Account Planning

3 Steps in Opportunity Planning That Will Reduce Your Sales Cycle Immediately

Posted On
November 3, 2021
Resource Type
Account Planning
steps in opportunity planning

Fail to plan, plan to fail. That saying doesn’t just apply to trekking through the wilderness or leading a military campaign; it applies to sales – specifically, what steps in opportunity planning that you’re taking.

If you’re not familiar, opportunity planning is what top sales reps do to strategize how they’ll find, qualify, pursue, and close a deal within a target account. It’s similar to account planning, but more focused on opportunity health vs your overall account health., It’s more immediate; closed opportunities lead to new accounts, leading to additional account expansion. The cycle continues.  Once you start the sales process for an account, you’ll have a roadmap to follow.

One major benefit of opportunity planning is shortening your sales cycle. Reps who use this process can cut their prospecting and sales time dramatically. And as we all know, time is money. If you want more money, you need to be more efficient with your time.

Here are the three steps in opportunity planning that you can take right now to shrink your sales cycle, save time, and be far more efficient (and profitable).

Take These 3 Steps in Opportunity Planning!

1. Know the Roles in the Account

Gone are the days where you can talk to one, magical contact within an account and boom – you close a big deal. (We’d argue those days probably never existed, except on the big screen.)

You’ll need to talk to 5-7 decision-makers, on average, before closing. Just to get to those DMs requires talking to more people. Here’s the problem: not everyone will be helpful.

In your opportunity plan, you need to know who fits in these buckets:

  • Blockers: They’re not very helpful. This is either because they don’t know anything or anyone,  they’re not at all connected to where you need them, or they’re just not willing.
  • Supporters: They are helpful in that they connect you with more supporters (or champions), give you useful information, and/or are “on your side.”
  • Champions: These are your best friends in an account. They have an active interest in helping you make the sale, sometimes because they’re directly affected by the problem and solution. It could also simply be because they like you. Often, if you use a personal connection to get into an account, that personal connection will be your first champion.
  • Decision-maker: These VIPs have a say in whether or not the deal gets approved. They can include people with formal and informal authority and influence. Someone with purchasing power must be in this group, or your deal won’t happen.

You can use a relationship mapping app in Salesforce to identify and update these contacts in a handy-dandy, dynamically-updated chart. Or you can scribble it on post-it notes and put it on a corkboard in a smoke-filled room like a TV detective. Your call.

2. Start Establishing the Business Case from Day One

Selling is about proving value. That means creating a convincing and realistic business case, not just for your customer, but for your own purposes too. 

From your perspective, you need to be able to qualify the potential for an opportunity, the sooner the better. The time you save in qualification is time that you can invest elsewhere. That means having a firm understanding of your company’s benchmarks for what constitutes a profitable deal.

From the customer’s perspective, they have metrics, like KPIs, that they need to hit. Your solution will be measured against those. The trick is, customers aren’t always great at forecasting ROI, especially with a third party’s products/services. That means you have to do some legwork to create a compelling and accurate business case.

Some info you’ll want to start gathering from day one includes:

  • Your minimum profit margin or other ROI metrics
  • Customer KPIs (i.e. what constitutes success for them?)
  • Budget, if possible, and those who have authority to spend it
  • The typical approval timeline for a deal, so that you can align it with your own (if both are incompatible, the opportunity may not be a good one)
  • Previous purchases/contracts the customer has entered into (this info is usually public for a government entity if that’s your target market)
  • How much time you can dedicate to an opportunity based on the expected return
  • Results from previous customer engagements that may be relevant to this opportunity (i.e. our customers in X industry saw an average ROI of Y% over Z months)

Uploading this information into Salesforce (preferably through your key account management app) can give you a solid base of knowledge so you can start proving value from first contact.

3. Have a Roadmap to Create a Clear Path to Close

Once your solution is proposed, you’re on the path to close. You may still have to negotiate, of course, but from that point on, you’re no longer proposing; you’re now persuading.

Creating a roadmap to take you through this crucial process is a very big part of opportunity planning and execution. You’ll need to overcome a lot of obstacles, such as:

  • Are they in control of the budget?
  • Do they have purchasing approval?
  • Do their timelines line up with ours? 
  • Are there any third parties who have to be brought on board or consulted with?
  • Are there any red flags that may derail the close?
  • Do we have everyone we need to talk to “in the room”? 

Getting to the final stage, only to have something unforeseen pop up to derail the process, is a nightmare. Opportunity planning can help mitigate that risk. 

Top sales reps plan for success. They know if you don’t plan for it, you’re relying on luck. See how you can bring your steps in opportunity planning directly into Salesforce, with our easy-to-use apps that cut out all the hassle and add in all the power. Use this checklist to make sure you’re taking the right steps in opportunity planning.

Posted On
November 3, 2021
Resource Type
Account Planning