25 January 2007

Where is the business going to come from?

We obsess about our pipeline. Which companies are in it, what is the nature of the opportunity, do we have a solid chance of winning the work? These are all good questions.

It's important to use a variety of different channels for winning new business. I was at a meeting of SME consultancies a couple of weeks ago and one of the people there said that all his business had come from Networking. Networking is a powerful tool and I don't want to decry it, but it is important to have some more active channels which you can develop alongside it. The power of an effective sales and marketing process which includes a number of different channels is that you will inevitably increase your reach. The more people who know about you, the more business you will do - all other things being equal. The point about networking is that it is indirect and although you can do a number of things to make yourself more effective at networking, it is difficult to regard it as an active channel where activity links quickly and directly to outputs. By comparison, targeting particular types of businesses and talking to them is almost entirely active.

Having opportunities in the pipeline is not the same as guaranteeing that we will win the work. Sometimes the main competitor - the status quo - prevents the prospect from becoming a paying client. Things move through the pipeline at their own pace and we have to recognise that there is often a fine line between staying in touch and appearing overly eager. That said, one of our prospects has decided not to go ahead with one of their business ideas which we were very excited about. They had an enormous competitive advantage in a consumer product of growing importance. The idea was that they would start to sell direct from a website using a new brand name while continuing to support their existing B2B sales with their current brand name. The margins were potentially very attractive and we were looking forward to making the business perform spectacularly, but the status quo has reared its head and the prospect isn't going ahead.

We are looking for another opportunity which is just as exciting.

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