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Three Questions to Evaluate New Business Opportunities

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Elements of this image licensed from veer.com
Elements of this image licensed from veer.com

 
Over the holiday weekend, my wife and I were planning an outing with our children. As is often the case, my first question was "What's the weather forecast?"  After doing some checking, it turns out that the combination of uncertain weather forecasts and traffic from special events helped us decide which option was most likely to produce a great outcome for the family.  This same lesson holds true for business opportunities.

Check the Forecast
Just because you want to visit a great destination, does not mean that the weather and other factors will cooperate.

Years ago (exactly sixteen years in fact) on our honeymoon, my wife and I were in Hawaii. There was a tour that departed at 3:40 a.m. and took a ride to the top of a volcano to watch the sunrise.  Quite a romantic activity. The day prior, we checked the weather forecast. They gave a ninety percent chance of low clouds and overcast skies. We opted to not take the trip. We slept in, and were happily lounging at the pool when a group returned from the volcano trip. They were all aggravated that they woke so early only to be stuck in the clouds with no view.

The same holds true for business. Just because the potential client seems like they would be a great customer for you, does not mean that the conditions are right for you to pursue or win the business. They might be thrilled with their current vendor, they might have "bigger fish to fry" at this time, or they might not see why they need what you are selling.

Make Sure the Conditions Are Right How do you know if your client is ready and willing to consider a change or investment? Here are three questions to help you evaluate conditions and determine if your deal is real:
  1. "What happens if you don't solve the client's issue?" Both you and your potential client need to understand what happens if they do not go with your solution. They might determine it's not a big deal, or might conclude it is really important. Either way, you simply want to uncover the truth.
  2. If they have an existing vendor, ask them "On a scale of 1-10 how do you feel about the current vendor?" If they LOVE their current vendor, that is good to know. If they are not thrilled with them, also valuable information. Once again, we just want to get to the truth.
  3. "When is the absolute latest you need to have a solution, and why?" Getting a date is one thing, but the follow up question is the real power. When they tell you WHY that date is important, that often uncovers whether the solution is a "nice to have" or a "gotta have."
Be an active listener. If the client does not seem to have a sense of urgency to solve their issue, then the forecast might be pretty bleak. If the only person who cares about the solution is the person selling it, then you better bring enough money to pay for the solution yourself.

It's easy to be optimistic about a trip or business opportunity. Ninety percent chance of rain also means a 10 percent chance of a dry day. But, you are better pursuing opportunities when the odds are in your favor. If the forecast looks ominous, then you might be better off pursuing another opportunity.

It's Your Turn
What story do you have where you chased an opportunity into the eye of the storm?