Can You Win the Sales Opportunity?

As sales professionals, we have limited time; a finite number of hours to hit our sales goals. How we invest that time will ultimately determine our level of success. 

There’s a mentality out there among sales reps that we should pursue every opportunity that comes across our desks. But if sellers are chasing deals that are not real, that they can’t win, or that are not worth winning, they are throwing away their most valuable resource. 

To make matters worse, when we chase deals that don’t align with our solution, we’re wasting our customer’s time as well. Sales reps should be spending time with customers they can actually serve. 

As sellers, how can we assess which opportunities to invest our time in?

In our previous blogs, “How to Determine If Your Sales Opportunity is Real” Part 1 and Part 2, we discussed 4 steps for sales reps to take in order to decide if the opportunity is real, and therefore worth pursuing. Today, we’ll talk about a 3 step process for sales reps to assess the deal at hand and determine honestly, “Can I win?”

If you prefer to listen to a conversation about this topic on the go, feel free to check out SALES with ASLAN podcast episode 116:


The 3 Step Process for Determining “Can I Win?”

Many salespeople are optimists. They have to be to handle all that rejection. As a result, when we find a new opportunity, we think we can win – everyone.  That is not true.  In our experience, the honest answer to the question  “Can I win?” is overlooked by more than 90% of sellers. But it’s critical.

The 3 elements of this process are essentially 3 factors that sales reps should consider when attempting to honestly determine whether or not they can win the opportunity


#1 – Competitor Loyalty

When evaluating an opportunity, you’ll want to know how embedded/ invested the competitor is with this prospective customer. What is the existing loyalty they have to your competitor?

Being “invested” doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve purchased from your competitor(s) (although that could be the case) – it could also speak to the amount of time they’ve spent with the competitor evaluating their solution. 

If your prospect has spent a year in discussions with your competitor, and calls upon you at the last minute for another quote just to check that box, you have a much smaller shot of winning that opportunity. That’s just the truth, and it’s information you should consider when deciding which sales opportunities to pursue. 

Here’s a great way to think about this question: 

  • Your customer has a history with everyone. What is it?
  • Somebody has the advantage. Who has it?

Sales reps, you can begin to figure out where you stand with a prospect by assessing their loyalty to the competitor with these strategies:


Approach #1: Find your coach.

The best way to find out this information is through your “coach” – somebody on the inside that cares about your success, and will benefit from your solution being adopted. They are typically outside of the decision making process, but know the players and the factors involved. They can help you understand everything that is at play within the opportunity. Your coach wants the problem at hand to be solved and they want you to solve it. 

Pro tip: Always look to find your coach early in the process – they could be anyone within the organization who knows what’s going on and can give you the information you need. 


Approach #2: Ask “Why should you work with ‘Competitor XYZ’?

Get them to talk you (and themselves) out of why they shouldn’t work with the incumbent (whoever has competitive advantage). 

“Why not just work with X company? Why work with me?”

As a seller, you’re going to invest a great deal of time and energy in pursuing an account – so you probably want to know that information, whether it’s good or bad. 

True sales leaders always want the “bad news” early so that they can adjust their goals and approach. They want to know the truth. 

Many sales reps shy away from asking this question because they’re afraid of that truth. But wouldn’t you rather get the truth before you spend time and energy in pursuit of an opportunity that you can’t win? 

The customer may reply with something like, “Well they can do ABC,  but I need someone who can also do XYZ.” Now you know that there’s a good reason for investing your time, and you also have more insight into what they’re actually looking for. 

Asking these tough questions upfront will also bring you closer to a real decision maker, because you’re approaching the situation in a strategic way. It will decrease wasted time with people who have no say in the decision making process. 

Having the confidence to take this approach comes from knowing that if you don’t, you’re going to lose the deal anyways. If they’re committed to the competitor, and you don’t uncover that, you’re going to waste valuable time pursuing an opportunity that will never come to fruition. 

You don’t need to focus on prospects that don’t want or need your service. That’s a waste of everyone’s time.  Your solution has value. People are willing to pay for your product or service. You help organizations by solving problems for them. Be confident in that knowledge and choose to pursue opportunities that you can win and work with customers that you can serve. 


#2 – Political Alignment

Within a sales opportunity there is:

  • A decision maker who will ultimately determine what’s going to happen. They have the most power and influence over the outcome. 
  • The people they listen to. We like to call these people the “influencers.”

(We’re oversimplifying a bit for ease of understanding but you’ll get the idea). 

When determining whether you can win an opportunity, you may want to consider evaluating the influencers and rating their alignment to you and your solution. Their alignment could be:

  • Positive (aligned with you)
  • Neutral (not aligned to anyone)
  • Negative (aligned with your competitor)

Once you’ve determined their alignment with you, your goal then becomes to move the negative to neutral and the neutral to positive. 

Look at each influencer as a unique decision maker, and pursue each one. Isolate them as individuals, rate their particular alignment to you, and pursue/convert the ones that are in jeopardy of undermining your ability to win. 


Approach #1: Get a coach. 

We’ve plugged this approach multiple times throughout this blog series, but it’s for a reason. Having a coach is key. Some sellers may refer to this person as a “sponsor” or an “advocate.” 

Within the organization, this person wants you to win. They can help you determine who the key players are and help get you access to them, so that you can begin converting them to positive alignment with your solution. 

This may be the first thing you do when approaching an opportunity: win over the coach. It will pay dividends down the road. If possible, your best bet is actually to turn one of those influencers into a coach. 


Approach #2: Ask tough questions. 

This approach is more difficult but it works. You’re meeting with somebody, so ask them, “Who’s involved in the decision making process?” “Who is the decision maker?” “Who else will you be meeting with?” or “Who else is involved?” etc. 

When this happens, when you find out the key players and you don’t know those individuals’ alignment, seek them out. The key is to come up with an Other-Centered reason why you need to meet with them. In this way, you can determine their alignment to you (positive, negative, or neutral) and work on moving those influencers towards positive. 


#3 – Do they value your unique solution?

Think about it this way: you have a position in the marketplace – there’s a reason why your solution was created. There was a gap. The way you fill that gap is your unique solution – that’s your thing, your “secret sauce.” 

There’s a reason your company is successful; you do something better than everybody else. It could be your go-to-market strategy or your pricing, or any number of other factors. 

If the customer doesn’t care about that thing, you’re going to lose the deal. If they don’t care about what makes your company unique and special within your market, you will lose. 

Here’s the tricky part: it’s not whether or not they should value it… it’s about if they do value it. 

Of course you’re going to think they should value it. You wouldn’t be a good sales rep if you don’t think your solution has value to your customers and prospects. The truth is, you may be able to change their beliefs to match your perspective and value what you bring to the table, but if you have to do that, there’s more risk involved with the opportunity. 

Now this doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t pursue the opportunity, it just means there’s more risk involved. The purpose of the blog series is to help sales reps to evaluate and recognize the potential risk of pursuing sales opportunities. 

This step in determining whether you can win the opportunity is obvious but tricky. It requires us to think differently. It requires a mindset shift. What is their view of your solution right now? 

It’s hard to put yourself in that place. It’s not our default to see things from their perspective. But this is why we always say that sellers who are Other-Centered are more successful. Because when you can think like the customer, you’ll be more effective in evaluating the opportunity and determining how to best serve them. 

So how can you determine if the customer actually values your unique solution?


Approach #1:  Rank yourself. 

The big thing you want to know now is how the customer is going to determine which solution provider they will pick. This requires uncovering decision drivers – which is just basic discovery. If you don’t know them, you’re probably in trouble anyways. 

Once you’ve determined the criteria that will drive your customer’s decision, if you’re like me, you’ll probably want to figure out how well you can address those criteria. 

Sit down with a list of their criteria (however many items there are) and rank yourself, on a scale of 1 to 5, on how well your solution fulfills those specific criteria. This will tell you how well they value your unique solution, and ultimately help you determine your ability to win the deal. 

If you want to take it a step further, do the same for your competitors. Rank their ability to meet and fulfill those decision drivers. See how well they match up. 

If you’ve got a lot of weaknesses and your competition has a lot of strengths as you look at those decision drivers, you may be in trouble. But conversely, if you see that you have the advantage, that the customer does value your unique solution, you can invest more time and energy in pursuing (and winning) the opportunity. 

This process will tell you how the customer values your solution – not how you value it, not how they should value it, but how they actually do value it. Again, it’s about finding the truth and determining if the opportunity is winnable. 


Summing It Up

This topic is about helping sales reps learn to manage their resources by choosing the right opportunities to pursue: the ones that are real, that they can win, and that are worth winning. 

When determining if you can win a sales opportunity, remember to focus on competitor loyalty, political alignment, and if the customer values your unique solution. 

Stay tuned for our next blog, a continuation of this series, on how to determine if that sales opportunity is worth winning. 


What Next?

Do you and your sales team need help learning more strategies to convert the unreceptive and disinterested customer? We’ve designed a program for the toughest challenges in sales.

If you’re interested in reading more, check out our new book, UnReceptive, to help you find, convert and grow more customers by eliminating the hard sell. It ships from major retailers on Nov 9th, so be sure to secure your copy today!

As Co-founder and CEO, Tom’s primary role is to create content that helps people live, sell, and serve more effectively. Find him on LinkedIn

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