I have reviewed hundreds of existing salesforce implementations.
And seen many mistakes.
But there are five opportunity mistakes that jump out all the time.
They are the usual suspects.
Yet the thing about them is, they are easy to fix.
Addressing each opportunity mistake alone, will:
- Make salesforce easier to use. That improves user adoption.
- Improve reports and dashboards. That improves pipeline management.
- Enable more robust opportunity management. That increases win rates.
So here they are. The usual suspects. And here is how you fix these common salesforce opportunity mistakes.
Opportunity Mistake #1 – Badly designed Opportunity Stages
The standard opportunity stages in salesforce do not fit well with the sales process in many businesses.
So it is perfectly sensible to change them. But sorry to say, businesses often do it badly.
Here are the most common mistakes with Opportunity Stages.
- Too many stages. This happens when the sales cycle is broken into a too granular series of stages. This makes it difficult to make sense of pipeline dashboard charts and reports.
- Ambiguous stages. When opportunity stages are unclear, salespeople will not be able to update the opportunity accurately. The result is managers cannot assess the sales pipeline with any confidence.
- Stages as milestones. This happens when stages represent a specific milestone or task (e.g. Meeting Booked, Proposal Sent). It is difficult to define a sales process or get a sense of what is happening on the Opportunity over time when this happens.
For example, here’s a real-life example. It’s a dashboard chart taken from a salesforce environment that had way too many opportunity stages.
To fix this opportunity mistake, take these actions:
- Consolidate stages. Combine two or more existing stages into a single opportunity stage. Update existing opportunities to reflect the new value.
- Define stages carefully. Think-through the opportunity stages and their definition. Have someone not involved directly in sales, review and challenge your stage definitions.
Here is another blog post I wrote specifically about opportunity stages. It contains additional advice on setting opportunity stage values.
Opportunity Mistake #2 – Not Using Opportunity Products
Earlier this week I reviewed an existing salesforce environment for a potential customer.
They were making the opportunity mistake common to many companies. Multiple ‘amount’ fields on the opportunity. In fact, they had created 24 fields. All to capture information about the different products and over-time revenue streams associated with an opportunity.
The page layouts are highly confusing. User adoption is a problem. And the reports are a nightmare – too complicated, no workable information.
However, it is a common opportunity mistake.
The solution is to use Opportunity Products. (In some cases, use Product Schedules as well).
Virtually every company that has salesforce should use Products (even Service companies).
A Product, in this context, can be anything that generates revenue. A day of professional services, manufactured items, maintenance contracts, license fees, widgets. They are all examples of Products.
Here are some of the benefits you get from using Opportunity Products.
- Accurate opportunity amounts. Base the total value of the opportunity on the specific price and quantity of products.
- Improved pipeline visibility. Monitor the size, trend and quality of the pipeline by product category.
- Identify training and development needs. Compare average deal size, number of products and type of products across salespeople.
- Pricing control. Use approval processes to control price discounts.
- Forecast revenue over time. Combine products and schedules to forecast revenue over months or years.
- Streamline processes. Re-design contract and fulfilment processes.
If you have many Products, then consider using the GSP Product Selection Wizard to make it easy for salespeople to add Products to Opportunities or Quotes.
Here are blog posts that give more guidance on using Products and Product Schedules.
Opportunity Mistake #3 – Not Using Contact Roles
Even a simple B2B purchase rarely involves only one person.
“The number of people involved in B2B solutions purchases has climbed from an average of 5.4 two years ago to 6.8 today, and these stakeholders come from a lengthening roster of roles, functions, and geographies.” Harvard Business Review, March-April 2017.
However, not using Contact Roles is another common opportunity mistake in salesforce.
It’s not perfect. On the other hand, it is a standard feature that is easy to configure and use.
The benefits you will get from using Contact Roles include:
- Increased rigour in managing opportunities. The simple act of populating Contact Roles, forces salespeople to think about their stakeholder management approach.
- Improved management team contribution. Often it is hard to define the decision maker, versus an influencer versus the financial approver. Yet surfacing this information in Contact Roles promotes healthy debate about the role played by each individual.
- Improved long-term visibility. Using Contact Roles makes it significantly easier to identify the stakeholders that keep cropping up over time.
There is more on Contact Roles, including advice on the Role picklist values, in another of our blogs:
Opportunity Mistake #4 – Not using Chatter on the record
On any major deal – and even on many small ones – there will be a lot of communication between internal stakeholders.
Pricing, strategy, pre-sales demonstrations, stakeholder management and lots more. They are all the subject of extensive discussion.
However, managing that internal communication by email is a common opportunity mistake.
Using email for this dialogue means:
- It’s difficult to revisit important discussion e.g. on discount decisions.
- Important dialogue about the opportunity is dis-jointed.
- Less clogged up inbox. Surely, we all want that!
Indeed B2B pricing consultant, Tony Hodgson, attributes many needless price discounts to email.
“Let’s say you give a 10 percent discount to the customer first time around. The dialogue around the internal justification and approval will nearly always be by email. A year down the line, the customer asks for a further discount. Chances are they are going to use the same justification in their argument that they used previously. Yet you consumed that justification in the original discount. But unfortunately, everyone will have forgotten and it’s virtually impossible to find the documentation.”
Far better, says Hodgson, to use Chatter, directly on the Opportunity.
“Conducting the internal dialogue on the Chatter Feed within the Opportunity leaves no doubt as to where the justification and documentation resides. It’s there forever and a day. Maybe you’ll still agree to the discount – but at least you’re doing it with full knowledge of what went before”.
Opportunity Mistake #5 – Close Dates in the past
Unless you have a time turner, opportunities will not close in the past.
However, this is a very common opportunity mistake. An open pipeline that contains deals with a close date earlier than today.
In fact, many pipelines contain deals that are months out of date. This is a real-life example of what that looks like in a dashboard chart.
The impact of having out-of-date opportunities in the pipeline includes:
- Poor quality pipeline visibility.
- Inaccurate performance metrics e.g. errors in win-rate percentages.
- Inability to forecast reliably.
The way you fix this problem depends on the scale of the situation and the resources at your disposal. You have the following choices:
- Sweep the problem under the carpet.
- Fix the problem yourself.
- Get the sales team to fix the dates.
- Take broad-brush approach with a mass update of opportunities.
- Adopt a hybrid approach incorporating several of the above.
This is such a common opportunity mistake that I have written an entire blog post about it. It describes each approach to solving the problem in more detail and explains when they are appropriate.
So there they are. The top five opportunity mistakes in salesforce. Go ahead, and fix the usual suspects in your business.