Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Look for the Curve Ball

As a new entrepreneur, you'll face the question of whether a prospect’s business is worth your effort. You're like a hitter at the plate watching a variety of pitches coming your way and trying to decide which ones are worth taking a swing at. Because you need customers, it will be tempting to swing at everything.

Types of pitches (prospects)
The first pitch is a sweet one right in your wheelhouse, which means your solution addresses the prospect’s needs so perfectly that it’s like getting the perfect pitch to hit out of the park. One easy swing and BAM you have a new customer. You barely broke a sweat as a result. These prospects don’t come around often enough.

The next best pitch, which you may see most frequently, comes in a little high and outside. You’ll have to reach a little, but it’s still possible to get some good wood on the ball. Your solution matches most of the prospect’s requirements. With a few adjustments or enhancements, you can address her needs thoroughly. You make the adjustments because

1) you need customers and revenue and

2) you recognize that the adjustments would appeal to other prospects.

Perhaps some of those adjustments can even wait until after the prospect becomes a customer, and you develop a level of trust. You may even come to appreciate this type of pitch more than the “perfect pitch” because you improved your product/service as a result.

You have to give the closest look at the third type of pitch. It is so far over your head that it will smack against the backstop unless you make contact. You can hit this pitch, too, but you’ll probably need a stepladder. The payoff might be sweet in the short term, but is it really worth the effort?

The pitches headed for the backstop come from clients who would require all sorts of enhancements in order to get exactly what they want. In fact, their requirements may change your offering in a way that bears little resemblance to what it looks like now. On the other hand, you may make a lot more money off this one deal than all the others. It may be a long time, if ever, before the necessary enhancements would benefit your other current prospects. Those changes could even make your product/service less appealing to your regular target group.

You have to decide, particularly in the early days of your company, if you should take a swing at this pitch or let it go by. You will hear a lot prospects say, “Your stuff is nice, but it would be really great for us if it just had (fill in the blank).” Yes, it would be great—for them. But would it be great for your company?

Listen closely to your prospects. Some of their suggestions could have you chasing short-term revenue at the sacrifice of long term potential for your company. However, your prospects will often have legitimate ideas to make your offering better. No one knows their industry better than they do. If their needs have been unmet for a long time, they're also be the needs of their competitors.

If you really listen to what your prospects are saying, and if you are more interested in becoming successful than in simply sticking to your original vision, you'll give your venture a better chance. Certainly, your company may not bear much resemblance to what it was in the beginning, but part of the difference could be a little thing called PROFIT.

Many ventures have changed dramatically from what they started out doing. But they are still in business.

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