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4 Salesforce Opportunity Management Best Practices for Better Forecasts

opportunity management

A major bottleneck for revenue organizations today is incomplete and inaccurate data that undermines forecasts and reporting. Unreliable forecasts can prove disastrous for scaling your business, but there is a way to improve the situation dramatically: proper Salesforce opportunity management.

While Salesforce’s capabilities are seemingly endless, one of its most critical functions is helping you shorten your sales cycle and feel more confident predicting your number at the end of each month, quarter, and year. Implementing best practices within your sales funnel (specifically for opportunities) is crucial to achieving accurate forecasts.

Opportunity Management and Revenue

CROs and RevOps leaders need to manage Salesforce opportunities closely, just as your CFO must stay on top of the budget. Managing revenue is a process, and it requires constant updates and adjustments to remain accurate. 

Salesforce has several critical features helping you manage customer data, but opportunities are directly related to revenue, so they’re worth the extra attention and effort. Your best defense against inaccurate forecasts and missed targets is creating and improving your opportunity management processes.

Opportunity Management Is the Key to Successful Forecasts

Forrester Research frames the importance of opportunity management this way:

“A well-designed opportunity management process enables sellers to provide everything their managers need for forecasting within their sales force automation (SFA) platform.”
– Forrester, “3 Metrics to Hold Sellers Accountable for Forecast Accuracy,” October 2022

The accuracy of your forecast data can greatly impact your business. A study by Miller Heiman Group found that sales teams with structured forecasting review processes win 25% more forecasted deals than those who don’t. 

There are two keys to forecast accuracy that you need to understand and master:

  1. Salesforce Probability Values
  2. Salesforce Opportunity Stages 

RevOps will typically assign probability values to different opportunities stages. As an opportunity progresses through your sales stages, the probability that it will close increases. Looking at the probability values across your deals will give sales leadership a good idea of what’s likely to come – as long as those stages are correct. That’s why focusing on having accurate Salesforce opportunity stages is so critical.

As a revenue leader, you base your decisions on what the numbers tell you. The following tips will help you better manage opportunities in Salesforce so you can confidently call your number and rest assured that you’re making decisions based on accurate data. 

1. Automated Activity Capture

The first step in improving opportunity management is to ensure that you’re capturing all relevant sales activities AND associating them with the right opportunities in Salesforce. 

Automated activity capture can handle the first part of that equation. With the right tool in place, you can automatically capture every email, phone call, or test message, without a rep having to lift a finger.

Of course, all of these activities need to be associated with the right opportunity, and that’s where some automated activity capture solutions do better than others. A Salesforce-native solution will provide you with the most flexibility to automatically associate activities when you’re dealing with custom objects or organizations with multiple opportunities taking place concurrently.

For example, it’s not uncommon to have different revenue teams pursuing separate opportunities within the same organization. You may have reps selling into a new line of business while your post-sales team is working a renewal or expansion in a different area of the business. 

Each of these members of your revenue team is communicating with the same organization, and you need to make sure that each activity is getting attached to the right opportunity. It can get even more complicated if customer support is also reaching out and logging activities to the opportunities they own. With a Salesforce-native sales engagement platform, you can configure Salesforce to understand each of these scenarios and make sure every opportunity is managed properly and not commingled with other concurrent opportunities.

2. Auto-Advance Opportunity Stages 

Sales reps dread manually logging activity data into CRM systems, and even those with the best intentions can make errors, especially outside sellers who are always on the go. Luckily, when it comes to advancing your opportunity stages, there’s automation for that. 

Automation features improve each seller’s relationship with their CRMs by allowing them to update opportunities right where they’re already working. Salesforce-native sales engagement platforms can automatically advance an opportunity stage based on an action, like setting or completing a meeting with the prospect. For example, if you book a meeting in Google Calendar, the rep can identify it as a demo right there in the invite, which then triggers the opp to move to the demo stage in Salesforce – all without ever requiring the rep to switch over to Salesforce.

Sales engagement automation captures critical analytics and eliminates the need for time-consuming CRM data entry. Look for a sales engagement platform that brings standard and custom Salesforce fields right into Google Calendar. For example, if you have a “Meeting Type” field in Salesforce, you can bring that into the Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar invite, to make it easy for the rep to update and trigger valuable actions – like advance an opportunity stage. And because the field is actually being pulled from Salesforce, the data is updated in real-time.

3. Use Live Salesforce Data To Run Painless Pipeline Reviews

Let’s face it — most reps dread pipeline reviews. As if they didn’t have enough tasks eating away at selling time, now they have to spend a good portion of their pipeline review meetings tracking down account and opportunity information missing from Salesforce. 

And even when the data is in Salesforce, it can be difficult to understand what opportunities are cruising along quite nicely, and which need some extra attention.

This is where a Salesforce-native sales engagement platform can come in really handy. With such a solution in place, you know you already have a good set of data to work from. The next part is presenting that data in a helpful way that allows reps and managers to effectively strategize on their accounts.

One of the key things to look at is effort versus engagement. In this context, you want to look at rep activity through the lens of how much effort they’ve spent reaching out to a prospect in terms of number of calls, emails, LinkedIn requests, etc., and the amount of replies it generated from the prospect. The solid opportunities are often correlated with high-prospect engagement. However, if you see a lot of rep effort with minimal prospect engagement, those are opportunities where reps and managers can strategize on next best actions.

For this critical part of the pipeline review, you want to be reviewing live Salesforce data vs. spreadsheets or other shadow CRMs maintained by reps. The right sales engagement platform will give you a live view of your accounts and opportunities with effort vs. engagement reporting to quickly assess the health of each one. At this point, you’ll want to sort opportunities by most engagement to see which are moving along and which need a little boost. 

Of course, talk needs to lead to action, and that’s one more area where a sales engagement platform can help. From the live pipeline review, your sales engagement platform should enable managers to assign tasks and follow-ups right from the collaborative workspace. By assigning tasks in the moment, you can eliminate the risk of valuable tasks falling through the cracks.

4. Incentivize Your Team to Update Opportunities

Humans resist change, and even when you make it incredibly easy to update opportunity stages, there are always going to be some reps who don’t bother. For these scenarios, consider offering incentives that motivate them to update the required opportunities consistently.

For example, you could run weekly and monthly contests to reward salespeople who fill their pipelines by a specific date or that log the most sales using it. Reward reps for correctly filling out opportunity fields and adding contacts to the CRM. When you make it a contest, reps will be motivated to use technology to get an edge.

Another power incentive is to display the achievements and progress of winning reps that result from updating their opportunities. Showing the outcome of proper opportunity management can be more motivating than SPIFF-style monetary incentives. Moreover, it encourages buy-in from their teammates.

Boosting Sales Productivity and Reducing Costs

The four tips above will help you improve the accuracy and efficiency of your opportunity management process – but the benefits don’t stop there. Streamlining opportunity management with a sales engagement platform can also boost productivity and lower costs by eliminating context switching and consolidating your tech stack. 

Eliminate context switching

Forcing reps to open a  new window every time they need to advance an opportunity stage or otherwise update their CRM is one of the most common roadblocks to Salesforce adoption. While switching between tabs might not seem like a big deal, we lose 80% of our productive time each day just to context switching. 

If you want your team to use Salesforce to its full potential, it’s worth investing in a Salesforce-native sales engagement platform that doesn’t take them out of their normal workflows. 

CRM adoption can be maximized by showing relevant data right in your reps’ inboxes and calendars. A seller’s commitment to accuracy increases when they can see data that matters most to them (like their opportunities and pipeline) right where they are already working.

Consolidate your tech stack for cost and time savings

We buy software to help us do more with less, but if you’re not monitoring which tools become redundant, your tech stack could be creating even more work for sellers. Through adoption of your CRM’s features, your team can phase out legacy tools, requiring fewer clicks to accomplish tasks, and freeing budget for other initiatives.

A sales engagement platform extends Salesforce’s capabilities, allowing you to consolidate the number of tools reps use, like online meeting schedulers, autodialers, activity tracking tools, and sales campaign management software. With sales engagement, reps gain time back by automating data input and managing opportunities more effectively. 

The Bottom Line on Optimizing Salesforce Opportunity Management

Bad data is silently plaguing CROs and RevOps leaders. Even though opportunity management might not be the most exciting part of the seller’s job, it plays a crucial role in revenue generation. Creating and improving an opportunity management process can help you avoid inaccurate forecasts and missed targets.

Luckily, you can set your sellers up for CRM success by providing automation features right where they’re already working. A Salesforce-native sales engagement platform can automatically advance opportunity stages, so you can capture accurate analytics, improve the accuracy of your reports, and make reps’ jobs easier.

The more your sales team is motivated to manage opportunities and the more time they have to focus on selling, the easier it is to get accurate data, review pipelines, and forecast sales.

Learn more about how you can enable your sales team to start updating Salesforce without leaving their inbox. Request a demo today!

G2 Fall 2022 Grid Report - Sales Engagement Software

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