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Solution No. 314

What is an opportunity?
What is the pipeline?
Relating opportunities

Welcome to the Opportunities guide!  Here we’ll be conducting a comprehensive breakdown of everything you can do in your Opportunities tab (which you can find in the CRM tab group; see our documentation on tabs and tab groups for more information).  


But first, let’s talk in general terms about what an opportunity is, and why it’s important to your business.  

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What is an opportunity?

Simply put, an opportunity represents potential business for your company: it’s literally an “opportunity” to extend your product or service to someone interested in it.  An opportunity can come from two possible places:

  • A lead, which is a potential customer you’ve not done work for in the past, or

  • a customer - an existing client who’s already identified in Method because you’ve worked with them before.

The way opportunities are structured in Method is designed to help you and your staff keep track of these valuable potential revenue sources.  Within the Method environment you can create a new opportunity, sort and order your existing opportunities in the grid, edit opportunities already within Method, and even create your own stages and types to better suit your business.  We will discuss these options in greater detail throughout this section of the documentation.

In the meantime, it’s important to situate opportunities in the larger framework of a business transaction.   An opportunity has a number of stages during its ‘life cycle’ which help to build out what we call the pipeline, which represents potential sales from your opportunities.

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What is the pipeline?

The Pipeline is one of the most fundamental concepts in any CRM software that must be understood in order for any of the rest of this to make sense.  You’ll hear a lot of talk about how an opportunity is “in the pipeline”, but what does it really mean?

In simple terms, a sales pipeline is a way of thinking about the sales process from the very first inkling of interest a potential customer shows all the way to the delivery of payment for a good or service. It’s helpful to think of this process in terms of a pipeline because in many ways the sales process is linear - it has a beginning, a middle, and an end point.  

In Method terms, the pipeline describes individual steps taken: from that first phone call, email, or handshake with a prospective customer, to qualifying that contact as a
lead, to translating that relationship into a sales opportunity, all the way through the steps required to turn all of that possibility into a full-fledged customer and meeting that customer’s needs.  In fact, we use a nine-step pipeline process that looks like this:

  1. Prospecting: The first step in locating new opportunities, prospecting means “testing the waters” with a potential customer and measuring a level of interest.

  2. Qualification: This involves evaluating the lead or customer based on a variety of criteria, including how interested they are, how likely they are to purchase, and how long the process might take.

  3. Needs Analysis: Analyzing needs means determining what the need is in a target company and deciding whether or not your company can fulfill those needs using your product or service.

  4. Value Proposition: This step involves understanding the relationship between the value of your product or service and the value it represents to a potential or current customer.

  5. Identify Decision Makers: Identifying decision makers means determining who at a company is the person with the power to make purchasing decisions, and beginning to develop a relationship with them.

  6. Perception Analysis: This stage involves determining how a customer perceives the services or products you offer; what they expect from your company and the product or service you offer.

  7. Proposal / Price Quote: This happens later on in the pipeline - quoting a price and creating a proposal happens once the lead is interested enough to pursue this potential, but may want to confirm pricing and compare quotes with other companies.

  8. Negotiation / Review: This stage happens towards the end of a pipeline; by the negotiation and review stage you should be hammering out the final details of the deal.

  9. Closed - either "Closed Won" or "Closed Lost":

    1. Closed Lost: This option means the opportunity has been closed and lost - the customer did not ultimately choose to go with our product and/or service, and so the opportunity is now done.  The option is there to help you keep track of what has and hasn’t worked in terms of your approach to opportunities: even a “lost” opportunity has something to teach us about our business practices.

    2. Closed Won:  This is the best possible thing to happen to an opportunity - the customer decided to go with your product and/or service, and so the opportunity has now transitioned into real, paying business for your company.  If the person in question was considered a lead up to this point, they would now make the transition into becoming a customer.  You can learn more about the difference between a lead and a customer in the Leads section of the documentation.

These steps represent a linear timeline of a sale.  The
potential value of an opportunity in the pipeline increases the closer you get to the “closed won” status, since the probability that you’ll close the deal rises with each passing step.  Ideally the sale progresses through each of these stages and ends with a “closed won” status, which means the sale has gone through!

In essence, the pipeline is an expression of your potential sales, which means if an opportunity is referred to as “in the pipeline” it means that opportunity or lead represents a certain amount of revenue your company could potentially garner from that source.  

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Relating opportunities

In order to make sure you and your staff keep up on your opportunities and maximize the potential for new business, Method allows you to associate Activities with opportunities.  There are two kinds of activities that can be associated with an opportunity:

  • New activity: this means you can assign an activity to a Method user that will allow you to reach out to a lead - you might send an email, or call the contact on the phone, for example.  Method lets you assign this activity specifically to the opportunity in question which helps you create a “trail of breadcrumbs” of your interactions with this potential customer.  

  • Follow-up activity: Assigning a follow-up means you’re keeping track of the opportunity as it moves through the pipeline and maintaining contact with your potential customer - always a good idea when you’re actively working towards a business relationship!

We’ll talk about how to assign activities to opportunities in the New opportunity section of the documentation.

As with everything else in our package, Method CRM lets you fully customize how your opportunities operate (you can find more information about that by contacting one of our Business Solutions Specialists), but even out of the box you have a variety of options available to you that will let you keep track of all your business opportunities!

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