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Business Bracketology


I travel quite a bit for business, meeting with my private clients all over the country, participating in several mastermind groups and attending the top small business and entrepreneur events.

During my most recent trip to Scottsdale, Arizona for “InfusionCon” – the annual convention of Infusionsoft, a leading small business software automation company – I read 6 books plus about a dozen newspapers that were delivered to my hotel room.

That’s where I came across this bold statement from ESPN columnist Gene Wojciechowski, as quoted in last Tuesday’s USA Today: “The annual NCAA tournament…consumes an entire nation….Everybody fills out a bracket. It is one of the most American things to do.”

Well, I guess that makes me un-American. I’m sure I could guess about 10 of the teams in the tournament year after year, but I don’t remember the last time I watched a college basketball game – much less 16 of them in one day.

Or maybe I’m just the living embodiment of an entrepreneur, who, as my friend and former mentor Bill Glazer put it, is “the loneliest person on the planet.” What good would filling out a bracket do, if I have no “office pool” or any other group to share it with and compete?

Having built from scratch what became the largest Fantasy Sports Game company in the world back in the 1980’s, I do recall the gist of what the tournament was all about, however. And, even more important, I recall the concept behind filling out a bracket and entering a pool.

Here it is in a nutshell…

Everyone – from the most rabid college hoops aficionado to the complete non-fan who makes his or her picks based on school nicknames or how cool their mascots are – picks a winner for about 65 different games over about a three-week period. Points are awarded for correct picks – usually on an increasing basis as the games become more important.

For example, correct first-round picks might be good for 1 point each, while coming up with the right eventual championship team could earn the bracketeer something like 50 points.

So the bottom line is…

It’s fun to see how many games you can guess correctly, but to win the overall contest you need to pick the eventual winner – in other words, you need to Catch The Big Fish.

Two weeks ago, I talked about how to research your Big Fish and prepare for the first contact you’ll make with them.

This first contact is essential to your success. You need to instill confidence in them. They need to know you can fulfill exactly what you are offering on time, at a good price and at the level of quality you promise.

Today I’ll go through what I call “The Big Approach” – how to make that perfect first impression.

Before you put together your approach plan, you’ll need to choose which Big Fish you’re going after. First, review your notes and the research you’ve done about prospective Big Fish. Then decide which one will be the easiest approach to start with.

Here’s what you’ll need to go through to choose which Big Fish to start with:

  1. Position Your Business
  2. Compile Your Hit List
  3. Select the Best Target

I. Position Your Business

You need to position your business to make the first move by listing and putting together all of the following:

  • Your revenue streams
  • Your operational procedures
  • Where your Big Fish is initially positioned
  • Your big-customer research

II. Compile Your Hit List

Unless you have virtually unlimited resources, you’ll need to focus your efforts. Start with a list of all the companies you’ve been considering, then narrow it down to the ones who know could use your products or services. Don’t overlook obvious choices, whether they are big or small. Even small companies could become Big Fish for you in the future.

III. Select the Best Target

Once you’ve got your list narrowed down, you need to decide which one is the best fish to start with. You should consider a few key factors:

  • Which currently have the most purchasing resources to invest?
  • Does their company vision compliment yours?
  • What are their employee incentive programs as they relate to your products or services?
  • What’s the company’s real need for you?
  • Would this partnership lead you in the right direction towards your own future vision and goals, or take you off course?

Now that you have a target in mind to start with, it’s time to plan your approach and execute that plan.

Here’s a step-by-step plan to help you make a good first impression:

  1. Build and analyze your database. Divide your leads into three different categories: hot leads, great fits and secondary leads.
  2. Send out introductory mailings to your target to introduce yourself, your company, services, products and vision. They need to be short, clean and concise.
  3. Follow up with your first phone call two to three days after they would have received the mailings. During the phone, call find out the person you need to be speaking to in the future and try to set up a meeting with that right person to make a presentation.
  4. Follow up your phone call with another mailing that thanks them for taking the time to speak with you and offers more details about your products or services. If you don’t already have one lined up, use this opportunity to set up a meeting.
  5. Follow up this letter with another phone call a couple of days after they would have received it. This phone call will help you further develop your relationship with the prospective client. You should also be able to set up a presentation meeting with them.
  6. Call again a week later if they haven’t agreed to a meeting or presentation. Ask if they received your second letter, and if they have a minute when you can stop by and introduce yourself in person.

Now don’t be upset if you don’t seal the deal right away. Some people simply take a little longer to woo. This can all be a little intimidating at first, but when you know you are offering a quality product or service, you need to do everything you can to make sure it gets to people who can use it.

Once you’ve gone through this process and made first contact (and hopefully a good first impression), it’s time to put your best face forward. That means sending the right salesperson (or being the right salesperson yourself) to seal the deal.

That’s exactly what I’ll cover for you next week, as I continue to help you catch your own Big Fish.

So tell me…

Am I the only one who didn’t fill out a bracket for this year’s college basketball tournament? And do any of my loyal readers still have a chance to “catch the Big Fish” and win it all?

Let me know in a comment below, so at least I know what team I should root for.

And let me know if you’re on your way to catching your Big Fish in business, too.

2 Responses to Business Bracketology

  1. Phil Brakefield Reply

    April 3, 2013 at 7:15 am


    Let the word go out to all the universe that there are two of us who didn’t fill out a March Madness bracket. It can also be published that at least one of us couldn’t care less about March Madness…except as it relates to the opportunity to use it as a marketing mechanism that resonates with the discussion already going on in the mind of my customers.

    Regarding your tactical approach to going after the Big Fish, I assume your plan is based on approaching a potential client one has NO other resources to add to the quiver. Probably purely as a function of age (read: getting my butt kicked and becoming monumentally frustrated)), I long ago stopped trying to go after new business unless I could somehow find an existing relationship to leverage into the mix….be it a referral, or personal relationship with someone in the target company, or ????. Once many years ago, I even sent a glowing thank you/testimonial letter to the president of a targeted Big Fish company, and used his personal response note to me to crowbar my way to the buyer’s office some months later.

    In the not so distant past I remember there was a “game” going on that involved Kevin Bacon, the premise being that everyone could somehow establish connection with him within seven steps of common experience (most often because of having seen a movie he was in), and if the premise of the game is valid, it seems to me one could figure out SOME way to establish connection with the target client, which of course would enormously strengthen the formula in your blog.

    Thanks for another great blog post!

  2. Steve Sipress Reply

    April 3, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Great point, Phil.

    In this series, I’m teaching how to catch a Big Fish completely from scratch. There’s no doubt that having any kind of advantage getting onto the Big Fish’s radar will make one’s campaign that much easier and more effective.

    With that in mind, my lessons could be used to gain access to an influencer at one company, with the longer-term goal of leveraging that connection into landing a deal with a different Big Fish.

    From time to time, I teach specifically on how to connect to “Centers Of Influence” who can lead you to Big Fish. (Hint: You’re doing that yourself by establishing yourself as a regular commenter right here on my blog and helping me provide additional value to my followers, which is a major and ongoing goal of mine.)

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