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Not every sale results in a single, one-off invoice and payment.

Many result in multiple payments over time.

But here’s a common mistake companies make in salesforce.

They use recurring opportunities when they shouldn’t. And sometimes they don’t use recurring opportunities when they should.

Here’s what happens if you do this:

  • Your sales process is far more convoluted than it needs to be.
  • It will be difficult to get accurate pipeline visibility.
  • Key sales metrics such as the number of month close date changes, days since last stage change and open age of the opportunity will be distorted.

So here are five situations where recurring opportunities potentially have a role to play in salesforce.com.

In each of these commonly-occurring scenarios, companies receive multiple payments over time. So when are recurring opportunities required?

Here’s a simple way to answer this question. Determine whether the future revenue is in jeopardy.

If the answer is yes, then recurring opportunities are probably required. If the answer is no, then you probably don’t need recurring opportunities.

Here’s how recurring opportunities apply – or don’t apply – to each of the situations above.

Recurring opportunities with software as a service

Based in Paris, our customer Sidetrade provides predictive software to accelerate credit management and the sales-to-cash cycle.

The platform is delivered on a SaaS basis and customers generally sign-up for a fixed term contract for a number of years. Payment is on an annual basis.

Sidetrade doesn’t need recurring opportunities.

This is because the future revenue on the contract is not in jeopardy. The opportunity is closed won. The customer is committed via the contract.

So instead of recurring opportunities, Sidetrade forecasts future revenue using Schedules.

For sure, Sidetrade will aim to sell additional services or upgrades to the customer. But Sidetrade handle these via additional opportunities. But these are new opportunities for incremental revenue rather than recurring opportunities.

Recurring opportunities with insurance premiums

Based near Toronto, another customer, Aboriginal Insurance Services (AIS) sell insurance products to the Indigenous Native American communities across Canada.

For example, the community will purchase motor insurance to cover all vehicles operated by the municipal community.

The insurance and premium is for one year of cover. AIS will aim to renew the policy with the community. But this is not guaranteed.

In fact the future revenue is in considerable jeopardy. Competitors will seek to undercut AIS or challenge the incumbent company in other ways.

So it’s right for AIS to create a recurring opportunity to manage the renewal. It is a separate sales process. AIS will apply proactive key account planning and optimize their chances of success but there is no certainty of a positive outcome.

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Recurring opportunities with service contracts

Based in Yorkshire in northern England, MAM Software sell advanced software and hardware to support the automotive logistical supply chain in the UK and USA.

The company sells support contracts that cover the software and hardware. These typically run for 3 – 5 years.

The customer pays an annual fee for the support.

But MAM don’t use recurring opportunities. That’s because the customer is committed contractually for the duration of the support arrangement. The revenue is secured. It’s not in jeopardy.

To manage this MAM have a single opportunity. They use Products with Schedules to forecast the future revenue. This means MAM have an accurate, forward looking view of secured revenue.

It also means the pipeline for new opportunities provides a clear picture of future income if the deal is won.

Recurring opportunities with Proof of Concepts

Another London based customer, Modernis, provides advanced analytics and consultancy services to the insurance and re-insurance markets across the UK, USA and Europe.

The analytics products are offered in a software-as-a-service platform. The sales process often involves a two stage process.

First, Modernis sometimes provide chargeable proof-of-concept access to their platform. Then, once customers have experienced the value that the platform brings, Modernis will sell access via a contract that runs for a number of years. This contract incorporates an annual license charge.

To manage this, Modernis create two opportunities. The first represents the sales process for the chargeable proof-of-concept. A trigger then automatically creates a second opportunity, this time to manage the full contract sales process.

So the company uses recurring opportunities – at least of a type. This is because the full contract is not a given. It depends on a successful outcome to the proof of concept.

Modernis also forecast the future revenue on the full contract using Schedules. This is because this revenue is not in jeopardy. Therefore no recurring opportunity is required.

Framework agreements in salesforce

Gilbarco Veeder Root (GVR) is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of petrol pumps and retail equipment. Based in Greensboro, North Carolina, the company has a salesforce deployment covering six continents.

A GVR opportunity may often relate to a major site re-fit program for one of the major petrol retail companies.

The refit program may take the petrol retail company several years to complete. It’s likely to require a large-scale purchase from GVR.

One the one hand, both parties want to benefit from the pricing and security of trading that is reflected in a long term commitment.

On the other hand, the customer doesn’t want all the petrol pumps manufactured and delivered in one go! Rather, they want to ‘draw down’ the units as and when the refit program is ready to install them.

So the total value of the contract is agreed (usually within an agreed range). But the month-on-month revenue is more volatile.

GVR handle this with a single upfront opportunity. The company uses custom revenue schedules to predict the volume and revenue that is anticipated each month. Then, when the actual trading volumes are known, the GVR Account Manager updates the schedule with the actual number and value of orders placed.

This allows GVR to track the projected volume (upon which the commercial terms were agreed) with the actual volume ordered by the oil company.

Recommended blog post: How To Manage 4 Types of Framework Agreement In Salesforce.

Points to consider when you need recurring opportunities

  • You need a process to manage the sales process on the recurring opportunity. Remember, the revenue is in jeopardy. It’s not guaranteed. That means you need a well thought out process that maximizes the probability of securing that revenue.
  • Consider triggering the recurring opportunity automatically. This will avoid the recurring opportunity from being forgotten about. That trigger can happen when the original opportunity is won or at some other pre-determined point in the process.
  • Measure the win-loss ratio for the recurring opportunity separately to the initial opportunity. In other words, the ratio of won / lost deals on recurring. Improve your process.

Points to consider when you don’t need recurring opportunities

  • There are several different ways to track the value of the sales. These include the total upfront sales value and the revenue recognition on a quarterly or annual basis.
  • Use Products and Schedules to forecast the revenue over time. Read this blog post for more advice on how to do this.
  • Consider custom revenue schedules if you need additional flexibility. For example, if you need to record the status (not due, invoiced, paid) on individual schedules then you will need custom revenue schedules.

Not every sale results in a single payment or transaction. Use recurring opportunities when it is right to do so. And if it isn’t right, then try revenue schedules instead.

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