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5 Elements of a Sales Opportunity Plan

blog author
Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

Sellers who win consistently plan to win from the start. They're methodical. They carefully match their sales process to the buyer's, set goals for every meeting, and do an exceptional job of communicating value.

Top sellers build strategies to drive sales opportunities, and use planners to help guide them through to the win.

RAIN Group's Sales Opportunity PlannerSM, made up of 5 core elements, has been seasoned over years of use at client sites. It's proven to be effective in increasing win rate.

Sales Opportunity Planner

  1. People
  2. Needs
  3. Opportunity Goal and Value Case
  4. Competitors
  5. Advancing the Sale

The running theme of the Sales Opportunity Planner? Maximizing value for the buyer.

Successful sales opportunity plans are built and aligned around buyer value—creating it and communicating it.

Everyone claims their company is buyer-focused. But consider the following from our soon-to-be-published study, The Top-Performing Sales Organization:

  • 35% of respondents did not agree that their sales organization focuses on driving maximum value for the customer
  • 52% of respondents did not agree that their sales process was customer-focused

Companies like to say they are customer-focused, but what they say and what's true often aren't the same. For example, many opportunity planners contain prompts for capturing seller mission, sales objectives, sales positioning, etc. What about the mission for the buyer? A value case for buyer value? Buyer objectives and possible solutions?

It's tough to have a buyer-focused sales organization when the planning tools and prompts are all about the seller and their goals. While it is important for sellers to analyze their own situation, this type of thinking should accompany similar analysis on value for the customer.

When planning frameworks are too focused on sellers, their behavior and thinking becomes seller-focused. That's not good for driving maximum value.

In this video, my colleague, Andy Springer, shares the 5 elements of a value-centered opportunity plan. 




The 5 Elements of a Value-Centered Sales Opportunity Plan

What should your plan include? Here are 5 elements of an effective, value-centered sales opportunity plan.

1. People

Write down all of the people who will be involved in the sales process, including the buyers and sellers.

    • Your Team: Keep track of everyone who will be involved, not only those on your direct selling team, but people who may contribute in other ways. Maybe they'll have innovative ideas to contribute in meetings, or have personal insight into potential value for the buyer.
    • The Buyers: Uncover and keep track of anyone who may have a say in the purchase decision. Analyze the decision roles they play: Are they Approvers, Business Drivers, Champions, Dominos, or Evaluators?

Read: The 5 Buyer Decision Roles in Every Sale

2. Needs

Selling is about change. It's about persuasion. It's about helping buyers get from one place that's not as good as it should be to somewhere much better.

Without understanding buyer needs, sellers don't have the knowledge to inspire and persuade. They can't accurately juxtapose the buyer's current reality with the possible New Reality. One of the merits of sales opportunity planning is that it prompts sellers to be more thorough in this crucial process.

There are 2 categories of needs to dig in to:

  • Rational Needs: There are explicit rational needs that are stated by the buyer, usually financial, technical, or strategic. There are also hidden needs that the buyer may have, but hasn't yet disclosed. You'll need to come up with a plan to draw these out.
  • Emotional Needs: These can also be explicit or just suspected. Some common themes of emotional needs are professional, social, or psychological—and they can be just as powerful as rational ones.

3. Opportunity Goal and Value Case

Once you have a strong grasp of the buyer's needs, you can tackle the details of crafting your solution and building the value case.

Start by noting all of the relevant components to your offering. Then, link each component to the value it provides for the buyer. These points will eventually come together to create your value messaging.

Read: The 4 Questions Sellers Must Ask to Build a Value Proposition

4. Competitors: Strengths, Weaknesses, and Vulnerabilities

To win sales, you have to know how you measure up to the competition from the buyer's point of view. What are the strengths and vulnerabilities of each competitor compared to your own? How can you emphasize your strengths and neutralize your vulnerabilities? What does the buyer value that you bring to the table but your competitors can't or don't?

5. Advancing the Sale

Know what needs to happen next to move the sale forward. Consider:

  • Possible objections and roadblocks, with response strategies for each.
  • Ideas for a Big Play. A big play is a bold, atypical action a seller can make to inspire buyer action, and set themselves apart from the competition. Think of a Big Play as going the extra mile to win a sale. For inspiration, read 4 Examples of Big Plays to Help You Win Major Sales and Grow Accounts.

  • Valuable insights your team can bring to the table. We know that sales winners are much more likely than the rest to propose ideas that are new, noteworthy, and non-intuitive to the buyer. This doesn't often happen spontaneously—it requires planning and collaboration with the buyer.

  • The Buying Process. Top sellers think "buying first, selling second." You need to know the buyer's buying process and match it to your sales process so you can plan what steps to take next.

  • The Action Plan. Once armed with the information above, you can develop an action plan that maps out the steps you need to take now, next, and throughout the rest of the process to win the sale.

6. [BONUS] Opportunity Snapshot

Start here. You won't know what path to take unless you know where you want to go. You should determine whether you're pursuing the right opportunities and applying the right intensity and ask questions like:

  1. What am I selling?
  2. How much am I selling it for?
  3. When do I expect it to close?
  4. What obstacles am I facing?
  5. What is the desired outcome of this opportunity?
  6. What strategies do I have for moving the sale forward

As you work through your sales opportunity planning process, note that the plan building itself is nonlinear. Writing your plan is like writing a book (but with a lot fewer words). You don't start on page one with the first word and continue straight through to "The End." You move back-and-forth between sections to edit and adjust as you refine your thinking through research, meetings, discussions with the buyers, etc.

When your sales opportunity plan contains all 5 elements and explores them thoroughly with maximum value for the buyer, you're much more likely to win. 


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Topics: Sales Opportunity Management