Identifying opportunities is one of the most critical skills a sales professional can develop. If you cannot find leads and identify new sales opportunities, you can’t close new business and meet or exceed your quota very effectively. It’s instructive to look at the example of Jesus for three key strategies that are essential to identifying opportunities. Each of the three strategies can be applied directly to today’s business environment, and they have the added advantage of helping you create a strong foundation for future sales as well.
#1. Become a Community Builder
Jesus became intimately familiar with the communities he served during his time on earth. He knew all of the unique social circumstances and political challenges faced by his disciples, and when he encountered people he immediately understood how to relate to them from their own perspective and life experience. This is an important element for a career-focused sales professional — becoming known, respected and committed to a community. If you are in the architecture, engineering and construction field (A/E/C), perhaps your community is the Society for Professional Services Marketing (SPMS). If you are in the home improvement sector, maybe your community is to be found in NARI, the National Association for the Remodeling Industry.
And ‘community’ may not be an association or business group — these are just examples. If you run a catering company, think about how you can build community, give back and demonstrate leadership in your primary service area. If you own a hardware store, maybe you can partner with a local charity such as Habitat for Humanity. The key is that in each of these situations people can see you in action and you can get to know them, all of which can lead to future sales opportunities and long-term business relationships.
#2. Master the Diagnosis of Pain
When Jesus interacted with individuals, he often assessed their situations from a perspective that involved detailed knowledge of their circumstances. He was able to diagnose their needs with extreme accuracy thanks to his commitment to observation, listening, questioning and engaging with people on a highly intense, personal level. And these were people living in a very stratified, complex society — some of whom were dirt poor and extremely week, and others who were extraordinarily rich or who held positions of high esteem and power. Regardless, Jesus knew the language and cultural assumptions of those with whom he interacted very well. For you, this means mastering the diagnosis of pain with great precision. How do you do that?
By focusing on the mindset and challenges faced by each of your buyer personas, i.e. the types of people to whom you sell. For example, the CEO of a small manufacturing company who came from working-class background may think very differently about upgrading office technology when compared to the CEO of a professional services firm who received an MBA and worked in corporate America before starting her own business. Do you know how to draw out problems concerning operational throughput and shop-floor productivity with the first, while discussing project accounting and organizational strategy with the second? Are you building the bridge between the benefits of your software and how it solves those specific problems from the perspective of each buyer?
#3. Demonstrate Wide-Ranging Reliability
Jesus knew that people were constantly judging and evaluating him at every step — from his earliest days as a child at the temple, all the way to the last days of his ministry on earth. He recognized that in order to be taken seriously by so many people over such a wide span of time, he needed to demonstrate reliability in every situation. At the temple, he knew the intricacies of the Hebrew laws and could engage with others about them to a remarkable degree of detail. At a wedding celebration, he saw that supplies were running short and fixed the problem — in his case, by turning water into wine — whereas in your case, it might mean running out to the store and buying some more wine instead!
Remember, Jesus was the son of a carpenter. A carpenter is a person who is handy, can craft or shape the solution to various functional problems, and is relied upon to keep critical things working. You need to be the same in your work. When an existing customer asks you a question, do you hand it off blindly to customer service or serve as an ambassador to make sure the question is answered fully? When old leads call you back, do you re-engage with enthusiasm and energy just as you did the first time, or do you act cool and complacent because you’re skeptical of their intentions? No matter, what transpires across your business, the fact is that the more consistent and reliable you are, the stronger your ability to close will be.
These three steps may sound like common sense…but as one wise business person said, “common sense is not all that common.” These three steps really represent a lot of hard work — getting involved, showing commitment, mastering your knowledge of the other person’s situation, and showing your reliability to others across the board. Nonetheless, those who commit to the work of becoming a powerful values-based sales professional will be in a far better position to master identifying opportunities and nurturing relationships to success.