As a salesperson, there are few feelings more exciting than identifying sales opportunities, closing deals, and making sales.
Not only do you put more money in your pocket (or the pocket of your company), but you could bring in a new buying customer in the process.
Sometimes, it’s so easy to get focused on bottom lines or tailoring the perfect offer that you miss the sales opportunities right under your nose.
In other instances, you thought you had identified an existing opportunity, but when you presented your offer to the lead, they said no.
Thus, you missed out on revenue.
What happened there? Should you spend the time refining your sales process or maybe even focusing more on B2B sales? Yes and no.
You can’t sell to everybody, and sometimes the people who do turn you down do so by no fault of your own. In other cases, the leads you’re selling to, the products you’re selecting, and the opportunities you chase can all boost—or not boost—your own sales.
In this article, we will present six means of identifying the sales opportunities that will inevitably crop up for salespeople, sometimes unexpectedly.
We’ll also give you some pointers for when and how to close so you have fewer missed sales on your record.
What Is a Sales Opportunity?
Before we share our handy tips for more sales opportunities, let’s be sure you’re clear on the definition of a sales opportunity itself.
When a sales opportunity arises in your company, it’s not necessarily referring to a random lead, but rather, a more qualified lead.
You needn’t guess whether the lead has an interest in your company’s products or services because you’re confident they do. They’re interested in working with you as well.
This opportunity is like fruit that’s ripe for the picking. When your sales team contacts the lead, the likelihood of them making the sale and closing the deal is much higher.
What Is the Difference Between a Lead and a Sales Opportunity?
So how do you tell the difference between a regular lead and one who’s more qualified? It all depends on where they enter the sales funnel.
A lead is someone who may have found your company’s products or services through an advertisement or recommendation.
You might have even met the lead in person at an event or expo and given them your business card.
They have only the most cursory knowledge of your company and what you do. They know your company name and maybe the name of a product or service you sell, but that’s as far as it goes for them.
They may not have any interest or need for your products/services, but you don’t know that yet.
Given the volatility of a lead, you can’t say for certain how the professional relationship will pan out.
They could convert into a buying customer or they could drop off soon after getting on the sales funnel, leading to your sales team not closing the deal.
Compare all that to a sales opportunity. The lead here is a sales-qualified lead or SQL. They’ve gone through some vetting by your sales team to determine their interest and eligibility.
As we said in the last section, there exists the need and/or interest in what your company sells on the part of this SQL. They might even be ready to make a purchasing decision right now.
The Stages of a Sales Opportunity
Stage 1: Research
Stage 2: Lead Qualification
Stage 3: Strategizing a Plan
Stage 4: Plan Execution
Stage 5: Review
Reading our tips in the next section will help make finding sales opportunities a little easier, as will knowing the stages a sales opportunity generally follows.
There are five stages in all: research, qualification, strategizing, execution, and review. Here’s an overview of the stages.
Stage 1: Research
The first stage of a sales opportunity is one of the most intensive. While in the research phase, you want to learn as much about your leads as you can.
You’re not disqualifying anyone yet, just absorbing information like a sponge.
Stage 2: Lead Qualification
In the second phase, you’ll move on to qualifying your leads. You want to review your company’s sales criteria and use that as the basis on which you compare each lead.
If a lead doesn’t fit your criteria at this time, then set them aside until another sales opportunity arises.
The leads that do fit the criteria could become your SQLs. These are the people you want to focus your attention on.
Stage 3: Strategizing a Plan
How will you win the sales opportunity and close the deal? That’s what you have to figure out next.
By gleaning more information about the lead such as their pain points, you can begin to formulate a plan that might work to convert them.
Stage 4: Plan Execution
With the plan put in place, by stage 4, you’re ready to execute your plan.
Stage 5: Review
Even a well-detailed sales conversion plan doesn’t always succeed. Many unpredictable factors abound that can impede progress, some of which you can control and others you can’t.
For instance, if a lead has a budget issue and changes their mind about their purchase last minute, there’s nothing you can do but try again another time.
Whether you succeeded or you failed, the review phase is crucial in rounding out the sales opportunity process.
Analyze what you did right and wrong so you can plan even better for next time.
6 Methods for Identifying Sales Opportunities and Closing the Deal
- Work with Only Sales-Qualified Leads
- Create Buyer Personas
- Use Customer Referrals
- Establish Third-Party Referrals or Affiliate Programs
- Get out of the Office (and Go to Events and Expos)
- Use CRM
Now that you’re much more well-acquainted with sales opportunities and how they work, let’s dive into our six methods for finding more sales opportunities for your small business.
1. Work with Only Sales-Qualified Leads
While some sales teams obsess over certain metrics more than others, at the end of the day, it’s all about making as many sales as possible.
One roadblock that could prevent you from doing so is spending too much time on leads that lack the qualifications to become customers.
Imagine this: you spend hours crafting that ideal pitch on a lead who seemed interested. You draft the email or prepare the phone script and then reach out.
The lead responds, but not in the way you expected. They tell you they’re not going to buy.
We mentioned this scenario in the intro, but it’s worth going into more detail here. Sometimes a lead turns you down because they weren’t even a good fit for your products or services.
Perhaps your product sat just outside of the lead’s desired price range. Maybe the service doesn’t make their life better as you intend it to.
Whatever the reason, they’re not a match, and you just found that out the hard way.
What if you had a means of identifying the leads that had more interest and thus were keener on your direct sales opportunities?
Enter the sales-qualified lead.
Also known as SQLs, sales-qualified leads go through levels of scoring and checking before they ever reach the sales team.
Typically, SQLs begin with your company’s marketing team, in which they’re then referred to as marketing-qualified leads or MQLs.
If the lead passes through that team, then they move onto you and your fellow salespeople.
Not every SQL will become a customer, but a good portion will. After all, these leads have often shown buyer intent, thus increasing their chances of taking advantage of a sales offer when you present it.
According to 2018 data from lead qualification resource SnapApp, most B2B companies have begun prioritizing working with qualified leads and converting them, with 57 percent of the responding companies saying as much.
Image courtesy of SnapApp
2. Create Buyer Personas
Even though SQLs have gone through a filtering process and come out the other end identified as readier to buy, that doesn’t mean every single one of them is the same.
Far from it. Your SQLs will come from different parts of the world. They’ll have different genders and age groups. Their occupations and income levels will vary.
Sometimes, their needs aren’t even the same.
The reason? A one-size-fits-all approach does not, as you’ll soon discover, fit all.
Now, in a perfect world, you could take each of your leads and prospects, get to know them a bit demographically, and then sort them.
That would take monumental amounts of time though, and, if you fail to make a sale, that’s major time wasted.
What do most sales and marketing teams do instead? Create buyer personas. This is a concept we’ve written about in-depth here on this blog.
Here’s one such article you might want to check out to grasp buyer personas a little better.
In short, a buyer persona represents a portion of your audience, or, in this case, your would-be audience. Think of it as a type of profile, but a fictional one.
Well, it’s fictional and it’s not. What do we mean by that? Take a look at this buyer persona example and see if you can figure it out.
Image courtesy of Single Grain
Tommy Technology both is and isn’t a real person. That’s a picture of somebody out there, alright, whose name probably isn’t Tommy.
The personality traits that Tommy Technology embodies are real, though. You’ll find leads, prospects, and customers who match this personality to a T, and others who share a few characteristics, but not all.
The whole point of creating buyer personas is to group your audience into buckets with other like individuals.
If you have several prospects who have similarities to Tommy Technology, then they’d go in one bucket or under that avatar.
The goal is to create avatars for each of the strong personalities you come across. For instance, the slow reluctant person who needs to do a lot of reading up before they buy.
You also want a persona to accommodate for SQLs and other qualified prospects.
You get to choose the criteria that make each avatar important. In a sales sphere, perhaps you do organize leads and prospects by buyer readiness.
You can also segment SQLs based on location, pain points, occupation, or income.
When you come across an SQL or a lead who fits a certain personality, you can quickly see a sales opportunity as it arises before you.
Since you have an avatar that suits this lead and you’ve likely sold to a similar personality before, it becomes easier to close the deal.
3. Use Customer Referrals
Sales opportunities don’t have to come out of anywhere, you know. You can also create them. One such way you might do that? Through a referral system.
This time, instead of focusing so much on sales qualified leads or SQLs, you want to tap into your existing customer base. Like always, do some segmenting. Which customers have the most loyalty, in that they buy the most often? You might also choose to focus on those customers who have stuck with you for the longest.
Then, reach out to them via phone or email. In the message, mention that you’re starting a referral program. Ask them to recommend you to anyone they might know who may have an interest in your products or services.
For a referral program to succeed, you must incentivize your customers to participate. Typically, you can do so via freebies or discounts.
You might offer a bigger reward for the customers that get the most people to participate in the referral program.
Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth. When a lead hears of a recommendation through a friend, coworker, or family member—aka your customer—they could have a higher chance of taking advantage of your offer.
Marketing resource Annex Cloud says as much. They shared some data from Nielsen that mentions that most consumers (a whopping 92 percent) will buy something if someone they know recommends it.
Family and friends play a major role in purchasing decisions as well, as 77 percent of people reported their loved ones influenced their shopping habits.
Also, Annex Cloud found that each day, 2.4 billion conversations will occur in the United States that are centered around a brand. If you want yours to be one of them, consider a referral program.
These programs can succeed in a massive way if done correctly.
4. Establish Third-Party Referrals or Affiliate Programs
With how many sales a referral program would drive, you’re going to want to milk this cash cow dry, right? Of course.
That’s why we’re also suggesting considering a third-party referral relationship.
Although you tend to think of achieving results for your company only, there are billions of other companies striving to make sales as well.
They attract their own leads, some more qualified than others. Imagine if you could get a whole new prospective audience from another company or individual.
With a third-party referral program, you can. Also called an affiliate program, it works in much the same way as a customer referral program would.
Your affiliates earn money from you when they get leads, prospects, or even customers to buy from you. And yes, it should be the money you offer in this case, not so much discounts or freebies.
That won’t really help most affiliates unless you deal in the B2B sphere.
Getting the word out about your brand or your products/services in this way can pay off big time. Annex Cloud, in the same article we linked to you before, mentions that leveraging social media produces especially great results.
When consumers see referrals on social media, they have a better chance of buying, up to 71 percent higher. If you can get your affiliate spreading the word across social media then, the sales could roll right in.
While an affiliate program might seem like the solution to most of your problems, be smart. You don’t want to get so focused on finding third parties that you lose track of leads, customers, and sales.
Most sales professionals recommend working with no more than three affiliates at once.
Yes, that does mean being a bit pickier about which affiliates you select for the referral program, but that’s for the best, anyway.
You also shouldn’t lessen your own efforts or those of your marketing team to generate qualified leads while working with an affiliate.
Once you have the marketing qualified leads streaming in, just like with customer referrals, it’s up to you to close the deal.
5. Get out of the Office (and Go to Events and Expos)
The life of a salesperson can be one lived at a breakneck speed. You’re always finding methods for engaging with prospects and customers, be that on the phone, social media, email, and more.
If your approach is lacking a little face-to-face interactivity lately, then you might want to consider attending events, expos, conventions, and the like.
Now, you’re not out there to meet any old person at these events. Picking potential leads randomly could waste your time and yield you little to no results for your efforts.
You’re also wasting money since you’re not back at the office making sales.
Instead, you want to attend these events strategically. Before you ever buy your event ticket, create a list of desired customers from your contacts.
Will several contacts you wish to sell to attend the upcoming expo or convention? Then you should make it a point to go.
When you meet these people, you want to come across as a real person first and foremost and a salesperson secondarily.
Save the elevator pitch for another time, or at least for later. Be friendly and speak casually about your company and its products or services.
Hand out some business cards. End the conversation on a good note and then move on to your next contact.
If you vetted these contacts well, then there should be a good likelihood of them getting in touch with you once the expo or event wraps up.
If you don’t already have it, get all their contact information as well. This way, the ball’s not entirely in their court.
You can follow up after the expo and get that ball rolling, hopefully earning a buying customer in the process.
Now, you may wonder, does networking in-person have any place in today’s tech-heavy world? Couldn’t you just use FaceTime instead of opting for some real facetime? Not exactly.
As small business consultant Ellisa Brenneman told Inc. in a piece about networking: “It is a digital age and there are a lot of options to do business far from where we are located…
But it may be human nature to want to see the person you’re giving money to or know there is someone who can help you — that there is a face to the service, a face behind the voice.”
We couldn’t say it any better ourselves.
6. Use CRM
The final option you have at your disposal for identifying sales opportunities is through B2B CRM software.
CRM stands for customer relationship management software and should constitute a key part of any marketer or salesperson’s arsenal.
Here at EngageBay, we have our own CRM, which we offer free to our subscribers. If you’ve skipped using CRM to this point, you’ll surely want to change that.
You can manage all your contacts across the software, segmenting them as necessary. You can even score leads with EngageBay’s CRM, determining which ones are SQLs and which aren’t as qualified.
EngageBay’s Sales CRM helps your business with highly actionable insights
As your lead enters your sales funnel and begins moving through it, each interaction that occurs gets logged into the CRM software.
Those include interactions you had with the SQL as well as those a marketer may have had.
By reviewing these communications, you can track when a lead might be most sales-ready. Then, you can jump in and offer your product or service, hopefully to your success and that of your company.
CRM can also come in handy if you want to backtrack to less responsive leads later. For instance, maybe a lead isn’t qualified right now, but that could change.
Their pain points might shift, they might make a career jump, or a whole slew of things can happen in their lives.
Should you decide an opportunity presents itself, you could try re-engaging with this lead now that they’re more qualified. They just might accept your offer when they didn’t before.
Sales opportunities exist all around you, sometimes even when you don’t necessarily see them at first glance.
Remember always that driving sales is a collaborative process. By partnering with your marketing team, third-party affiliates, and even your customers, you can sell to the leads that come your way. Good luck!