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Continuing with our language discipline, let’s distinguish between Suspects and Prospects. Why is this worthwhile? Once again, it's not merely semantic. Rather, it's because you can't evaluate the strength of your pipeline if you can't discern the relative significance of who's in it.

Suspect is someone who, based on objective criteria, would likely suffer from our demand-creating Door-Opener problem or issue.  

For example, say we’ve learned that almost all skilled technicians at nuclear power plants were trained in the nuclear warships of the U.S. Navy.  The Navy is shrinking, meaning there are fewer nuclear vessels on which technicians can become qualified nuclear technicians. This fleet shrinkage has been ongoing since 1991, so the supply of nuclear technicians has not only been declining, but is also aging.

A high percentage of Navy-trained nuclear technicians, now in their 50s and 60s, are contemplating retirement.  Nuclear power plants, having no ready supply of replacements, are trying to convince those of retirement age to stick around longer.

These workers are using their scarcity as leverage to try to mitigate some of their more restrictive workplace requirements, causing headaches for those plants’ Chief Engineers or Compliance Officers, who must rigidly enforce all nuclear-plant regulations or risk getting shut down.  

Given the scope and significance of this personnel problem, we might reasonably consider that virtually all nuclear power plant Chief Engineers or Compliance Officers have this problem. Any member of this group is reasonably a Suspect.  

Once an individual Chief Engineer or Compliance Officer speaks with us and acknowledges having this problem, we now have reasonable cause to believe we have a chance at making a sale, and he or she becomes a Prospect (as in “prospective client”).

If your pipeline is filled with Chief Engineers or Compliance Officers, you might conclude that you've got a robust pipeline full of sales opportunities.  Maybe so, but if they've not yet explicitly acknowledged that their specific plant has this problem, your pipeline might not be as healthy as it might appear.  

You don’t know yet. The key is "yet."  You have to speak with them to see if they're mainstream or outliers relative to this door-opening problem.

Mike O'Horo

If you've ever purchased or participated in any kind of business development training, you know that much of the training you're asked to devote time to feels like "just in case." You can't see any immediate application for it, so you put it in the "get around to it when I have extra time" column. (We both know when you'll have extra time.)

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