Archives for posts with tag: Opportunity

Nothing rankles more and is harder to dismiss than a missed opportunity, I find. More than that, to have had the chance to do something, and to have passed it up, is hard to take.

Years and years ago, I was attending the British Open golf event (is there any better value sporting event than the first 2 days of the Open, over 12 hours of sport where you can get out for a walk, see some amazing shots, savour the atmosphere and get close enough to see what the guys are thinking and feeling?) as a spectator and wandering amongst the masses when my mate pointed out someone famous to me that has just walked past us. ‘Look’, he said, ‘there’s Ian Baker-Finch.’ I turned round to look behind me, as I walked, at this legend who had won the event a few years before, and bumped into a bloke who was much larger than me, but who, for some reason, came off from the contretemps in a worse state, one of those kind of knee-to-knee bump situations where one person can be unscathed and another in a bit of pain.

As it turned out, the chap I had bumped into was none other than fellow fan Ieuan Evans, who was a British Lion at the time and arguably much more famous than Mr Baker-Finch. I apologised and that was that.

Years later, I was invited to a corporate hospitality event by a mate of mine who was himself a guest of a logistics company. The event was the Ireland-Wales 6 Nations rugby clash in Dublin. One of the pundits who was booked to provide pre-show analysis and mingle among the guests was Mr Evans. I met him briefly, and was working up to telling him my golfing anecdote when our little enclave was joined by the event host, Keith Wood, himself no slouch on the rugger field. Mr Wood is a very charismatic individual, pronounced the group he had joined a follically challenged one – which was true, me and Mr Evans included, and proceeded to lead the conversation. During this, Ieuan left our group and went to mingle elsewhere. I didn’t get another chance to catch up with him.

Missed opportunities. To have failed to take the chance is far worse than to have taken it and failed.

Ah, the second selling stage. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? And so it should, because it’s a very important stage. Coming after the first selling stage where you have defined and listed your addressable market, the second selling stage is opportunity definition.

This stage corresponds to the Second Buying Stage of problem / opportunity definition. If your customer has a problem to address, or an opportunity to exploit, then you need to define what the opportunity is for you. This stage is all about qualifying the situation. At this stage there has been some level of engagement between you and the company. Either they’ve reached out to you or you to them.

Don’t get your hopes up yet, however. If you can’t qualify the opportunity to your satisfaction, as far as you should be concerned there is no opportunity. Being ruthless at this stage and discounting the ‘bad’ or non-opportunities is the best thing you can do, because it frees you up to concentrate on – or find – the good opportunities.

So how to qualify? Many people use acronyms like BANT – do they have Budget, do they have Authority to buy, do they have a defined Need, what is the Time limit by when they have to act – to help them define the opportunity. In essence, this sales stage is all about establishing that this is worth your while putting in more effort to pursue the opportunity, over other opportunities. These questions will help you:

– exactly what’s stopping them from doing what they want to do? What’s the problem?

– is there a great fit between what you provide and what they need?

– who are you talking to at the company? are they high enough up the pecking order?

– when do they need to act by?

– what will happen to them if they don’t act?

– what other alternatives are they considering (the biggest two being do nothing and do it ourselves)?

– how can you do a better job for them than the alternatives, and why?

– do you like the odds on getting this deal?

Ideally, you don’t want to deduce the answers to all the above questions, you want the company to confirm the answers for you. All that is, except the third question and the last question. I would keep these answers to yourself and use them to decide the following: am I in, at this stage, or am I out?

If the first buying stage is awareness of a problem or opportunity during normal business operations, the second buying stage in the B2B buying process is an acknowledgement and definition of the problem to be solved, or the opportunity to be captured.

Your prospective customer – or existing customer – has identified that there is a barrier to achieving an objective, or to capitalising fully on the opportunity that has come to light. Something is broken and they need to change the way they do things. At this stage, they haven’t decided if they can fix the problem internally, such as by reallocating their resources. They still might need to go outside their organisation and invest in your product or service.

In this buying stage the customer needs to define these three important questions:

– what are we trying to achieve?

– what is currently broken that is stopping us from getting there?

– what will happen if we don’t fix what’s broken?

Companies are generally very good at answering the first two questions, but less good at quantifying or qualifying the the answer to the third question, which is effectively the ‘opportunity cost’ of not doing something.

Once the customer has defined their problem, they’re in a position to move forward. If they can’t articulate their problem, they’ve got problems, plural.

When you’re selling, the ‘sale’ is the ideal situation, the end result you’re aiming at. ‘Opportunity’ is the unit of currency that you measure your life by. It represents the collection of granular, discrete items that govern our selling lives and keep us awake at night. This is ironic when you consider that the word ‘opportunity’ means a situation or position that is favorable, rather than unfavorable. If we qualify them properly, we should only have opportunities in our forecast that are opportunities in the true sense of the word.

Managing a sales opportunity, especially a complicated opportunity in a business-to-business situation where the ticket price is high, the process is a series of longish steps, and many people are involved in buying what you have, is about constantly asking yourself one essential question ‘how am I doing?’ More specifically, ‘how am I doing in this opportunity?’ compared with the other competitors eyeing the prize, and compared with the other possible outcomes – apart from you winning – that could result.

There are a number of facets to this question, such as the following:

– what’s the opportunity like?

– how can we win it?

– how can others win it?

– how can we counter them?

– what’s going on inside the buying organisation?

– what’s going on inside the heads of the important people in the buying organisation?

– what is the set of information we need to make the best decisions and what do we need to do to win?

With every important new piece of information about the opportunity, and everything important that happens in the opportunity, you need to pose – and answer – the big question, tweaking your plan of activities for winning accordingly. It’s like plotting your way around a golf course or your ship back to the harbour.

Good opportunity management is about enabling you to respond to the question ‘How you doin’? with an ‘At the moment, I’m doing well, thanks!’ answer.