A recurring theme in many businesses is the sudden realisation that the pipeline of leads and, worse, orders is looking distinctly thin.
It usually presages a flurry of meetings and bad tempered emails to ask why is it that suddenly we seem to be backing off from selling and marketing our wonderful products and services to an eager audience. It's called complacency.
Of course it isn’t sudden. It has probably been coming on for a while but during the busy times we naturally don’t worry too much about the order book because it always appears to be at an acceptable level.
Not necessarily so. During my time in business consultancy I have had the experience of several business people calling me to ask if I could help them with a marketing study because all of a sudden they are losing sales.
Typically I recall instances where the business needed a boost because, as usual, they said, “The telephone has stopped ringing”. The question was, why has it stopped ringing and why had we not done anything about it before now?.
In one case the business had around 850 “live” accounts over a period of three years while during the previous year they had traded with 240. Again the question to ask is where did the other 600 or so go?
The business manufactured commodity products for shop-fitting and quite honestly they had no particularly outstanding features on which we could build a marketing campaign.
We decided to call the lapsed customers and the results were very interesting. Taking out the obvious ones which were no longer in business, had only ordered for a one-off project and so on, the vast majority said things like “We hadn’t heard from you and we thought that you weren’t in business any more” or “Another company came in to see us and we ordered from them”.
A commodity is a commodity and if you don’t have anything to make you stand out (other than the usual claim of outstanding quality and service) then make sure that you keep in contact with your customers. The telephone campaign brought 60 accounts back and we set up a regular contact programme for the future.
I also recall with some embarrassment that when I started in business with a small management consultancy I was fired up from the start and managed to land two significant contracts in the first ten days. This built up in six months to a very encouraging level.
However contracts come and go and of course they don’t last forever. As it happened they all seemed to disappear at the same time and I was left with virtually no income for the foreseeable future.
It was a great lesson. The time to do the research marketing, the check on potential new sales prospects and even new markets is not when everything dries up and your concentration is on succeed or go under.
The time to do it is when you are busy because you know that try as you may nothing lasts for ever and it makes sense to build on success rather than being in panic mode.
The great Professor Steve Peters says that we should concentrate on rational rather than emotional thinking. When we are in panic mode we are consumed by emotions and frankly can make inappropriate decision because of it.
Far better to be rational and logical so that there is clarity in what we say, plan and do. Planned growth based on success is far more sustainable so ensure that you make time for business development when you are at your busiest.
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