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Want More Clients? Then You Need to Understand Your Opportunity Timeline

Jeff Sullivan
Dec 17, 2018 · 6 min read

SaaS or service, every startup wants the same thing:

More clients, more customers.

But while there is more information than you can ever read on getting clients, one that often escapes mention is the opportunity timeline.

The opportunity timeline is that little window of time when your leads are most likely to listen to your proposals.

This can be due to any number of reasons — maybe they’re evaluating their vendor relationships, maybe there is a new guy at the helm, or maybe a new industry development is forcing them to change.

If you’ve ever seen your cold emails and pitches bounce off inbox after inbox, there is a good chance your timing was wrong, not your pitch.

Startups, service businesses, agencies — anyone who’s working with clients needs to get this timing right to maximize their sales effectiveness.

How?

I’ll show you below.

The Opportunity Timeline Explained

Business needs are rarely linear. A new development in the industry, a key personnel change, a change in business direction — all of this impacts how and when a business needs new partners.

Imagine a business launching a new product with a splashy TV campaign. But its current agency partner has no prior TV experience.

If an agency with extensive TV success came knocking on their door at that moment, don’t you think they’d be more likely to listen?

The opportunity timeline is all about figuring out these changes in a business’ needs and acting on them.

This way, you don’t waste resources selling to businesses who don’t need you. Instead, you maximize your returns by focusing on that brief period when their requirements align with your capabilities.

The proverbial striking when the iron is hot, that is.

Source: Giphy

You can divide the changes that impact a business’ needs into four categories:

These will differ from business to business and industry to industry.

For instance, in the agency world that I know best, it is common for marketers to “carry” their agency with them. If a VP of marketing switches jobs, there is a good chance he’ll bring his old agency along with him.

Now the big question — what kind of changes should you keep an eye out for to take advantage of the opportunity timeline?

I have some answers in the next section.

6 Things to Watch Out For

If you’re going to make use of the opportunity timeline, these are the changes you should keep an eye out for:

1. There is a key personnel change

Look out for:

For #1, keep an eye out on industry blogs which often report key personnel changes.

For #2, keep an eye on your LinkedIn notifications. If you see people on your connections list moving to new roles, congratulate them, then reach out to let them know you’re around.

Your LinkedIn notifications can help you spot key personnel changes

2. They raised new funding

A big round of funding means that there is going to be a shift in the business’ focus. They might need new resources to grow faster.

Use sites like FinSMES, Crunchbase, etc. to spot these new funding rounds.

Keep an eye out on Crunchbase to see who’s getting funded or acquired

3. There is a new product launch

A new product launch can be a massive opportunity, especially if the product is in an area the business’ current vendors don’t have prior experience in.

Spotting these opportunities, however, can be difficult. Product launches are usually planned years in advance at larger companies. By the time news of the product makes it to the press, they’ll likely have vendors in place.

You can, however, estimate new product launches by:

4. There is a merger/acquisition

Mergers/acquisitions are periods of massive change. Old relationships are tossed out and new partnerships forged.

Look for businesses in your industry that recently acquired or merged with another. Once again, you’ll have to monitor industry-specific news sources to spot these opportunities.

Reach out to decision makers at both the acquired and acquiring companies and start a conversation.

5. There is a new industry development or regulation

A new regulation or development can have a big impact on existing vendor relationships.

In the SEO industry, for instance, I watched thousands of businesses switch SEO agencies when the Panda/Penguin updates rolled out.

Recently, GDPR regulations forced a lot of companies in my industry to re-evaluate their vendors.

Keep an eye out on industry news for any regulations or developments in the pipeline. Any time there is a big new change, there will also be new opportunities for forging new relationships.

6. There is a new industry trend

Businesses can rarely resist latching onto a big new trend, especially if all their peers are following along.

AI, VR, Blockchain, social media marketing — any change in the status quo is also an opportunity to pitch your services.

If social media is the hot new trend (as it was about 5 years ago) and you see a business clearly underperforming on it, it might be wise to reach out and offer your aid.

If everyone in the industry is jumping on the AI bandwagon, you might want to step in and pitch your services to the slow adopters.

Source: Giphy

Keep an eye out on new industry trends. FoMO applies to businesses as much as it does to consumers.

The opportunity timeline helps you maximize your sales efforts. Instead of chasing businesses that don’t need you, you focus on that tiny portion of leads that are actively looking for new partners.

Look out for changes in your target industry. A change in personnel, funding availability, industry trends, or new regulations can impact the business’ needs.

Swing in with a good pitch and you’ll find that businesses in need are more than happy to listen.

For a more detailed version of this post, check out my recent article on the kind of businesses you should target in 2019.

***

I write mainly about startups, marketing, business development, leadership, and culture. Follow me to read more.

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