Dig Deep For Effective Sales Opportunity Reviews
Opportunity reviews can make the difference between a sales team that delivers on an accurate forecast and one that doesn’t come close. I believe the key to a successful opportunity review depends on sales leadership doing two things right: (1) encouraging their reps to dig deep and (2) ensuring that the reps have the tools they need to execute on their action plans.
Think about the traditional format that opportunity review conversations usually take. Ask your sales people about their perspective and you’ll get some surprising answers. I often hear sales people talk about the average deal review like this, “My average deal review is a 30-second conversation in the middle of a forecast review when my manager asks me if the deal is still on track.”
That's not digging deep...
A real deal review should be a focused conversation about one critical opportunity. It should zero in on what we know, what we don’t know, what our strategy is, and what we’re going to do about executing on that strategy. Traditionally, after a deal review conversation, the sales rep leaves the room with a list of agreed -upon actions and required next steps for the account. While that's a good start, there’s a much deeper conversation that should happen between the manager, the sales person and the rest of the extended account team.
When we are conducting reviews with our customers, I’ll ask the manager after the review what confidence level he/she has on the rep’s/team’s ability to execute on the identified actions. Undoubtedly, there will be one or two tasks that the manager doesn’t feel the rep can execute. The rep/team and the manager leave with an understanding of what needs to be done, but neither side is comfortable with how they’re going to execute on it.
If you as a manager don’t think the rep can execute on what you’ve asked them to do, imagine how the rep must feel!
The greatest value you can bring as a manager is to ensure that your reps know how to execute. Don't allow your reps to think that they can’t show weakness, that they can (or need to) show they can do whatever is asked of them. You, as a manager, need to create an environment where it’s safe to not know. Unfortunately, that's a place where managers have a tendency to fall short. However, there’s no better place where you can have more impact on coaching a rep.
For example, if you look at one opportunity and you know that the next step is a meeting with the CFO, then you need to make sure that your rep is comfortable holding that meeting.
- Has the rep ever had this type of discussion before?
- How will they get the meeting set up? (champion, executive-to-executive, etc.)
- What will the agenda look like for the meeting?
- How will they ensure they’re aligned with the executive before the meeting?
- How will they run the meeting?
This is what I mean by digging deep. Why would you leave such a critical conversation to chance? Your number one job as a sales leader is to make your reps great over time. Digging deep into the “how” with your reps is the best way to do this. You are not only helping them with this opportunity, but you are developing skills that translate to every opportunity they touch.
Ask questions like, “We’ve attached this action item to you, are you comfortable doing this on your own?” or “Let’s role play how you’re going to get the champion to help us get this meeting scheduled.” Make it okay for the rep to raise concerns and ask for help moving the deal along in the process.
We’ve all been part of companies where the opportunity reviews were brief conversations that happened in the hallways, on the way to a meeting or as a sidebar in a forecast conversation. Managers have to dig deep with their reps. Look at the critical actions needed to move forward and then determine how the rep is going to execute on those actions. Don’t just stop at the identified list of actions.
Here are some additional best practices that I’ve found to improve the effectiveness of opportunity reviews:
Managers should make preparing for the reviews part of their own operating rhythm. You owe it to your reps. Review the necessary information in the CRM system and be ready to discuss execution in the meeting. Don’t use the first ten minutes of the meeting to get yourself up to speed. When the deals don’t come through at the end of the quarter, you’ll wish you took the time to prepare, making these reviews more productive.
Let Them Talk
Give the rep the first five minutes of the meeting to review the opportunity uninterrupted. Allow he/she to update you on the deal, the strong points of the opportunity and what he/she is concerned about. This update brings the room up to speed and will likely answer the basic questions you may have about the opportunity. That way you can use the rest of the time to focus on how you are going to implement any identified action steps.
Overall, be sure to pull the reps away from the deal and help them see the big picture. When you identify the steps that the rep needs to take following the review, be sure you’re asking how each critical next step is attached to the overall big picture. Then determine how it’s going to get done. Sometimes your reps are going to be too close to the deal to see the big picture.For each critical action step defined in the deal review, make sure you answer these questions:
- Who is going to lead this action?
- Do they have the skills to achieve the desired outcome?
- Do they have the confidence to act?
- Are the correct resources assigned to and signed up to help, if required?
- How are we going to prepare the rep to ensure success against this action?
Now you’re digging deep.
Remember, give your people the ability to be authentic. Results come when everyone has a solid understanding of how to execute the game plan. Your job as a sales manager is to ensure that the “how” is understood. Help your reps understand that it’s okay if they don't have all the answers. It’s just not okay to not do something about it.