The right way to fill your pipeline

If you think that filling your pipeline should start by identifying leads, you’re wrong. Filling your pipeline starts by identifying where leads come from. If you start with leads, then you start after the customer knows what they want and has probably already written the RFP. If you start with where leads come from, then you have a chance to help the customer figure out what they should want and can even help them write the RFP.

Figuring out where leads come from isn’t even the first step. You should start with what kind of leads you want. That starts with some key questions:

See also:
Assessing and filling your business opportunity pipeline
  • What capabilities do you want to develop?
  • What customer relationships do you want to expand?
  • What competitive environment do you want to play in?
  • Where do you see the best opportunities for growth?
  • How much risk are you comfortable with?
  • How do you want to segment or divide the marketplace?
  • How do you want to position your company within the market you wish to capture?

Based on the answers to questions like these you should prepare a strategic plan. Answering the questions should take considerable research, number crunching, and introspection. The strategic plan provides the direction, but not necessarily the targets. You need the strategic plan to take the next step, which is figuring out where to target for leads. The strategic plan also acts as a filter, helping you figure out which leads to pursue and which to drop.

Your strategic plan is also the start of how you write your proposals. Long before you’ve even identified a lead, you should already have thought about positioning. The way you describe how your company should position itself should lay the foundation for the theme statements you will eventually write into your proposals. In fact, when you are finding it difficult to figure out what themes to put in a proposal, it is often because you haven’t done or communicated your strategic plans.

Once you have a strategic plan, you’re ready to start targeting. Within each market segment defined by the strategic plan, who should you target? Depending on the nature of your business, you may target by location, demographics, organization, size, or anything else. Ideally, targeting should identify the points of contact and how you will get to them (email, postal mail, cold calling, etc.). Targeting may also identify certain projects, contracts, or initiatives that are likely to produce leads.

Targeting turns the strategic plan into a specific effort to make contact with customers who are likely to produce leads, build a relationship with them, and help them to define their needs and prepare an RFP. Pursuing leads before the RFP is released requires more than simply calling the folks you know. It requires strategically targeting and building relationships where you expect the kind of leads you are interested in to germinate.

Once you have done your strategic planning and targeting homework, then you are ready to start prospecting. Prospecting involves making contact with your targets and exploring them for leads. If you’re smart, you’ll look for more than just leads. You’ll look for the potential for leads. You’ll look for problems that need to be solved and people who have the budgets to solve them.

And instead of simply looking for RFP releases, you’ll help them articulate the nature of the problem and figure out what to do about it. You might even send them suggestions for how to proceed that could end up in the RFP. By doing that, when the RFP is released you will already be in position, with an information advantage, and an RFP that has been influenced in your favor. These are the kind of leads that you want to fill your pipeline with.


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Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY

Carl is an expert at winning in writing. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

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