5 Great Ideas To Getting Your Pipe In Tip Top Working Order

If you work in a services business, whether recruitment, PR or advertising, the  new business pipeline is the lifeblood of your business. If you are good at it, your career progression will streak ahead of others. Here’s how to get a dry pipeline in to tip top order, fast.

Know This Nightmare?

If you lead a business, you know this nightmare. The agency is flat out on big projects. Midnight oil being burnt. Pizzas being ordered late at night. Everyone’s on edge. Then, suddenly, several projects come to an end concurrently. You check out the revenue forecasts for the next three months. Oh dear. There’s a big black hole in identified client work and revenues. But your salary bill does not drop with the revenue, unless you take drastic action.

So- you call an urgent new business meeting (you used to have them weekly before they fell by the way side when you got busy- remember?). “What’s on the list?” Oh double dear. Not much. CRISIS! You need a robust, relevant new business list, fast. But how do you select client targets where you will get their attention and get a meeting?

Here are five proven ideas to get a robust pipeline list of targets together, fast:

1. Existing Clients: you have a one in two chance of selling more work to an existing client. Start here. Review every client. Where can you add new value? Where is there a problem to be solved? What’s the major issue facing this client and how can we help solve it? How can we get two new projects in 30 days?

2. Former Clients: you have a one in four chance of selling something to a former client (1/10 to a new prospect). Go back over every client you’ve invoiced in the past three years. Who has stopped working with you? Where do you still have a relationship with someone there? Find a problem to solve or insight to share. Get a meeting. They’ll see you. Create opportunity for a project. Bite sized pieces. Eat elephants one bite at a time. Also ask: where are those client executives now? Often they will have moved- find them, contact them, see them, solve a problem.

3.Look-alike Survey’: what other brands resemble your major clients? Here’s an example. We were working with Vodafone and Virgin Blue. Samantha Allen, who was running our consumer PR firm Pulse, suggested: “Chris- we know a lot about challenger brands. I read BankWest in Perth is going to challenge the big East Coast banks. Let’s go see them. Share insights on how to build ‘challenger brand’ profile momentum and win customers.” We jumped on a plane. Won the business the next week, and held it for seven years.

4. Common Target Audiences: if you have a big cosmetics account and know a lot about 17-25 year old women, you’re an expert about that target audience. Who else targets that audience? Come up with 10 great brands. Call them. “We are expert in marketing to women between 17-25 years old. We’ve just done research and there’s a fascinating trend on changes to their spending habits. If you could give us a 20 minute meeting, we’d be delighted to share it with you.” Make sure your diary is clear because you’ll get a lot of meetings that week! Then create the insight and go build a relationship. Search for a project, no matter how small.

5. Lost Pitches: often we lose for a very small reason. We’ve built a relationship. Who have we pitched and lost to over the past two years? Call them up. Have a coffee. Take an insight. Find a problem to solve. Go for a project, not the whole gig.

Pipelines must always be full. That’s a post for another day. But if you find yours is dry, follow these five proven ideas to get the leads flowing. If you do it properly, good things will happen- fast- to your business, and your career.

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10 Responses to 5 Great Ideas To Getting Your Pipe In Tip Top Working Order

  1. Darren Thomas February 29, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    Great article Chris,insightful,can be used in a variety of ways across a number of industries. Thank you!

    • Chris Savage February 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm #


  2. MC Hammer February 29, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    Double dear? What about when you need your pipe cleaned?

    • Chris Savage February 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

      Then i knock on your door MC..

  3. John Gardner February 29, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    Another great insight from working with Chris was to initiate a 4-Month forecast document that contains, on one page, all current clients and their expected revenue over a rolling 4-month forward-looking period, plus all current new business targets. We go through it every week as a team and agree the necessary actions for each – by keeping a forward-looking view on current clients you will help to minimise the ‘dry pipeline’ scenario that Chris painted. It’s a simple but effective tool. Thanks Chris.

    • Chris Savage February 29, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

      My pleasure Gardy.

  4. Suzanne Acteson March 2, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    Great reminders Chris, have actioned this already with a review of our existing and lapsed clients to make sure the low hanging fruit is being picked! Our CRM helps keep our pipeline in pretty good shape but it doesn’t always highlight these potentially “easy” wins. Thanks!

    • Chris Savage March 5, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

      Pleasure Suzanne!

  5. Samantha Allen March 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Great memories Chris! However I’m benefiting far too much in your retelling – your connections into BankWest got us that lead, no doubt because you were all over Idea 1 & 2! But we did have some fun building out our Challenger Brands strategy – still a cracking approach I reckon!

    • Chris Savage March 16, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

      Samantha- you are too modest. xxx

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