• Sales reps will voluntarily update opportunities if there is something in it for them
  • Opportunity coaching uses algorithms to help sales reps improve win rates
  • Opportunity to close is to opportunity management what CPQ is to the configure, price and quote process

The real reason why sales reps don’t update their opportunities is… there’s no give to get! All first-year sales reps understand the principle of “give to get,” the name given to describe the basic human instinct that compels most people to naturally return favors. You see it every day – open a door for someone and they will open the next one for you. Give away prizes at trade show booths and prospects feel obligated to give you their contact information (well, they give you some contact information, even if it isn’t their own!). Smile at someone, and they – in most cases – will smile back.

What’s the “give to get” when asking sales reps to provide accurate opportunity information? There really is none. Hardliners (and I’ll confess that I am an occasional hardliner myself) will argue that there is when they say that if you “give” your opportunity information, you’ll “get” to keep your job! Hardline approaches don’t work for long, and we all know that leading through intimidation isn’t leading at all. So, how do we solve the problem? Over the last few years, I’ve seen a capability emerging that solves the “give to get” inequity problem. Some vendors are calling it “opportunity scoring.” I prefer the term “opportunity coaching,” and here’s why.

Opportunity coaching (OC) provides reps with instant feedback that helps them gauge the probability of an opportunity closing by the projected close date – or the probability of it closing at all. OC also helps reps improve their own intuition by guiding them to the best opportunities, contacts and accounts, and helps them find others that emulate the characteristics of those that will help earn the most money. Additionally, OC saves reps hours by initially generating algorithmic-based forecast as a starting point. Reps then modify the forecast using additional intelligence they’ve collected on the health of their funnel and opportunities. Therefore, reps get to track both the algorithmic forecast and their own, and then decide over time which is more trustworthy and accurate. I’m a big fan of this method and call it “guided forecasting.” Who wouldn’t want a virtual data scientist always at their side, helping them forecast more accurately – not just for the business but for themselves?

Some of the companies investing in developing these solutions are not stopping with opportunity coaching. They see value in improving the entire opportunity management process, or what’s increasingly known as “opportunity to close” (OTC). They’ve seen how CPQ provided much-needed enhancements to an SFA’s standard configure, price, and quote capabilities. They’ve also seen how business intelligence tools turned SFA data into real sales intelligence. OTC (including opportunity coaching) will now take what most of us believe to be a terrible process and interface in most SFA platforms, and turn it into something more intuitive and user-friendly – and a resource that sales reps will want to use. The idea is to give them opportunity coaching and an exceptional user experience and get more accurate data that greatly improves pipeline integrity and forecast accuracy. Sales operations gives sales reps a better OTC close experience, along with opportunity coaching, and as a result, gets more accurate sales forecasts – it’s going to work!