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Personal Strategy Design

*Note: This is a written summary of my presentation from the 2015 Young Entrepreneurs Conference at the University of Toronto

Business and life are not mutually exclusive.

If you’re an asshole in business there’s a high probability you’ll be an asshole in life as well.

Regardless of what career or life path you’re on, there are underlying values and principles that will guide your decisions along this journey. Here are 3 fundamental examples along with some tools, that have had a profound impact on me personally.

1. Know your strategy

Think quickly, what is strategy? Go….

To me, strategy is the unique position will we be able to achieve. I continuously ask myself, what is my advantage at the end of the day, as I take incremental steps forward.

It’s important to note that the steps we take are not the strategy – That’s reserved for planning, tactics and execution.

For example, Michael Porter’s generic strategies include cost leadership, differentiation and focus.

Once you define your strategy, you need to put together a viable, desirable and feasible business model. As in business, your personal business model is a group of interdependent elements that come together to form the story of who you are.

2. Balance deliberate and emergent strategy

Your deliberate strategy is planned, while emergent strategy is serendipitous and focused on learning.

During the 1950’s, Japanese auto manufacturer Honda was looking to break into the American motorcycle market to compete on large highway motorcycles with the likes of Harley Davidson.

However their bikes could not compete on performance and Honda struggled to say alive as a business.

One day, one of Honda’s Japanese employees, who had brought a Super Cub over to America with them, took the smaller, unknown bike for a ride out of frustration around the Los Angeles hills.

What happened is that hikers in the hills saw the bike and wanted to know where they could get one. At half the price of bikes that were on the market, these appealed to an entirely new customer segment which came to be known as “off-road bikers” and proved to be very successful for Honda.

The point here is this: Life won’t follow your five-year plan. We all need a deliberate strategy, however we also need to be flexible and be opportunistic in order to capitalize on potential emergent strategies.

3. Resource allocation

Your strategy is not what you say it is.

Everyone has a finite set of resources, such as time, money and energy. To be sure your real strategy is what you want it to be, watch where you allocate these resources.

If your strategy is to put your family first, but you spend all your time, energy and money on work, then your actual strategy is work.

In 1990 when Steve Jobs was forced out of Apple, there was a disconnect between what Apple managers thought people wanted vs. what the market actually wanted. They were putting resources into the wrong things.

When Jobs returned in 1997, his immediate mandate was to fix the underlying resource allocation problem. This meant getting rid of anything not aligned with the strategy of creating the best products in the world.

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” – Henry David Thoreau

In conclusion, don’t be afraid to get out there and try new stuff, experience new things and search for that intersection of where passion, opportunity and talent intersect.

The Power of Platforms

Platforms lift you up.

Over the past year, I’ve become fascinated with platforms as a business model. This concept was first introduced to me by Michael Lachapelle, who then pointed my attention towards the work of Sangeet Paul Choudary.

In Sangeet’s ebook Platform Power, he describes a platform business model as a way to:

“Enable creation and exchange of value between users, with the firm (startup) acting as an infrastructure enabling users to interact”

The first of 2 platform models I want to unpack is the Value Platform Model from Sangeet Paul Choudary.


ValuePlatformModelWithin this model, the total value of your platform should be directly correlated to the interactions that happen on top of the platform.

PLATFORM: Your platform should always start by solving a core problem for your customer. From there you can start building features that help your user solve those core problems.

VALUE: The Value Box above is not the technology or customer growth, but rather the network effects you are able to generate.

EXAMPLE: If we look at Airbnb, to apply this model successfully, every feature that is built should be built around the center, which is to optimize listings. If executed correctly, the theoretical outcome is that the closer each new feature is aligned with the “center” the more intuitive the user experience.

To conclude, the potential network effects generated on top of the platform are therefore enabled by the units, which are the centers, that are created on the platform.



Credit for this visual model goes to Michael Lachapelle while the theory belongs to Sangeet Paul Choudary

PLATFORM, PRODUCER, CONSUMER: The core tenants of this model include the platform, producer and consumer. The platform’s currency is the interactions, the producer is the value creator and the consumer is the value user.

SEED: The seed is the minimum amount of content or information needed in order to start an interaction.

MAGNETS: These are the incentives to the participants.

TOOLBOX: Helps showcase the producer’s value while allowing the consumer to find the value they are looking for.

MATCHMAKING: This involves the data management to build more trust over time.

In summary, you want to ensure 3 elements are working together:

  1. Get the producer and consumer roles on board
  2. Provide them the tools to interact
  3. Use data to match the roles

When it comes time to thinking about monetization there are 4 high level paths to consider:

[1] Freemium – Pay for better tools, or higher value (i.e LinkedIn)

[2] Access – Pay for access to the other side of the platform (i.e Dating Sites)

[3] Transaction – Taking a % fee of transactions (i.e Airbnb)

[4] Advertising – Fee to access platform user (i.e Facebook)

BONUS: E-commerce – Selling goods directly to the end user (i.e Amazon)


When it comes to defining your Unique Value Proposition and establishing a competitive advantage in today’s digital landscape, it’s no longer sustainable to just “build a better mousetrap.” Instead of trying to compete on product features and functionality, consider how you can connect what you’re building with others to co-create value. Enabling others to create value along side you, might just be the the framework you need, to help your business grow in the networked world we live in today.


Why Your Next RFP Won’t Work

Also published in….

For many of us working in projects daily, life without request for proposals (RFPs) can be practically unfathomable. Although it would certainly be simpler, it would also remove what appears to be a crucial process in evaluating suppliers for projects.

As Adweek highlights, a study of brand executives found that 42 percent of respondents found the current agency search process to be time consuming, and 28 percent saying “you’re told so many things that you’re not sure what to believe.”

Let’s start with the reason why the RFP still exists – its main benefits and strengths.


The project process can be scary. It starts off with a vision, but the overwhelming possibilities and unseen obstacles cast fog on which solutions are most appropriate for you. This is where suppliers come in.

As you have to search for companies to bid on your project, you’ll naturally conduct much more research and set up criteria to evaluate each bid with. You’ll start to look into how each of them stack up against the others, and you will select according to the one that fits in best with your priorities and constraints. The information you acquire helps you decrease the risk a little bit.

RFPs practically force you to take such a detailed approach to evaluating potential collaborators. It helps you transform the previously murky and vague endeavor (set up a website) into a much more detailed set of objectives, needs, and deliverables.

Ideally, the meritocracy that RFPs appear to facilitate also leads to a more objective and transparent selection of suppliers. The development of criteria appears much more fair to participants.

Proposals also come with a perk: free information. Whether it’s potential feature sets and solutions, or just pricing information, suppliers share information with you that may have required external consultation or more company time. But exactly how accurate is this information?


Years ago, Google took its data from tens of thousands of job interviews to determine if interview scores correlated with job performance.

Google’s SVP of People Operations summarizes in an interview with The New York Times:

“It’s a complete random mess, except for one guy who was highly predictive because he only interviewed people for a very specialized area, where he happened to be the world’s leading expert.”

Most RFPs, as with most interviews, are hardly precise indicators for supplier performance. In fact, the time project teams spent on RFPs could have been spent actually getting to know potential suppliers more intimately. Digiday highlights some of the inefficiencies in RFPs in the media market.

shutterstock 135160319 730x276 Why your next request for proposal wont work

One of the RFPs strengths also become its greatest weakness: the goal of RFPs is to put every firm on an even level and compare them along the same metrics. They help you compare apples to apples.

But because RFPs benchmark each supplier next to the other, they commoditize the process. They overlook the creative solutions or potential innovation value that firms could have, which may be the fruit the project team had really wanted to sink their teeth into.

Because of the RFPs defensibility, it also acts as a layer that shrouds the true sticking point. While this project may be botched, if a company could figure out what went wrong then they could learn and remove that sticking point next time.

Unfortunately, the complexity the RFP introduces – while great for individual teams and project leads – also means that each party could shift responsibility to the others, such as procurement teams or subcontractors.

You don’t have to look farther than the relaunch of the Affordable Care Act website to understand the downfalls of the RFP. Not only did it disqualify smaller teams (including Obama’s very own – successful – technology team that helped him win the election), it also introduced a process so complex that the project went wrong at multiple points.

The President of Development Seed, the subcontractors who worked on the product, said in an interview with Slate: “The problem here is nobody knows what happened, and that’s not acceptable.”

The RFP process restricts your selection of suppliers to only those large enough that can hire proposal writers. That means a smaller, innovative shop would automatically be disqualified, despite its potential fit for your project.

The costs that are written into an RFP are not necessarily precise (to say the least). As you can imagine, many companies are spread thin – and likely are dedicating more resources to their current clients than to potential ones. As the information in the RFP is not earning them any money, they’re not going to dedicate too many resources to it.

That means the information provided isn’t necessarily of value and is based on guesswork and an extremely brief analysis into your industry, challenges, and company. The questionable validity of this information also jeopardizes the valuable objectivity that RFPs bring to the table.

Within the RFP, there are also politics and an informally acknowledged inside track (when certain suppliers are more likely to get the job than others through prior connections). As you can imagine, this also removes from the objectivity that is supposed to be an RFPs major strength.


The inertia of the RFP process naturally allows it to stay significant and relevant longer than it should have.

For example, the RFP has forced companies to invest resources into positions such as “Search consultants” (headhunters for vendors) and procurement departments (costcutters that often fail to consider project value). While the people in these roles certainly provide some value, their existence and the sales and marketing resources dedicated to spreading these messages exaggerate the need for the RFPs.


Instead of looking for free information through a proposal, offer these suppliers a brief paid engagement to do an in-depth exploration of the project. Much like how it’s not wise to rush the doctor’s diagnose and hurry on with the prescription, it’s also important to dedicate resources and time for experts to evaluate your challenges and your project.

While slightly more costly, these “discovery” engagements allow suppliers to really hone in on your problem and provide you with a detailed analysis. More importantly, you can slowly see whether the company’s communication, reliability, and expertise live up to your expectations or not.

You can gain more valid information on your end. While this is a bit of an investment up front, it will save you tens of thousands in the future.


checklist 730x280 Why your next request for proposal wont work

The main advantage of the discovery is in its effectiveness: by taking a little more time to get a better idea of the target, the end result is achieved more effectively and efficiently.

Typically, any one hour invested in discovery saves around two on the rollout or end of project. Similar to how a pair programming process saves overall time by producing 15 percent fewer bugs, discoveries appear to cost more time initially but allow the supplier to save time on fixing mistakes in the long-run. According to IAG Consulting’s Business Analysis Benchmark Study, a discovery process reduces time overruns by 87 percent and budget overruns by almost 75 percent.

There are various methods to approaching the discovery process. Ours is based on the world-class MoSCoW rating system, where suppliers elicit your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and scope a suggestion accordingly. Together, we prioritize goals and objectives according to this framework:

M is for Must Have

  • Mission critical
  • Necessary to be included in project delivery and scope

S is for Should Have

  • While not critical, these requirements are very important
  • Likely included wherever constraints allow

C is for Could Have

  • Less critical
  • Nice to haves
  • Lowest return on investment

W is for Won’t Have

  • Least critical
  • Not planned for current project but might be considered for a later phase

This method has proven to be 85 percent to 90 percent effective in controlling projects.


Think twice before using RFPs for your next project. You can free yourself from the RFP’s lack of correlation with supplier performance, the bureaucracy and inefficiency introduced, and the disqualification of innovative, smaller suppliers that don’t have the resources to respond to RFPs.

Instead, try a discovery engagement on a smaller project with certain suppliers – just to see how it goes. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised.

*Originally Published as a Climax Media Blue Paper

Stage Blood Is Not Enough

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 5.14.56 PMGuest post by Mark Nichols. Mark has been running MetaLab’s consulting division since 2011, leading a team that has worked with the likes of Apple, Google, Walmart, and Disney. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Can a consultancy support a sales team? 

About a year ago at MetaLab, everything was growing quickly. We’d just landed four massive projects, and had hired a dream team to execute on the creative side. After some discussion, we decided that business development needed to grow right alongside the rest of the consultancy. After all, a bigger design and development staff meant that more work needed to flow in, so the math seemed obvious. We went out, and we found a couple of tremendously talented people to start beefing up the sales team.

It was mere months later that we realized we’d never really asked ourselves why our sales process had been so trustworthy and — most importantly—successful. For years, we had been getting the big projects that we wanted, and the company was growing steadily. At this particular point in time, we were addicted to explosive growth.

The funny thing is, we’d already found the sales process that worked for us. We just hadn’t realized it yet.


For as long as we’d been around, we’d had trust in our sales process. We couldn’t say why. Sales was always done as anti-sales—no scripts, no stuffy meetings, always retaining the ability to walk away. Never aggressively pursuing sales, because the next great lead always seemed to be right around the corner. People were either talking to me or Andrew right off the bat, and we knew exactly which type of client we wanted to work with.

When we turned our focus to growing the sales team, we took inspiration from successful SaaS business models. The first thing we did was hire excellent salespeople. They were great: intelligent, motivated, fans of the company. You know, though, SaaS makes extensible sales look easy—and it is: if revenues keep up, SaaS sales can be expanded infinitely while following a simple onboarding process—since they present a particular value proposition, a clear pricing model, and copy that clearly communicates the what and the why. All that’s left for the SaaS salesperson to do is the perfunctory answering of a few lingering questions and a gentle neck massage.

By moving these sales principles into our consultancy, we were trying to put a round peg in a square hole. And we weren’t giving ourselves enough credit.

Before we started experimenting, sales always worked well for us because of our intuitive understanding of what we were selling.We weren’t selling a product, we weren’t selling a subscription. We were selling MetaLab: our origin stories, our rationales, our experiences, and the scars to prove that we’d been there and slogged through it all. Good clients—the ones that you should be working with exclusively—don’t care about a sales pitch. If you’re a consultancy, they want to buy into you and your company, not your ‘product’.

What you’re really selling is the path to the final product, and using your experience to assure them that this isn’t your first rodeo. And it’s only those people on your team who have walked through the fire that can sell this with compassion, interest, and the ability to execute. It’s that simple.

Your consultancy’s salesforce cannot be comprised of people who got a crash course in why your company is great and successful: it needs to be people who understand this intuitively. A line from “Kyoko’s House” by Yukio Mishima comes to mind: “Stage blood is not enough.”

Realizing this, it began to dawn on me that in many ways, we were dooming our new and talented sales team by ignoring the successful and gratifying sales process of earlier times. Within months, both of these salespeople ended up leaving the company, and when this happened, we decided not to experiment further with business development expansion. Looking at it one way, we were denying ourselves an opportunity for limitless revenues; looking at it another way, we were diluting our services by offering them up to people as nothing more than a product detached from our passion, expertise, and experience.

Our business development team did great work and even landed large projects. So yes, we were getting work, but we couldn’t shake the feeling that we were getting it the wrong way. Now we’re back to where we started, and what we’ve lost in potential revenue we are gaining in quality work, and quality work comes from selling that doesn’t require a pitch. Things never felt as right as they did when Brandon, Jason, Andrew, and I were driving sales.

So here is the lesson, as I’ve extracted it from our story: leave the selling to the people who know your consultancy best, even if it feels like a lateral move. In our case, that’s our department head, our founder, and our directors—the senior people whose once fresh faces are now ravaged by MetaLab battle scars. Nothing contributes to buying resistance from clients more than the feeling that you won’t be able to guide their project through the hard times: the brick walls, the tense meetings, the endless revisions, the uncertainties. Everything else is just sales.

*Originally published on Medium

Business Development Partnerships

There are essentially 3 ways to make more money:

  1. More New Customers
  2. More Business from Existing Customers
  3. Charge More Money

Pete Forde reminded me of this business truth recently, which made me reassess the fundamental importance of strategic partnerships, across all 3 of these growth trajectories. The defined responsibilities of business development vs. sales can be contentious at times, however what seems to be arguably the universal core value of business development consists of leveraging assets, existing or distressed, to help drive business growth.

If we put on our growth glasses and look through the lens of this 3-point framework above, we can see how key account management and strategic executive direction has the ability to influence points 2 and 3 respectively. However, what I’d like to zoom in on for the rest of this post is the first point, in order to discuss how we can start to acquire more new customers by leveraging external 3rd party assets in the form of strategic alliances.


Back in 2009, Marketo created a fantastic study, which outlines their lead to opportunity conversion rates over a 12-month time period.

PRO TIP:  A large percentage (64.5% in Marketo’s case) of new business lead sources will be generated through word of mouth or inbound sources. This is great, however the challenge with these lead sources is that you cannot always accurately identify what caused the prospect to seek you out in the first place. Other lead sources are much better at identifying the direct lead source, such as Partner and Employee Referral.

When trying to determine what business development lead generation activities are worthy of your time and energy, you may want to consider this mix, which I’ve borrowed from my friend and fellow business development consultant, Ted Mercer.


You’ll notice that this biz dev mix is fairly representative of Marketo’s study. Within each of these 5 strategies is their own unique funnel or radar, tactics, tools and metrics. Let’s place partnerships under the microscope and take a look at how you can start leveraging these assets to help you generate measurable new business activity.


Over the past few years we have witnessed the decoupling of the Agency Of Record (AOR) relationship within the client-agency marketing landscape. Similarly in web technology, we are witnessing the unbundling of the social network, with specialists becoming more predominant.

Don’t believe me?  Take a look at Facebook, who are the perfect case study of an unbundled social network service. Specialists in photos (Instagram), instant messaging (WhatsApp) and disposable web (SnapChat) services have been massively successful at achieving critical mass land grab with their narrowly defined expertise, resulting in a global mobile user base that is keeping Facebook at the edge of their seat.

What we’re witnessing is that the most successful digital product companies or digital agencies today, all have one thing in common.

They do one thing and do it better than anyone else.

Along with the digital products/services above, you can also take note of these globally respected digital service firms, who all have defined specialties including:

There’s been much documented about the benefits of specialization, however what seems to be overlooked is the economic benefits of comparative advantage for these specialist firms. Discovering and building partnerships with firms who are more efficient from a value and cost perspective, can be extremely beneficial for achieving a more holistic customer acquisition game plan.


The czar of strategic alliances, Peter Simoons, has a definition of strategic alliances, which is one of the best out there:

“A strategic alliance is a strategic cooperation between two or more organizations, with the aim to achieve a result one of the parties cannot (easily) achieve alone.”

When deciding to pursue partnerships, there are many types of strategic partnerships or alliances that you can establish. Peter has created the strategic alliance spectrum that allows you to visualize the types of partnerships based on the amount collaboration and complexity involved. The breakdown of each can be found in his post The Alliance Spectrum, or by downloading his e-book on Successful Partnerships & Strategic Alliances.

Strategic Alliance Spectrum

Aside from the degree of complexity and collaboration, firms should also take into consideration the motivation for both parties involved.  Questions you might want to ask yourself include:

  • Are we looking to optimize and reach economies of scale?
  • How will we reduce risk and uncertainty?
  • Should we focus on acquisition of resources or key activities?

If you’re interested in digging into some examples of partnerships, a few of personal favorites include Nike integrating Apple into a line of running shoes and Nespresso teaming up with coffee machine manufactures to create an entirely new “single portion espresso” industry.

We’ve entered an era where the most powerful business models no longer live in isolation. Being able to understand business model network effects and connecting these different models is mission critical to making your partnerships sustainable and successful.

Business Development Growth Flywheel

What’s the DNA of a growth strategy?

When Jeff Bezos first started Amazon he drew what’s now known as Amazon’s Growth Flywheel on a napkin.

Amazon Growth FlywheelSimilar to how nature has patterns that repeat or reproduce, businesses do as well. Whether firms realize it or not, these underlying forces have the ability to create momentum that can either drive success or failure.


Customer Experience (CX) is at the core of Amazon’s flywheel. They believe that if they provide remarkable CX, the result will be an increase in traffic to their website. Creating CX should be the main driver of growth for any business, regardless of whether you operate on or offline. The question then becomes, what IS customer experience? Forrester’s definition is probably one of the best:

“How customers perceive their interactions with your company.”

At the heart of this definition is providing something useful and interactive for your customers or potential customers. Where this leaves many firms is creating content (text, image, video etc), with an emphasis placed on digital content. The oversight is thinking that if you create it they will come. That is, the content companies create will be discovered and consumed by their target audience. In this, lies the great challenge.


Every business is in the transportation business. If you’re creating content you need to distribute that content.

As with traditional transportation, which consists of moving goods from one location to another and is essential for the development of civilization; the content you create is essential for the development of new business. Everybody knows, content creation has crushed cold calling.

Most companies understand and are creating digital content for a target audience, however at the same time, seem to struggle with the appropriate channels necessary to get it in front of their audience.

Before you go out and start leveraging different channels to generate traffic, you need to take into consideration 2 fundamentally important sales metrics.

1. CAC: Customer Acquisition Cost, in it’s simplest terms, is all the money you spend on marketing and sales to acquire a customer.

2. LTV: Life Time Value, is both the tangible and intangible value you receive from your customer.

Which then leads us to the equation that will ultimately determine your success for sustainable biz dev growth:


Explained in words: The value you receive from the customer should be greater than what you paid to acquire them. One way to improve this equation is by lowering your CAC. There are many different ways to accomplish this task such as focusing on inbound marketing, strategic partnerships, customer satisfaction, etc. The one aspect I would like to focus on here, to help reduce your CAC, is a leveraging earned online channels.


Your social channels can only do so much.

Syndicating your content across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, G+, etc are effective, however, that’s not enough. What you need to start considering is both your pull and push strategies to set you up for distribution and traffic success.

Pull strategies will seduce your customer to come to you while push strategies force them to come to you. Both are important in channel distribution. However, since pushing is often associated with interrupting your consumer and cost money (raising your CAC), I prefer focusing on pull strategies.

Your Homework: I’ve done the dirty work for you here, by providing a VERY HIGH LEVEL checklist of pull strategy examples and resources that you MUST start using today to help you generate new business activity. I’m sure there’s many good ones that are not included so please add any I’ve omitted in the comments below.


STEP 1: Print this post out

STEP 2: Sit down with your team responsible for customer acquisition (Sales, Marketing, PR, etc)

STEP 3: Check off which activities you’re actively participating in

STEP 4: Gather any data or metrics you have around these activities

STEP 5: Highlight which activities you should start focusing on

STEP 6: Make a list of companies you respect and look at the activities they focus on

STEP 7: Report back on your results in either the comments below or send me a tweet

Best of luck!


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Hashtag Holiday Card

Don’t worry, this isn’t another typical holiday card. With 2014 in sight, I thought I would share a few experiences that have had an impact on me personally over the past year along with my best guesses into the future as it relates to business development growth and innovation. In no particular order, here we go:


Still waiting for someone to crack the code on business card innovation. I haven’t used them all year and don’t plan to start. Over the past couple of years location based discovery mobile applications such as highlight have helped us learn and capture basic contact information about new people near by. While Here On Biz provides a similar experience focused on business professionals. As we move into the new year, my hope is that LinkedIn will integrate one of these platforms or build something similar into their service.


The business model canvas and value proposition canvas have been paramount in helping to build my consulting practice over the past year. Alex Osterwalder and his team are modern day pioneers in strategic business tool design. They continue to transform strategy and innovation to become more of a profession like a doctor, accountant or architect. One of the ways they are tackling this vision is with Strategyzer, an online business model toolbox, built by an inspiring team right here in Toronto led by Alan and Dave. Going into 2014, keep your eye out for Alex’s new value proposition design book set to launch early in the year.


I’m a big fan of what’s happening to the education system and my good pals at eProf are tearing this up. The online focus is now moving away from the student towards the rise of the edu-preneur and edu-commerce. I’ve got my eye on Evan, Trevor and the eProf team in 2014 to make some big noise in this space.

If you haven’t jumped on the Coursera bandwagon yet, then you’re missing out. Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of taking a several complimentary courses including Model Thinking (thanks Blair) and Competitive Strategy from the University of Michigan and LMU respectively.


In order to know where you’re going in 2014 you have to know where you’ve come from.  As we look forward, we can’t forget the past.

2013 has been filled with many highs, low points and necessary sacrifices. I’m thankful for so many people and experiences that it would be irresponsible to waste your time and list them all. Here are just a few:

I’m thankful for…

…Daniel Goleman teaching me about the importance of Emotional Intelligence

…my generous mentors, advisors and clients for their trust, and more importantly continuing to sacrifice their time and patience

…my soon to be wife, Natalie for always believing in me, even when I didn’t


Happy holiday – @coreyeastman

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Sales Radar vs. Sales Funnel

Suffering from funnel vision? You know, the linear path of awareness, interest and intent that your prospect is expected to follow in order to make a purchase?

Marketing and sales have both developed strategies around this model which was certainly more effective in a world of information asymmetry. Where sellers had more information than buyers and could systematically control the customer journey. This is no longer true in the digital landscape we live in today.

Over the past year, I’ve been struggling to find a visual model to represent how this buying path plays out in a sales and BD context today. A way where you can monitor, manage and measure how a cold lead turns into an opportunity. The Sales Radar, a tool developed by Tom Martin is a great start.



Sales and marketing have always considered a “mix” effective, however in the past, the data to support your outcome was more covert. Traditionally you would buy awareness and trust that the eyeball count was accurate and equally engaged. Today you can create owned or earned awareness through content and use analytic tools as basic as Google Analytics or as advanced (or creepy) as Genius to measure your results, in real time. When used holistically and accurately assessed, these vanity metrics are a great jumping off point to begin a sales process.

The benefit of the Sales Radar is that it allows you to focus your time on prospects that are most engaged with your firm. By identifying trigger points in your lead source mix, you now position yourself nicely to design dynamic experiences that create meaningful outcomes for both your firm and the prospect.

I’ve been using a slightly modified version with my clients based on their uniquely positioned new business lead sources. If you’re interested in learning how to implement a similar version of this tool or are in the process of working on a similar strategy in your organization, please send me a tweet or drop me a quick note. Would love to hear your thoughts and I’d also be happy to personally share some stories.

The Anatomy Of A Sales Pitch

Allow me to cut this open on a very macro level. Over the past year, I’ve been involved in many new business deals. Both for my own consultancy and also riding along side new business deals with my clients Business Development Directors and their Executive team. Here’s a quick synopsis of what I’ve seen fail and what I’ve seen work during the pursuit of new business opportunities.

When firms pitch for new business or look to “move” their prospects towards making a purchase, the typical sales pitch tends to follow a linear path as shown below:


One reason for this is because people don’t invest in businesses they invest in stories about businesses. The challenge with this sequential pattern of mini stories, beside the fact that business development is not linear, is that the expected outcome is premature at the 20-minute deck stage. Before I tell you why, here’s some more background.

Linear Pitch Flow:

High Concept Pitch

This is usually a one-sentence or one-word introduction. It describes the company’s vision in a single work or phrase. The HCP is the beginning of the conversation, not the end. It’s meant to capture some attention in order to tell the rest of your story.


YouTube = Flickr for Video

Elevator Pitch

David Cowan from Bessemer (investors in Skype) has a great quote: “The elevator pitch forms everyone’s first impression of your venture. It needn’t be a single sentence, but the delivery ought to be measured in seconds, not minutes — like any good TV or radio commercial.”

The elevator pitch (again on a macro level) usually follows a Why, How, What in very Sinek-ian fashion.

Example:  Apple

Why:  Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently

How: The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly

What: We just happen to make good computers, want to buy one?

20-Minute Deck

This is essentially a presentation that provides more details about your business.


Reid Hoffman recently posted LinkedIn’s Series B Pitch Deck to Greylock. For more, check out Pitchenvy for a database of real life startup pitch decks.



The problem I’ve seen is that most clients expect to see a final outcome after they have systematically guided the prospect through this path. Proposals are sent over, briefs are completed, or evaluation plans are presented. Even if you have managed to get a group of stakeholders into a boardroom for a 20-minute deck presentation (congratulations by the way, this is no small feat to overlook), you still haven’t managed to “move” your prospects towards buying something they need. You’re merely exchanging a generalized idealistic vision for a premature outcome.

The real sales process begins after you’ve built up a sufficient level of credibility and value. This now allows you to engage in a candid, collaborative, strategic conversation necessary to help solve your prospects deep symptom level problems. I’m not saying you need to give your thinking away for free, what I’m talking about is helping to bring higher value insights to your prospects explicit needs, based on your expertise in solving similar problems.

This takes collaboration from a large number of players. Not only players from the prospects team but also players from your team, to validate that you have the right team to deliver on your vision.

Side Thought: This is hard work for one solo BD hustler.

Here’s how it looks

salespitchanatomyThe goal of this “moving” phase is for both parties to make the necessary concessions through win/win negotiations in order to achieve a viable, desirable, feasible and sustainable solution for everyone. This will most likely take up a large percentage of your time during the sales cycle. So understanding how to navigate this landscape will be essential to increasing your new business opportunity to win ratio.

Business Development Is Not Sales

What’s the difference between sales and business development?

Andrew Dumont does an amazing job breaking down these roles and also deconstructs this misconception in a visual that I really like.

This is a great start, however when it comes to biz dev, what I’ve often seen is that the fundamentals of this role comes down to doing 2 things:

  1. Getting someone to give up something
  2. Getting someone to get something new

I would argue that today, most prospects or partners already have a version of what you are trying to sell them. So getting someone to give up something, in exchange for what you’re offering may be a more common scenario in today’s economic landscape.

So how can you get someone to give up something they already have and start using what you’re offering? You need to move them. Not sell. These are slightly different traits that may exist in sales but will most likely be more predominant, or effective in biz dev. Check out the expanded diagram below for more.

We’re currently moving away from a world where information asymmetry was king and moving towards a new paradigm called information parity. The result is a level playing field where persuading, convincing and influencing takes precedence over selling. We still have a need for sales, which are products/services people are sold that typically follow a flow of dials, demos and dollars.

However since buyers now come to the table more informed than ever before, we need to create products/services for people to buy, which is more of a marketing exercise that includes content, connecting and communication

On the moving scale we have “Super Movers” and “Movers” which represent the different skills or styles associated with these movers.

If you’re interested in learning more, Daniel Pink has conducted a study with 9057 respondents world-wide called, “What Do You Do At Work” which helps illustrate the importance moving along with new rules that govern caveat venditor.

In the meantime, if you’re a biz dev hustler today, I’m curious to know:  How are you moving your prospects?