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Filling Your Pipeline, Part 2
By Doug Davidoff

In the last issue of The INTELLIGENT GROWTH Ezine, I discussed the challenges businesses face as they try to increase the number of prospects entering their sales pipelines. In this issue, I introduce some steps that will not only help you achieve this increase, but also transform your overall go-to-market strategy dramatically.

By the way, this topic obviously struck a chord with our budding community of entrepreneurs and executives.  I have received more feedback on “Filling Your Pipeline” than on any other article I have published in The INTELLIGENT GROWTH series so far.  Thanks to all of you who wrote to me with their thoughts and questions.

Step #1 -- Seek First To Understand Then To Be Understood                                         

Industrial Age-based Sales & Marketing focuses on getting your customers and potential customers to understand what you do, and how what you do is valuable to them. Most value-added solutions rely on some level of complexity, and can’t be communicated easily or understood by people who are not involved in your industry. You are not the only company making claims and introducing complexity into the process. If you want to get someone’s attention, in any situation, the key is to make them feel understood.

When you transform your lead generation and prospect conversion tactics to ones that demonstrate that you --better than anyone else -- understand certain problems that your customer base experiences, you create value.  After all, this is how you keep your best customers coming back. When they feel you understand them, they feel they can communicate with your company without saying words. Think about your resale cycle with those customers who either re-buy a solution from you or buy an additional one. How was that resale process initiated? Was it by a claim you made?  Or was it by a conversation that revealed a problem or frustration that you understood better than your customer?

Pull together copies of your web page, your brochures, your proposals. Look at the material through the eyes of a target customer. Does your message make the potential customer feel as though your company understands them better than anybody out there? Or, does your material attempt to get your potential customer to understand you and the value that you bring?                                                                                                         

Step #2 – Build Your Pipeline With A Welcome Sign

How do you transform your lead-generation methods? The answer depends on who your customer base is, what you are offering, what makes your solutions different and myriad other factors. Here are some common steps that anyone can take:

• Make your message problem-focused rather than solutions-focused.

• Address the issues and concerns that your customers really have, not the ones you’ve convinced yourself they have. (For example, people are not interested in pest control, they are interested in pest elimination.)

• Don’t discuss your solution until a dialogue has been established. This doesn’t mean that you have to forget about solution, just don’t focus on yours (yet).

• Coordinate your marketing efforts with your web presence as the centerpiece. That way you are using a marketing vehicle with the greatest potential for starting a conversation with your customers and potential customers.

Back in the 1960s, Marshall McLuhan said, “the medium is the message.” How and where you market is as important as what you say. In the Information Age, creating the most effective context for your particular message is the real challenge.

Is cold calling a bad tactic? Not necessarily. Are seminars or event marketing good tactics? Not necessarily. It all depends on what your value proposition is and what your Best Few™ markets are. 

The determining factor for any tactic is: If you were a target customer, would you pay for what your company communicates in its marketing or lead development messages? If the answer is no, go back to the drawing board.

Step #3 –Make Your Customers Feel Understood And You Will Grow Exponentially

There is no magic set of words that will provide you with unlimited qualified leads. The most you can do is to create an environment where people want to talk to you. To do that means abandoning the Industrial Age-paradigm of marketing communication. Focusing your communication efforts on making your customers and prospects feel understood will have a dramatic impact on your lead generation efforts.  Once you have understanding, knowledge follows, and with it value.

The transformation we’re talking about here is not easy. While there are some companies who have successfully made the change (Dell, Nucor, and the Oakland A’s to name a few), most that have are still too new or small to have a presence in the mainstream press. So there is no pre-developed map for the road ahead. Of course, there was no map, no success stories or support group for Henry Ford when he transformed the world with mass production. Today, the opportunity to be a pioneer exists. While the journey can be rough at times, there are resources that can help you with the transformation. Imagine is one of them. The INTELLIGENT GROWTH Ezine is designed to help support you in these efforts.  You may want to discover ways to help your company create value and capture the attention of your market. Or you may just want to share some ideas with an emerging community of “Third-Wave” entrepreneurs. Either way, I hope you will contact us. Today’s barrier to entry is not capital, it is not plants and facilities; it is getting the attention of the people with whom you want to do business. When you get it, you will fill your pipeline and bypass the competition. As an entrepreneur, the future is yours…just Imagine.