The key to an optimized revenue process is context. Signals from every single interaction that occurs with the potential buying group (both with known and anonymous people) add valuable insight into a potential opportunity. From each signal, we can learn “who” someone is (both at the account and role level) and “what” someone is interested in. Understanding that a VP of HR from ACME downloaded a white paper on “Hiring Best Practices In 2022” indicates potential engagement from a key buying group member for our talent management solution. Based on this insight, we can place this person in a container (the opportunity entity for the talent management solution at ACME) to share across the marketing/sales teams.
As discussed in earlier blogs in this series, both the marketing qualified lead (MQL) and the marketing qualified account (MQA) suffer from context issues. MQLs are often treated as silos that are not yet connected to accounts and even lack insight on the solution of interest. This makes seeing context, like related individuals working together as a buying group, impossible. And while multiple contacts can be associated with an MQA, this model often fails to group multiple individuals in the account to specific solution interests. While there may be 10 contacts associated with the MQA account, what’s not evident is how many different solutions are represented and how these 10 contacts align to specific solution interests.
An Opportunity-Centric Process Leverages Context
There is an approach that can leverage this context to optimize the revenue process. Use the opportunity entity as a container to be shared between marketing and sales throughout the entire revenue process. The goal of this approach is simple but important. In an opportunity-centric approach, we want to:
- Drive interactions with more people (buying group members) within accounts.
- Align the context of these interactions to accounts, buying groups, and opportunities.
- Share insight about all members of the buying group related to the opportunity throughout the entire revenue process.
- Make this insight easily consumable to marketing, revenue development reps (RDRs), and sales via the opportunity entity.
- Track progression of this opportunity with buying group members attached as it comes to a purchase decision.
Rethinking The Definition Of An Opportunity
The word “opportunity” has several different interpretations. First, there is the logical interpretation: Sales views an opportunity as a stage in the potential deal/selling process where they have done the initial qualification and, based on it, thinks, “There’s something real here that we can sell.” They feel there is a reasonable chance to win the deal, and they’re willing to share information about this potential deal as an opportunity that should be managed by the account executive.
There’s another use of the term that refers to the opportunity system entity used as a container to hold and share information. When Forrester talks about leveraging an opportunity-centric revenue process, we’re referring to using the opportunity entity as a container to store and share information about a potential opportunity and buying group engagement through the entire revenue process, not just the later stages driven by sales.
The Power Of The Opportunity Entity As A Container
The opportunity entity is the perfect entity for sharing information across the organization for several reasons:
- Opportunities align to shared revenue goals. One of the major reasons for poor alignment between marketing and sales is that they lack a common goal. Marketing is tasked with generating interactions with individuals (the MQL), while sales is focused on delivering revenue and deals. This needs to end. Marketing, the RDR, and sales should all be focused on collaboratively identifying, engaging, qualifying, and winning opportunities. And while marketing is still interacting with individuals, understanding the context of these interactions is key to aligning these individuals to opportunities and buying groups. Instead of reporting on MQLs, marketing (and sales) should be focused on the number of potential opportunities that have been identified as well as the number of buying group members associated with these opportunities.
- Opportunities align to buying groups. The opportunity entity was purpose-built to support multiple members of the buying group. Individual buying group members can be attached to the opportunity entity at any point in the revenue process. During the process, we can assess the actual number of buying group members identified to the target buying group profile to understand opportunity health and coverage. We can also evaluate the interactions of all buying group members to get a much better sense of attribution, understanding the impact of a broader set of touchpoints to comprehend influence and revenue lift.
- Opportunities align to solutions. In addition to supporting buying groups, opportunities also leverage context to align to solutions, and each opportunity aligned to a solution and buying group represents a separate buying decision. Instead of aggregating insight into a single MQA, with an opportunity-centric approach, you get both dimensions of context. The “who is interested” is represented by the buying group, and the “what they are interested in” is represented by the solution. This means that instead of thinking of one MQA with 10 connected people, we can now recognize that there are actually three potential opportunities in the account: Four people are interested in talent management; three people are interested in HR operations; and three are interested in learning management. This level of granularity is much more actionable for both marketing and sales in the revenue process.
- The opportunity entity is rich with supporting infrastructure. The opportunity entity is a very robust system entity with strong supporting infrastructure capabilities. The opportunity entity contains strong built-in stage management capabilities that can create an opportunity history object capturing the date and time of every opportunity stage change. This timestamping of stages can provide a holistic view of the opportunity’s progression and is valuable in determining process performance metrics like conversion rates and velocity. The opportunity entity can also be easily extended to integrate B2B revenue waterfall stages with current sales opportunity stages to provide a holistic view of the process from targeted to closed-won opportunities. In addition, the opportunity history object becomes the primary source of performance data for revenue process metrics.
It’s clear that the time for transformation to an opportunity-centric revenue process is now. We still market to individuals, and we still align to accounts as targets for our solutions. But the real transformational gains are made when we move beyond individuals and accounts to focus on the opportunities that are represented by groups of people within these accounts. This opportunity-centric approach represents a seismic shift in the alignment between sales and marketing and significantly improves the way marketing and sales plan and execute the revenue process.