How to get around this guide:
What are Infusionsoft Opportunities? What is the pipeline? Do I need it? How does it work? What does it do?
I’ll be honest – when I first started working with Infusionsoft, I didn’t know what “opportunities” were. I didn’t get it.
It felt abstract, and I didn’t see how it tied together with the rest of the platform. So, I avoided it…for months.
And I know I’m not the only one.
I don’t have a course covering opportunities, I might some day, but for now, consider this Opportunities 101 – for anyone who has ever wondered what they are or where they fit, but has been afraid to ask, or just hasn’t taken the time.
I want to be clear – you might not need opportunities at all. If your sales process is entirely online, and doesn’t involve manual interaction, then this may not be for you at all.
But unless you know what it does, and how it works, you don’t know what you’re missing out on.
So, what are Opportunities anyway?
‘Opportunities’ are records (like contact records), but they represent an interest, rather than a person.
Opportunities are tied to a contact. And contacts can have multiple opportunities, but opportunities can only be attached to a single contact.
Opportunities serve as a vehicle to move someone through a process, most commonly, to track their progression through a series of stages, like a sales pipeline.
Wait, what is a Pipeline?
The pipeline, or sales pipeline, is just a tracking mechanism for a process. Any process, but usually a manual offline sales process.
You move opportunities through the pipeline stages you define.
The reason I say “Any Process” is that you could use Infusionsoft’s pipeline to track something other than a sales process. For example, if you have a manual fulfillment process that needs to happen after someone places an order, it might make sense to create an opportunity record AFTER someone purchases.
Opportunities help you track your prospects through your sales process without letting any slip through the cracks. And once you’ve got that – you can also use the stage moves to trigger automation for the repetitive follow up.
How does this benefit my business?
The primary benefit to a business is that it helps you get clear on the process and journey leading up to a purchase – so you can see where your sales are going to come from. As you use it, you can start to gauge “Hey, if they make it to this stage, they have an X% chance of buying.”
As you use the pipeline, it can also helps you identify bottlenecks, and gives you transparency into your processes. If you know that people are getting stuck in a certain stage for much longer than you’d expect, you can then go investigate why.
Opportunities also afford you the ability to assign a projected revenue range – which helps you know the total value of the opportunities in your pipeline, or in a specific stage. When you combined this with projected “close” dates, and weighted forecasting it unlocks robust reporting and analysis that can be used to inform key decisions.
You can literally help a sales team decide how to allocate their resources, or prioritize their day.
When do I create an opportunity?
If you’re going to use Opportunities to track prospects through your sales journey (or any journey) then a natural question is “When do I create an opportunity?
As soon as I get their business card? When the prospect signs up for something? Only after they’ve asked for a quote?
The answer is “it depends”. My rule of thumb is that an opportunity record should be created when it’s time for a human to get involved. And the good news is that no matter when you decide an opportunity should be created – it can be automated.
So, if the prospect has expressed interest enough to merit some human interaction, then that’s usually when I recommend creating an opportunity to track their progression.
Here’s a good article from Brett Farr over at Blick Digital covering this question, and some ideas for aligning your sales and marketing teams.
How do I get my team to use the sales pipeline?
The biggest challenge, in my experience, is adoption.
Sometimes sales teams will be resistant to the whole concept because a) they don’t want their process, or lack of process, to be exposed, or b) they worry that they’ll be replaced, or c) it’s technical, or hard, and they see it as one more thing that gets in their way.
So, because of those reasons, it’s really important that someone owns their adoption. Normally this is a sales manager. (I’ve literally been in a room with 8 sales reps who I was supposed to train on a $5k pipeline process that was built for them, and 0 of the 8 wanted it. Twas a little awkward.)
The trick is creating an appetite for it. It has to make their life easier. Usually this is by helping them focus their time. And saving them from repetitive shiz, like sending the same “I just left you a voicemail” email over and over.
Can I build more than one pipeline?
Normally you’ll want to set up your sales stages to be broad or general enough that you can use it to track opportunities of all types, but in some instances, you may find that the sales journey for two of your offerings is quite different. So, in those fringe cases you can set up multiple pipelines using this strategy.
Can I automate it?
Moving an opportunity between stages is ALWAYS manual*. Which is by design.
It’s because the pipeline process largely happens offline. Moving someone from one stage to another is a representation of offline interaction, like, having a conversation.
Where Infusionsoft shines is tying this offline interaction to automation. Moving an opportunity between stages and trigger and stop automation (normally by achieving a campaign builder goal).
So, your sales rep (or whoever) will manually move an opportunity record from one stage to another – but then that manual action can trigger an automated reaction. It’s like tipping over the first domino, and then watching what you’ve built run it’s course.
Opportunities will force you, wearer of many hats, to organise, simplify and automatate your sales process – which will make it possible for you to hire someone for that role in the future.
What should my campaign look like?
Once you’ve defined your stages, and you’re ready to start layering in automation, you’ll want to design a campaign. This article shows you how to build the actual campaign structure which will support the automation between each stage move.
Are you sure you don’t have a video training on this, Greg?
I’m sure. But check out this mini-course from Abe Kashiwagi.
Can I use them on my phone?
I get it, maybe your sales reps are on the go. And if they’re going to use Opportunities in any meaningful way, they need to be able to access and update the opportunities in their pipeline from their phone, or tablet, palm pilot, or whatever.
Opportunities allow you to track and manage your leads. They also allow you to automate the actions that need to take place in different stages, which keeps your sales process consistent and makes you a better rep.
How do I report on this?
One of the biggest benefits of using the opportunity pipeline is that it offers you data about your sales process.
You can see where people are in the sales journey, forecast upcoming revenue, as well as highlight bottlenecks or areas where folks may be slipping between the cracks.
Ugh – do you even look at those reports and think “Why can’t they just say what they do in plain English?”
Well, apparently you’re not the only one – because Paul Sokol created a cheat sheet that does exactly that – it breaks down every single Sales Pipeline Report to explain not only what it does, but what questions it answers, and why you might find it valuable. Grab it here:
* You may have noticed that I said “Moving an Opportunity Stage is ALWAYS manual” and then I tossed a cheeky little asterisk in there.
Most of the time you WANT an opportunity to be moved manually, because it means a human is recording an outcome that happened offline. But there are a few legitimate times when you may want to automate this – like if someone purchases, and you want to just move that opportunity to a “Won” stage – so, the truth is that an opportunity CAN be moved from one stage to another via the API.
Okay, how’d we do?
Do you feel more confident? Let me know in the comments below if there is anything I overlooked, or if you have any additional questions!