Business, like many things in life, is a numbers game. Just like in hockey, if you get enough shots on goal, eventually you’re going to score.
That’s why I believe, to accomplish anything in business, you should treat it like a funnel.
Let me explain by sharing a story:
A few months ago, I was advising a startup on their launch plan and the founder told me that she absolutely needed to get Marie Forleo on board to be successful.
She asked me if I could get her an intro. Even though I could, I challenged her on her thinking. “Why was this person so important?”
That’s when I realized that in her mind, it was the only solution.
So I asked, “Who are 24 other Marie Forleo’s in the world?” To which she could only name a couple.
That was her challenge. It was actually a systemic issue in her business that would probably lead to challenges in recruiting, fundraising or partnerships.
She didn’t look at it like a funnel.
My approach, and suggestion to this founder, is to run a process to increase the probability of a positive outcome (a great launch).
Here’s how I look at any initiative:
1. Run the numbers
The first step is to understand what the outcome is. If it’s to raise $1M dollars then you need to define how many investors that would take and work backwards.
It’s no different then if you want media coverage. If you want at least 3 major outlets to cover your launch, then you’ll need to understand how many you should reach out to.
I would suggest using a 5%, or 1 in 20 succeed rate as a fair baseline for most initiatives.
Just assume you’ll get some “No’s” and be ok with that because there’s confidence in the process.
2. Build the list
Once you know the desired target and numbers, spend time doing your research to build your list. I suggest using a spreadsheet.
I personally love doing this work myself, but you can always outsource this to a virtual assistant or intern. Just be sure to define the information you need on each person.
3. Define the process for outreach
This part requires a bit of creativity and trial and error, since you may not know up front what’s required.
A basic example of stages in your funnel could look like this:
1 – Initial Contact
2 – Discussion
3 – Onboard
4 – Passed
I use numbers to define each stage so that I can sort my spreadsheet to quickly see how my funnels are looking and so I know where I need to spend the most time to keep things moving forward.
4. Outreach and adjust
As I mentioned above, once you’ve defined your process and the funnel stages, you’ll want to start reaching out to quickly learn what’s missing.
This is the scariest part for most people as they’ll definitely get rejected, but it’s expected.
Back when I started Spheric Technologies, I actually spent a lot of my time cold calling companies. My rule was, “the first 3 calls were throwaways” as I just needed to get them done to get into the right state of mind to actually sell.
Don’t over think it, just reach out to the first 5 people and see how they respond. If they don’t, try something different with the next 5. Rinse and repeat until it starts to work and adjust your funnel stages accordingly if you need to add a step (ex: Get introduction).
5. Track your progress
The key to any process is to focus on it 100% until you accomplish your goal and to track and update the spreadsheet accordingly.
If you have a background in sales then this approach shouldn’t be new to you – it’s really just a sales funnel.
Updating your funnel and tracking progress is a great way to stay motivated and have a clear picture as to what the next action should be to get you closer to your goal.
6. Sprint across the close
Many times when you’re working through this process you get into a groove. Everything starts to click and it seems like everyone is at least open to the initiative.
What typically happens then is that you start slowing down on the “intensity” that you initially had as you get a false sense of completion based upon your research.
I can’t stress how important it is to continue the process and to sprint across the finish line with a large number of options.
I call this creating optionality.
Don’t get too excited with any one potential person. Continue running the process till you get the desired outcome. Don’t slow down. Sprint across the close.
Approaching every major initiative like a funnel – fundraising, business development, getting acquired, etc. – will almost always ensure a positive outcome. It will also increase your learning cycles as you’ll be dedicated to doing a few things many times over, better and better.
Business gets easier when you treat things like a funnel.