The Sales Rep’s Guide to Opportunity Notes

By Lenore Lang

Follow these simple guidelines for opportunity notes that are useful for you, your clients, and your entire team.

The most successful sales reps are constantly matching sales processes to the conversations they are having with their buyers. They set goals for each customer meeting, communicate value regularly, and keep organized notes about every conversation.

Unfortunately, when it comes to notes, it’s not uncommon to have various pieces of information from meetings or phone calls strewn across a variety of locations — laptops, notepads, texts, emails, even napkins — especially when many people are involved in the sales process. That keeps key information siloed and inaccessible to the larger team.

Eighty-one percent of sales teams say a connected view of data across the customer journey is important.1 With collaborative selling becoming the norm, what’s the best way for reps to organize opportunity notes to ensure visibility for team members and stakeholders?

Collaborative Opportunity Notes: The Basics

To start with, make sure opportunity notes are maintained in a centralized, collaborative environment, ideally in the context of CRM record data. That way, the extended sales team has access to the latest intelligence alongside current data. And remember that you’re writing notes for the larger team, not just yourself. Anyone should be able to read them and understand what’s going on with the deal. That includes future account owners; with accounts constantly changing hands, having centralized notes in context makes transitions and on-ramping much smoother.

With your collaborative notes in a unified location, the next step is to make sure they contain consistent information, so every account’s notes are as useful as possible. Here are the elements opportunity notes should include.

Background Notes

Generally, opportunity notes should contain foundational background info about the deal and notes about each customer conversation or interaction. While it’s helpful to establish certain background basics at the beginning, every conversation can help complete the picture.

Key Players
Throughout the sales process, track all key personnel information on the client side. It’s helpful to have names, titles, contact info, and any additional specifics that you can reference when chatting with them. Be sure to capture those involved within the purchasing decision, and identify their role in the decision process. Are they Approvers, Business Drivers, Champions, Dominos, or Evaluators?

In a second section, list internal people involved with the deal who will be contributing to the sales process. Modern selling is a team effort, so establish who on your extended team can help move things forward or who might have personal insights about the buyer.

Selling is about showing your buyer a step-by-step vision of the future that will help solve their problems. The more you understand about your buyer’s needs and how they want to create a better future, the easier it will be to create a persuasive plan and earn the win.

Let’s focus on two areas:

  • Financial, technical, or even strategic requirements stated by the buyer. These needs may not be fully disclosed right away, so count on adding to this section as you learn more in later conversations.
  • Emotional requirements. Listen to your customers to understand where they are emotionally within the purchase phase. Whether greed, fear, altruism, envy, pride, or shame, emotions and emotional changes are important to document as they can be just as critical to closing a deal.

The Opportunity
The next step is to map the customer requirements to your product or service offering. You may have already gone through this exercise if you developed an account plan for the customer, but it’s good to have a basic outline of the opportunity as part of your notes. Start by noting all components that can help add value, then link each component to the requirements of your customers.

The Competition
List your competitors and how their offering stands up so you can position yourself against them. This means understanding their strengths as well as what strengths and value your company offers. Armed with this info, you can work toward neutralizing the competition.

Conversation Notes

Conversations are at the heart of selling, so your notes should document both the essence and the details of each interaction. And since your notes are collaborative and centralized, managers and extended team members can offer helpful feedback and suggestions. Here’s what you should aim to capture about each meeting or call.

Time, Date, and Type of Meeting
Was it a phone call, in-person meeting, or some other kind of interaction? Including time and date with each note entry helps keep track of the deal’s pace and progress.

Meeting Topics
What key things did you learn about the client’s needs and decision process? Did you gain any competitive intelligence? Focus on items that are important, insightful, or actionable. If it doesn’t fit one of those three categories, it might not belong in your notes.

Action Items
What’s next? Capture any follow-up initiatives you committed to as well as any follow-up on the customer side. Did the client ask for a proposal, presentation, or further information? When should you call again? Use this section to help remind you of tasks.

Thorough notes are an important part of the sales process, but don’t focus on creating notes that are so detailed and comprehensive that you prioritize typing over listening. Pay attention to the client’s needs, note where they are in the decision process, and look for opportunities to move the deal forward. Document the essential and actionable items, and let your collaborative notes be a means for engaging your entire team to successfully close the deal.

1Salesforce State of Sales Survey, 3rd Edition