In Sales Nirvana, sellers know early in the sales cycle – before they spend a lot of time and money – if they have a high likelihood of winning a new account. They know -- with virtual certainty -- if that account will be profitable and loyal to them. And they know that each step they take in the sales cycle will be made at precisely the right time -- not too early, too late, or missed entirely.
What’s that you say? “If only Sales Nirvana really existed!” Well, it may not be as far-fetched as it sounds.
For some time, we’ve helped client companies use something we call an Opportunity Scorecard to improve their selling process. In fact, designing and implementing various types of Opportunity Scorecards is a frequent part of our work. They’re a simple, effective way to direct scarce sales resources toward where they will do the most good –- and away from where their resources will be wasted.
The concept has proven itself in several industries. And once you understand how it works, you can get nearer to Nirvana in your own business.
What is an Opportunity Scorecard?
An Opportunity Scorecard is a tool designed to gauge whether it is appropriate to take the next step in the selling process for any one prospect or customer. In most cases, it's a checklist of questions that define the readiness of both the selling and buying parties to close a deal, and a measure of their fit together after the sale.
Scorecards are used at specific points of the selling cycle where the next stage requires increasing investments in selling time and other costly or limited resources. These points can include:
- Lead qualifying, where the next step begins to involve a salesperson's time, and becomes very expensive when a supposedly “qualified” lead really isn't ready or interested.
- The discovery phase of the selling cycle, where the salesperson's job is to learn enough about the prospect to determine whether it is cost-effective to go to the next stage, and how to do that most efficiently.
- Prior to consuming other company assets such as those needed to answer an RFP or produce a quotation.
- Just before “moments of truth” in the selling cycle where your sales team will be in front of a customer attempting to either make the short list or climb to the top of it.
- A pre-meeting checklist to ensure that those moments of truth will go as planned.
Why develop and implement an Opportunity Scorecard? Because you want to maximize your win ratio, accelerate your sales cycle and increase sales productivity. And the best way to do that is to identify and implement a systematic process for determining where limited selling resources are to be applied.
Implementing an Opportunity Scorecard.
If you want to create an Opportunity Scorecard to improve selling efficiency and effectiveness in your organization, the first step is to determine where your current selling resources might be misallocated. Here are some sample questions you can ask:
- Are you passing leads to your sales force too early? For example, are they spending precious time chasing unqualified leads? Further, is the sales team expected to nurture leads that are qualified but not yet sales-ready? One telltale signal of a problem is when a significant percentage of qualified leads fall through the cracks during this portion of the sales cycle.
- Is the sales force using too many selling resources too early in the sales cycle? For example, plant tours are a high-cost selling tool and in some cases, should be reserved for large and/or serious prospects. In most companies, however, any salesperson can put any prospect into a plant tour. A scorecard will force the sales team to open only their sales-ready prospects to this and other high-cost selling tools.
- Is the sales force involving too many other people in the selling process? In many BtoB organizations, engineers, technicians, or even senior executives are needed to support certain activities like presentations or proposals. An Opportunity Scorecard can make certain that these resources are used with the right prospects -- and at the right point in the selling cycle.
- Are you working prospects that you have little chance of landing? With some analysis of your selling history, you can identify key parameters that foretell success or failure. You might find, for example, that you have a much greater chance of winning business from a prospect who has been with their current provider three years or less, rather than four years or more. A series of simple scorecard questions – “Have they been with their current provider three years or less?” -- can help you focus on the best bets.
With a clear picture of where your current selling process breaks down, you can then determine whether you’re best served by a single scorecard or multiple ones that focus on different stages of the selling cycle.
Next come the scorecard questions and a scheme for scoring the answers. The total score determines whether or not the salesperson has a green light to tap into additional selling resources. Often, a “failing” score simply means the salesperson has not completed the necessary homework, or the prospect is simply not ready for the next step.
Creating scorecards is a blend of art and science, both in crafting the questions and in weighting the responses. Questions should be focused on elements that impact the likelihood of winning, profit, longevity, or cultural fit. Weightings should reflect the relative importance of each question. In the illustration below, a “yes” answer is given a score equal to the weighting, while a “no” or “unknown” is given a zero.
Be prepared to modify the scorecard -- especially the weighting -- almost as soon as it’s implemented. Unforeseen issues will crop up in most scorecards, particularly if the concept is new to you. And ongoing modifications can -– and should -– be considered, as your business changes or new information becomes available.
One final suggestion: apply the KISS principle. If you want your sales team to embrace the scorecard process, make it easy to start and easy to use. You can always add more questions -- or even completely new scorecards -- once the process has delivered results for both the company and the individual salespeople.
And then, although Sales Nirvana may still be far off, you’ll likely find that your Opportunity Scorecard program has taken you a lot closer.
For help with your Opportunity Scorecard, call The Pursuit Group at 866-4-PURSUE or send us an e-mail.
RELATED ARTICLES AND PRESENTATIONS BY THE PURSUIT GROUP:
Are You Ready for Lean Selling?
Stopping Churn Before it Starts
The Pursuit Group BriefCase: Opportunity Scorecard
(AUDIO) How to Create a Dynamic Opportunity Scorecard
Barry Rosen and Josh Stailey are co-founders of The Pursuit Group. Their combined experience of over 50 years has focused on successful sales and marketing integration programs at business-to-business enterprises in high-ticket, complex sales industries. Contact them at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.