What ever happened to new business being easy and quick to convert? What’s changed, why does pipeline take so long these days? Is it more competition, savvy clients, clients and customer loyalty, risk adversity, or a whole bunch of these factors rolled in? In my industry, we could convert a new client in three months, now it’s taking up to two years. Stakes are often lower with smaller budgets but still the prep work is harder and harder, and there is often the introduction of procurement departments to get the green light from.
But hey! It’s worth it when you land that ‘big one’. My agency recently won a large project in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (supermarket) arena. We were actively looking for a client in this area and now have one to go with the rest of our high profile clients. This win was relatively quick; credentials in March, brief in September, pitch October, and win late October. seven (7) months in total. This is where pipeline is so critical, and we as business owners can so often get caught up in doing the work/the pitch/the day-to-day, that we are not feeding the funnel. The other component is the cost of pitching for work or chasing new customers.
There is so much value in keeping current customers happy and engaged and not getting complacent, as the cost to replace them in the business can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. When thinking pipeline make sure there are clients at all stages and dedicate time now to not only review, but also ask for recommendations, new projects, new customers. Your biggest advocates are the clients you are currently working with. The costs of replacing can be every expensive.
We all work in competitive environments and, while it may seem obvious, it is vital from a business perspective that we know exactly who we are, what we are doing and why we are good at it. That way, when looking for new business we are more than confident to answer those questions when asked by prospective clients.