Tag Archives: Stories

How Do You Maintain a Robust Pipeline? Five Suggestions

Situation: A CEO is concerned that her company does not have enough new prospects or business on the horizon. New business opportunities appear sporadically but not predictably. She asks how others schedule their time and effort to bring in new clients. How do you maintain a robust pipeline?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Devote a regular amount of time to business and relationship development. Even when business is busy it is important to have the discipline to devote 4 to 6 hours per week to new business development. Schedule this time and fill it with activity. Occasional networking doesn’t work.
  • What differentiates a company is its brand. If new business comes from referrals, turbo-charge this by becoming the information hub for the referral group. Make it easy for others to make referrals.
  • There is a hierarchy of things to do.
    • Stay on potential referrers’ radar screens – monthly or quarterly awareness marketing to referral sources.
    • Spread awareness of best practices in areas where the company has expertise.
    • Make best practices relevant with situational stories.
  • Think in terms of a target.
    • Where do most referrals come from? This is the center of the bull’s eye
    • 2nd Ring – 2nd level of referrals
    • 3rd Ring – 3rd level of referrals
    • Network more with contacts at the center of the target – they know clients in need of help.
  • There is a lot of information in the cloud that is relevant to the business – personnel moves, hiring, firing, etc. If you it is possible to track this, it can help.
    • LinkedIn can help. Look for 1st and 2nd degree links to individuals of interest. For example, you want to meet a CEO who on LinkedIn is a 2nd degree link. Request a warm introduction from a 1st degree link between you and the CEO.
    • Think of LinkedIn in terms of rifle shots, not a shotgun approach. This makes it both more manageable and more valuable.

How Do You Respond to Unrealistic Demands? Six Suggestions

Situation: A tech company is having difficulty with a customer. Given three options – high quality, low cost and rapid delivery – the company can deliver any combination of two, but the customer wants all three. When the company asks which two are most important, the customer responds that they want all three. How do you respond to unrealistic demands?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The Devil’s Advocate response to this question is to look at your processes. Is it possible to do all three, and if so under what circumstances?
  • Think from the perspective of the customer:
    • What will you need and when?
    • Integrate the customer into the decision process as much as possible.
    • Demonstrate where trade-offs exist, and work through these in binary fashion until you reach agreement on the scope of work, delivery timeline and price.
  • The challenges change depending upon who within the customer company you are working. For example, the engineers understand the challenges and complexity of the product in question. However, the purchasing agents do not necessarily understand the product, its complexity, or how critical it is to their final product.
    • In this case try bargaining with the purchasing agent – if the purchasing agent goes back to the engineers and gets their agreement that your company can change the quality or delivery spec, perhaps you can be flexible in your pricing. Put the ball in the PA’s court – but make sure that the PA knows that he/she will be responsible for any project delays for not giving you the order today
  • Use stories to set expectations – better yet, use stories, combined with metrics about the costs associated with attempting short-cuts to develop authoritative arguments in support of your position.
  • Create a User Guide for your customers – paper and web formats – to sell your story. Sell fear, uncertainty and doubt; for example, if the PA wants to go another route here are the potential costs in terms of time, market share and profits lost.
  • In particularly difficult negotiations, use the real estate mantra: Some Will, Some Won’t, So What, Who’s Next?