Beef up your Salesforce with smarter opportunity stages

by in Sales

Salesforce is one of the most popular CRMs in the world. It is so complex, with so many features, that it can be intimidating. Like joining a new mega-gym, it’s easy to get lost. There are a lot of Salesforce features and functions available and only a small minority will be relevant to a given sales professional. Since specialized reps usually focus on one or two particular steps of the sales process, they tend to live in a select “regions” within Salesforce. 

For example, Sales Development Reps (“SDRs”) typically live in lead records for inbound sales efforts and contacts and account records for outbound sales effort. Account Executives (“AEs”), on the other hand, usually live in opportunity records. The opportunity records represent sales-qualified prospects designated to be advanced to the revenue generating steps of the sales process. Opportunity records feature the value of the deal, providing AEs and management key optics, such as  potential revenue feeding the sales pipeline forecast.

Today, I’m here as your personal trainer to help you strengthen your Salesforce. I want to give you a simple but impactful regimen to help you set up a a few basic, yet powerful fields on the opportunity record that will help you close more deals, forecast more effectively, and improve the overall quality of life of the sales team.

Salesforce opportunities: the basics

The Opportunity Object is a default record in Salesforce and the Opportunities Tab will appear in your default Salesforce navigation.

opps

Opportunities tab on default navigation

Salesforce includes a feature called “List Views,” which allows you to group records together based on one or multiple fields. For example, you can create an opportunity view showing all the opportunities created in the last week and based in Atlanta, GA.

list

Opportunity list views

Configuring opportunity stages

Salesforce associates opportunities with “stages,” which represent key milestones in the sales process. When you set up opportunity stages, you associate a percentage value (i.e., 25%, 85%, 90%, etc.) to them that indicates the probability of the deal closing.

These stages are configured by visiting the “Setup” link located at the top right-hand side of your dashboard. Then, click on the “Fields” link, listed under “Opportunities” in the “Build” section. This will bring you to the “Opportunity Fields” setup page. Here, you can access the default fields or create your own custom fields. Click “Stages” link, and you will arrive at the “Opportunity Field Stage” page. This is where you can add/edit “Opportunity Stages Picklist Values.”

opp-fields

 

Now it’s time to dig in! You can edit default values and/or add new values. Here are some of my stage value recommendations with the order they should follow.

Stage Name: Opportunity Identified

Probability: 0%

Description: A prospect has been identified as sales-qualified and an “opportunity” record has been created.

Opportunities are the virtual representation of a paper contract in Salesforce. Sales organizations have differing views on opportunity conception. My preference is to create an opportunity when you first identify that a potential sale could exist with the prospect organization in a time frame acceptable to your sales organization. A future post will dive into philosophy around sales cycle and account ownership. For the purpose of this article, when your organization’s criteria is met, an opportunity should be created with a baseline value.


Stage Name: In Discussion

Probability: 5%

Description: The sales rep is in contact with the prospect and the appropriate stakeholders are being identified and targeted. The AE  is now uncovering needs, discovering pain points, navigating the organization, determining the buying process, etc.

You will most likely consider adding another layer of granularity here so that stages are more representative of your specific sales cycle. Nevertheless, every sales organization should have a stage that represents that active conversations are taking place. The probability percentage you assign will be relative to how deep into your process the opportunity has advanced—a value between 1-49% generally works as a placeholder.


Stage Name: Proposal Sent

Probability: 50%

Description: The Sales professional has shared pricing and, ideally, has granted the prospect access to sign your contract. This stage represents the group of opportunities that have an ability to say yes or no. I’ve always used a probability of 50% for this stage but many sales organizations tend to use a lower number. It’s a personal forecasting preference for your organization.


Stage Name: Trial Accepted (assuming there is a trial available)

Probability: Fueled by your conversion numbers

Description: We are now entering an area where the variables increase across sales organizations. If your company offers a trial prior to the contract signing process, you’ll want that represented in Salesforce as a key stage. Much like the previous stage, this is a critical moment in the sales cycle that potential customers need to reach before advancing. Probability percentage should be derived from your existing conversion metrics.


Stage Name: Installation Complete (assuming there is installation required)

Probability: Fueled by your conversion numbers

Description: Once a prospect has agreed to participate in a trial, you’ll need a representation in Salesforce to signal that they’re now able to start the trial. Much like when Jerry made the reservation, he is only able to use the rental car if they “hold the reservation.” This is the stage where you’ve allowed the prospect to engage in the trial.


Stage Name: In-Trial (assuming there is a trial available)

Probability: Fueled by your conversion numbers

Description: The prospect has now started their trial and is active with your product and/or service. You should have more rigid metrics around conversion and the probability percentage in Salesforce should be reflective of them.


Stage Name: Closed Won

Probability: 100%

Description: A successful trial has been completed and the contract is now effective. The sales professionals are able to recognize the completion of the deal toward their respective quotas and compensation plan payouts are triggered.


Stage Name: Closed Lost

Probability: 0%

Description: This stage represents a sales cycle that has concluded unsuccessfully. An opportunity can be moved to Closed Lost from any other stage; it does not follow a specific path. When the sales professional identifies that an opportunity no longer meets the requirements to remain opened, it should be marked “Closed Lost” in order to keep the opportunity pipeline clean.


Once you determine stages, it’s time to add them to the workflow. To do so, click on the “New” button to add a new value or simply click on “Replace” to swap a new value with an old one:

stage-new

If you decide to create a “New” value, you will add a “Stage Name.” You will then be able to select the “Type” and, finally, enter a “Description.”

When configuring the stage “Type” you will see three options.

  • Open: Represents an opportunity that is still being worked on and has not reached “Closed Won” or “Closed Lost.”
  • Closed Won: Represents an opportunity that has been successfully closed.
  • Closed Lost: Represents an opportunity that has been closed without the desired result.

opp-stages

 

After  you have added all of the new opportunity “stages,” it’s time to coach your team on how to apply the stages and the logic behind the configuration. Consistent process across your sales organization is essential for effective forecasting and leveraging data to power your quest toward dominating your numbers!

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About The Author

Falon Fatemi
Falon Fatemi - View more articles

Falon Fatemi is founder and CEO of Node, a stealth startup of ex-Googlers backed by NEA, Mark Cuban, Avalon Ventures, Canaan Partners, and more. Falon has spent the past five years as a business development executive doing strategy consulting for startups and VCs and advising a variety of companies on everything from infrastructure to drones. Previously, Falon spent six years at Google, starting at age 19. As one of the youngest employees in the company, Falon worked on sales strategy and operations focusing on global expansion, Google.org, and business development for YouTube.