I’ve seen this story unfold many a time: Companies have principals whose credentials are bombproof and whose networks are deep. They are recognized as leaders in their field for decades. And they successfully got their businesses off the ground by relying on close contacts to build their client base. The ones that got the “sales thing” often did a terrific job at networking.
But then they called us years after they should have started. Why? The same reason as the first company. They could pay the bills without much worry and didn’t look out into what is always an uncertain future. We were able to turn things around just enough in the first story. Others have bleaker endings: Clients in make-or-break situations have had to break off our engagements because we’re only four months into a 9-18 month sales cycle and they’re out of time and money.
Bottom line is that you’re going to need a more disciplined approach to mining opportunities in your pipeline and bringing new prospects into it. This is for two major reasons:
• You’re going to hit a plateau after the low-hanging fruit is picked clean. Actively tending and growing a robust pipeline is a full-time equivalent job. If you have the luxury of being a full-time schmoozer and closer—and never have to worry much about ops, financials, product/service delivery or long-term company strategy—have at it. You may find you can hit your revenue mark. But for companies with a bigger appetite for revenue, this won’t be sustainable.
• You don’t have time to work it properly. Effectively mining a pipeline—especially for reviving leads you forgot about or thought were dead ends—takes integration with a true sales system. Again, if you’ve got the time to turn over all these rocks, go for it. Otherwise, you may find yourself in the same situation as clients of ours who came to grips with the fact that they just didn’t have the bandwidth to find all the gold hidden in their decades of contacts.
A consultancy we engaged with recently offers a truly tier one methodology for helping their heavy industry clients solve seemingly intractable performance and profitability issues, among others.
They had engagements with multi-billion-dollar industry giants, some as long as 10 years ago. They ended up just handing the contact list to us, and as I write this, we’re in proposal stage with one of the biggest energy companies in the US—an opportunity that would remain buried had it been left on the principals’ plates.
Another recent example is a client with a terrific sales incentive management software solution. The owner had made contact with a senior executive at a major auto dealership, but was too swamped to follow up. So was his VP of sales. We grabbed the contact’s business card and jolted the dead lead into a not only a major viable opportunity, but a beachhead on a whole new vertical.