is not really the start of a sales process, rather it is simply identifying Opportunities upon which a sales process can commence.

So what is a Sales Process? You tell me. You’re the one who has been selling your stuff. You know the steps you take and the path that you follow. A downside of “CRM Lite” applications is that often they have defined a sales process for you. Their process may not even be close to what you have successfully done in the past. Maybe, in the hope of better efficiency, you conform. Why would you conform to a sales process defined by someone else? Damned if I know, but it happens all the time. If everybody conformed to a single sales process, what is your advantage? Price? It may work for WalMart, but it probably won’t work for you. Over the years of selling your stuff, you have learned a lot. You know the paths to avoid, you know the shortcuts, you know the hot buttons and super sneaky techniques. It is this unique process that you have developed that leads to your success. Why would you change that? The simple answer is… Don’t. With enterprise grade CRM, you mold the software to conform to your process, not the other way around.

So you have defined a sales process that works for you. You would like everybody else in your organization to adopt this process. Lay out the steps, and build this into CRM. You have an Opportunity before you, you know generally what it might be, and you know who to contact. Have you been more successful making contact by email, or phone call in starting your sales process? Once contact has been initiated, have you found that your prospects are typically more concerned about price, features, capabilities, reputation, or some other industry issue? Is your sales cycle typically a one-call close, or does it take months? I’m not giving you things to think about here, you already know the answers. Map your process out on a whiteboard first and study it. Tweak it, fiddle with it, get it really dialed in. Then conform the software to do that!

In Horatio’s case, a couple of items always come up. His Widget47 is very similar in features and functionality as his competitors’, so usually his client’s decisions are based on a combination of price and service. He will typically try to make the case that his service is better so he can get a little higher price. He has learned that he fares better when he leads with service first and if the client is only interested in price, he is usually better off to pass on the opportunity. So his first priority is determine his client’s valuation of service. Since his company does a lot of marketing and events, he has a lot of opportunities, so he wants to quickly weed out the cheapskates. His first step is to send an email to all of his new opportunities, that has been previously drafted, that outlines his firm’s service prowess. With enterprise CRM, this has already happened. It was setup in the system as the first step in the sales process and applied to all new Opportunities. The email that automatically went out, included a link to an industry survey that was previously prepared and runs inside of CRM, those that clicked on the link and took the survey are flagged and their results are sent to Horatio automatically. Those that did not are sent down another process path. Horatio looks over the survey results to see which respondents gave answers that would lead to him believe they were service conscious.  He decides to send a follow-up email, thanking them for taking the survey, and including some testimonials about his firm’s service. Wait a minute, CRM already did that, automatically, based on a logic the team worked out ahead of time. So a client had come to the company website, filled out a “get information” form, received an email, took a survey, received another email tailored to their survey responses, all before Horatio even picks up the phone, automatically.  Can you do that?

This is but one fictional example of an extremely basic process. I could probably write 20 posts on processing Opportunities alone, but as exciting as that would be for you, I would definitely get bored. So in my next post we will go over the last 2 activated cylinders: Accounts and Contacts.

Add your thoughts below, just don’t pimp your stuff on my blog 🙂


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