5 Steps to Filling the New Business Pipeline
For a business to realize its full potential, it must be doing great work for clients who really appreciate that work and who are willing to pay fairly for it.
The first problem is that most businesses make compromises in the name of business development which makes doing their best work nearly impossible. Rather than proactively attacking opportunities that play to their strengths and give them a real shot at greatness, they play defense, retreating with arms opened wide trying to capture every assignment possible.
CEO's offer a list of reasons; things like needing the revenue to keep the lights on and everyone employed. Everyone around them nods in agreement.
This, however, leads to the second problem; winning business that won't allow you to show your strengths verses your competitors. This means you're often forced to compete on price and/or speed. This happens because when you look at your competitors, left and right, you'll see them holding their arms out wide shouting the exact same claims.
No matter the industry, the world is filled with 360 degree solutions and one-stop-shops. These companies may not do everything well but they are certainly willing to do everything anyone will let them.
They put some marketing messages out there, have business development people leverage referrals and make cold calls calls to see if they can be among some number of competitors being considered for the assignment. This process pretty much makes realizing your full potential a long shot.
What too few companies understand they have the ability to proactively select the right clients. It just takes the courage to throw the conventional process out the window and play by a completely different set of rules - your rules.
There are five simple steps. And when I say simple, I mean straight-forward not necessarily easy. It will take some work but the return will be well worth it in terms of sales, profitability and positive cultural impact - think greater retention of your best people and great people forming a line at your door.
5 Game-changing Steps to Business Development
To be a great company you need to produce a great product or service; one that has tremendous value to those who want to buy and use it. It must be clearly better than your competitors' offering so customers will recognize it and be willing to pay a premium.
So not to burst any bubbles but no matter who your are, your company does some things extremely well and others things a little less so. To believe otherwise is a guaranteed back-peddle to the land of the invisible.
We need to identify those products or services you can own but let's start at the beginning.
Step 1 - "So where the hell are we?"
The first step requires us taking a objective look at where you are today. Every company starts with a focused vision of how it will conquer the business world. Entrepreneurs see the void and know how to fill it. They see the unaddressed problem and know how to fix it. They see opportunity and know how to seize it.
They set their plan in motion, make the leap and almost every one of them immediately started that back-peddling thing we discussed earlier. Arms wide open trying to win any business anyone will send your way is a natural reaction when you're flying around a hundred feet up in the air without a net. It can be damn scary. I know, I was there so I get it.
The problem is that while you started with a laser-like focus, you probably followed a few shiny objects along the way so we need to take a minute and figure out where the hell we are and if we're comfortable being here. We may find we need to make a few course corrections to resume the original or select an even better flight plan.
Before moving forward we need to be confident that we have a strategic foundation strong enough to support the growth we expect as we head to the future. If we have issues they need to be addressed and solved, we need to do it right now.
Eight steps we take quickly get us there but we need to get them right because we don't ever want to be back here.
With that part done, we have to understand what we do best. We can only do great work if we focus on what we do best so lets identify what that is and put everything else away for now.
It doesn't matter if you've gotten pretty good at selling other things. We're changing the game. Rather than be one of several companies claiming to do it all and leaving your prospects to make their decisions based on some combination of price, quality and speed of delivery. We are going to become the specialists in an area we can own.
Once we know what we do better than anyone else, we need to confirm that there is an audience for it large enough to help us realize our potential.
This is a crucial step so please do not blow by this. We need to take the time to do our homework. Make sure you understand how different segments of the audience might view your product slightly differently. Understand the pain-points of each segment and what keeps them awake at night. Then rank the segments starting with the one you think will value your product the highest and be willing to pay a premium for it.
Again, we must be confident that the segment can support your future growth or put a plan in place to evolve to fulfill on the needs of the second segment of our prioritized list of targets.
The bottom line: We will always focus on what we do best and the segment(s) of our audience who will value it the most.
We develop a targeted list of the decision-makers and key influencers, learning everything we can in terms of how they find and process the information they need to make their purchase decisions. What online platforms do they visit when thinking about your category? Who are the industry thought leaders? What are your prospects' pain-points? We need to know everything we can about them?
With the right information, we will begin a targeted, value-based, lead-generating outreach program combining digital advertising and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. for B2C and Facebook and LinkedIn, etc. for B2B) advertising and content management program to support our email efforts.
The most important point is that every communication must deliver real value in the form of usable information. This effort is intended to qualify our leads; determine who will buy today. We want to attract and engage the audience with a program of enrichment. The more value we deliver, the more they will anticipate our next communication and begin raising their hands
We never leave a dead end. Every message we send has an offer, creating that logical next step and building a pathway to your brand. Along the way we will be proving our worth to them as your sales team qualifies them based on their response to our offers.
The pipeline fills with prospects moving towards your brand and qualifying themselves as they approach.
Everything we do is about focus and the last step is no different. It involves setting a goal, measurement and accountability.
This 5-step program constitutes a lifestyle change. If executed properly, it will carry you long into the future. During that time you will set and achieve many of your goals but I want you to set only one goal at a time over a 12-month period. If you accomplish it in less time, great! Set another goal for the next 12-months.
The goal should be lofty but attainable. Anything longer than a year becomes too vague and you need to give yourself enough time to accomplish it so a year seems right. Every single thing you do, every decision you make, should align directly with this one goal. If it doesn't move you closer to realizing your goal, don't do it. You need discipline here because it's very easy to slip back to your old way of doing things.
As CEO, you must carry and share the burden of accountability. Your people are watching and expecting discipline and consistency. If you are accountable, you have every right to hold each employee accountable. Simple as that.
All measurement should be done against KPI's and be agreed-upon by all involved. We also need a transparent reporting process.