It doesn’t matter how many black hat reviews you conduct or what customer relationship management tools you leverage. Consistently reacting to opportunities instead of investing the time and energy to develop the knowledge, competitive intelligence and relationships needed is not a path to good decision-making. It’s risky, expensive and a clear indication the ‘opportunities’ and not you are setting the direction of your company
Face it, quite a few of us in the government contracting business have been cast in the role of the victim. After all, we’re at the mercy of these ‘opportunity’ things we’re constantly chasing and we allow them to dictate our every move despite how much went into developing our strategy. Who’s in charge again?
Think about how ecstatic we are when we discover one that seems a really good fit? Even so, that ‘bird in hand’ isn’t enough. We’ll drop it like it’s radioactive the minute we get wind of another ‘good fit.’ It seems we’re kind of fickle like that.
Why do we lower our standards?
We act differently based on how opportunities come to us. It’s similar to our behavior around college friends or those from the old neighborhood versus how we act in front of our parents. Compare your response to opportunities brought by teaming partners versus those cultivated internally. Just because it came from a partner, a lot of us tend to cherish those more, forsaking everything else. The image that comes to mind is Gollum coveting his ‘precious’ Ring in the Lord of the Rings movies.
So, do you treat opportunities from partners differently because they require little to no effort on your part? Does that lower level of effort make it a ‘better’ opportunity? What else goes into that consideration of ‘better?’ Does it warrant a higher priority in your pipeline, displacing other opportunities? For many, the answer is yes. I’ve seen first-hand what happens when partner deals show up. Often, no consideration is given to the processes (or lack of processes) employed by those partners in finding and vetting opportunities. In some cases the opportunities are qualified and the partner has substantive insights and relationships. Most of the time, this is not the case. Yet quite a few companies react to those deals as if they were just handed a winning lottery ticket.
Are the opportunities in charge at your company?
Increase your odds. Manage and lower the cost of finding and winning business.
Being in the ‘competitive range’ from a price standpoint results from a number of factors to include how much it actually costs your company to find and win business. I refer to it as C.A.B. fare or the ‘Cost of Acquiring Business.’ I like this reference because in the spirit of actual cab fare, the cost of getting from Point A to Point B, my C.A.B. fare considers Point A as ‘finding an opportunity‘ and Point B as ‘winning that opportunity.’
Picture leaving the airport or train station with a driver who takes the scenic route to your destination. It’s likely you will spend a lot more on cab fare and a lot less on his or her tip! When discussing government contracting opportunities, the scenic route is not your friend. What’s needed are efficiencies that contribute to your company remaining competitive, and profitable. One way of achieving this involves the use of a system (process) for managing opportunities and associated information and tasks.This well-known but often underutilized system is commonly referred to as a ‘pipeline.’
Have you hugged your sales pipeline today? Do you have one?
Don’t think of a pipeline as something static, quite the contrary, it is very much a living and breathing process. Just as air is critical to our existence, a pipeline is just as vital to companies that must sell goods and services in order to survive. Not using some structured process to manage these activities? That would be considered flailing by many.
Pipelines that incorporate information management and organizational workflow tied to growth activities, can produce much needed efficiencies, lowering costs and helping to manage risk. Over the last several years our Ethical Stalking for Government Contractors™ program has evolved from a ninety minute seminar to a full-day workshop that emphasizes process as much as it does the tactics, tools and resources needed to develop competitive intelligence.
In the last twelve months we’ve built-in what’s been referred to as a ‘strategic framework’ for government contractors. This framework is based on the fundamentals of pipeline management and very specifically speaks to the flow of information from data point to decision point, and looks at what’s required to move items through the pipeline, ensuring those all important prospect ‘touches’ are acquired along the way.
Suspect? Prospect? Lead? Opportunity? Distraction?
Assuming you’re familiar with or can deduce the meaning of the phrase ‘garbage in, garbage out,’ you know where I’m about to go with this. Many of the suspects, prospects, leads and opportunities finding their way to a company’s pipeline have no business being there, and it’s not always the fault of the guy or gal leading business development efforts. Sometimes it’s the owners and executives entering leads and opportunities that are nothing more than ‘shiny rocks‘ to distract them and the rest of the company from activities that can actually produce.
As a business owner, the thought of wasted resources (time and money) should be nothing short of terrifying. Anything permitted to enter and exist in your pipeline should be subject to rules, your rules, and a limited shelf life to prevent spoilage. The rules, which should correlate to a company’s inherent risk profile, determines which items can proceed to the next stage of your pipeline, or enter in the first place. Those not meeting the ‘burden of proof’ established by your company should get kicked off of the proverbial island. Opportunities have an expiration date and so should items in your pipeline.
Very often achieving business growth boils down to your willingness to learn or re-learn the basics.
My friend Torin Ellis commented on one of my earlier blogs entitled ‘Doing too much to find opportunities?‘ where he applied the analogy of “basic blocking and tackling” when referring to the information I provided as “well packaged advice.” I’d like to think I’ve hit that mark again with this post.
This is a topic we’ll discuss at the next gathering of our business leaders in the POCx Forum, and is a recurring theme in our ESGC Tactical™ workshops and webinars where we focus on the day-to-day and task-level activities of developing and winning business with civilian, defense and intelligence agencies and their contractors.
One last question. If you’ve handed over control of steering your company towards your goals, do you know where you’re headed?
Guy Timberlake, The Chief Visionary
“The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.”