Putting Sales Velocity into Action: Opportunities

In this series, we’re looking at sales velocity: measuring how fast your team is making sales and earning revenue. The reason it’s one of your most important metrics—and predictors—of success is that it gives you the flexibility to make adjustments in four key areas: opportunities, deal size, win/lose rate and sales cycle time.

Making adjustments to any of those selling-based activities will produce measurable changes and dramatic boosts to performance in your business.

Let’s look at the first of four ways you can put sales velocity into action: creating more sales opportunities in your pipeline. This involves two planning steps, followed by a range of tactics.

The nature of your problem determines next steps.

Before you do anything else, first you must define the nature of the problem you’re looking to solve in the area of opportunity creation.

Look carefully at the current state of the pipeline in your organization. Are you behind in hitting your goals, or are you positioned to accelerate your sales? If it’s the former, you must start focusing on pipeline development. If it’s the latter, you should look at activities to bulk-up a healthy pipeline one step at a time.

Set goals with balance.

When it comes to opportunity creation, setting goals only works if they are achievable and strike an appropriate balance between quality and quantity. With most of my clients, a targeted 10-20% increase in opportunities gives them a good batch of solid new leads. But separate the gunk and sludge from the silver and gold in the planning stage first—not when you’re deep into a campaign. There’s no point in developing a long list of unchecked new prospects if all the leads are terrible. Otherwise you’re just going to dig yourself into a deeper hole and lose your best sellers, because they’ll be frustrated by your lack of foresight. Plan first. Then execute.

Choose tactics wisely.

Tactics are never one-size-fits-all. Yours are determined by those first two steps I’ve identified: defining the nature of your sales problem and determining goals sensibly. Depending on your answers from that exercise, choose from one or all of the following opportunity-boosting tactics.

Go back. Your existing pipeline doesn’t just tell a story of wins that all look alike. There are silver-ranked customers that can be turned into gold-status ones, but only if you go back and start digging. Which clients can you create new opportunities with? Which ones have been buying less than they used to? Which ones have made changes that might require new products or services? Identify them, make contact, and discover if a new opportunity awaits.

Get inside. Internal referrals are powerful and effective because they leapfrog over buyer objections. They use word-of-mouth to say true things about buying from you that no amount of advertising can buy. One technology client of mine used to be fixated on cold calls and struggled with opportunity creation. It took three hours of daily cold calls for her to find two new qualified opportunities. When she switched to a referral strategy—asking each customer for a referral to a new division or department—she transformed her results into three new opportunities per hour. That’s more than a 300% increase in her results!

Go outside. Similar in effectiveness to their internal counterparts, external referrals generate new opportunities that have the highest closing rate in sales today. Reach out to your best customers and ask them for referrals to others who are like them. That can include other suppliers, partners, customers of their own, or even people they know through their networking associations.

Get unlost. Working from your pipeline, revisit your near misses, lost sales and dormant accounts: there are missed opportunities in there. A client of mine did that and turned $900,000 in sales into $3 million over a period of a year. He tripled his business, simply by reaching out to people who didn’t buy from him before but would if he made a good case.

Get networking. When prospecting, there’s no substitute for face-to-face meetings with people. It speeds-up the decision-making process and the buying cycle because it personalizes your work. Find networking opportunities in your sales territory and start engaging with your prospects in places that are meaningful to them.

Go social. As I talk about often, cold calls are dead. Social media is the tool you must use today to warm-up conversations with strangers and build a relationship with them first before you call.  It’s how you build a network of likeminded people. It’s the medium you use to engagethem, so they want to connect with you. And it’s the platform that you use to have meaningful conversations about topics they care about, to create the ideal conditions to convert prospects into loyal buyers.

Next up in this series, we will look at how adjustments to your average deal size can influence your sales velocity and help you achieve your performance goals in less time.