Looking at my diary for the last month, I find I have attended 10 networking events, 25 one-to-one meetings with people who may be variously as prospects, referrers or centres of influence, not to mention the client meetings.
In other words, the usual mix of sales pipeline and operational activity. And lots of it. Never been so busy. That's good, isn't it? Surely you can't meet too many people to talk business with? It's all a numbers game, so the bigger the numbers, the more successful you'll be. QED.
Well, yes, up to a point, but doesn't the Pareto Law also say that 20% of the effort expended delivers 80% of the results? And vice versa.
If true, 20% of the meetings I'm having will be ones that really matter, and the other four-fifths ... I might as well not bother. Well, now, even if maths isn't your long suit, you'll soon be thinking (as I was, when I crunched these numbers), doesn't that mean I could achieve everything I need to in just one day a week?
Ah, as Woody Allen once famously put it, if only life were that simple.
Nevertheless, it did put in place a train of thought which had me re-appraising my activity plan, and wondering whether, by trying to adopt a 'less is more' approach, I could in fact become much more effective at achieving my objectives.
I've read the "Four-Hour Working Week" and at my time of life approve wholeheartedly of its core objectives, but let's be honest, how realistic is it?
ARE YOU BEING A BUSY FOOL?
The trouble with the Pareto Law is that it doesn't tell you how to identify that critical 20% (or, by definition, the non-critical other 80%).
Put bluntly, which four days do you take off? And the answer, "Tuesday to Friday" might sound attractive, but is altogether too glib and unhelpful.
I've mentioned before a module I run with most of my clients based on a book called "The Inside Advantage" by advertising guru, Bob Bloom, ex-head of Publicis. The first quarter of the module is devoted to identifying "WHO" is the business's core customer/prospect - a short (10 - 15 word) profile of the people who generate the majority of the business's income.
You can have the best product or service in the known universe, and the most creative marketing communications on the planet, but if you're talking to the wrong people, you're wasting an awful lot of time and money. (B. Fawlty - special subject, the bleeding obvious).
Knowing who they are, though, doesn't necessarily mean you're getting your messages through to them. It's easy for me to say, "Owner/managers of businesses with at least a small payroll, who'd like to make that payroll (and their profits) bigger."
In big corporate Britain, it's relatively straightforward to identify the core decision makers in any given trade or discipline, and to use direct marketing techniques to get messages to them. I should know: I ran a marketing services agency for 12 years, dealing exclusively with blue-chip brand names.
The SME market, however, is much more diverse and difficult, because of the sheer numbers involved. Even if you narrow it down to a few market sectors , by geography and size, the numbers are still large (and the budgets small). Add in more subjective factors, such as, "Do they know they need help?" or "Are they prepared to accept advice and act on it even if they do?" and the task is ever more complex. It's much more like consumer marketing, but without the mass-market media (not that it would be affordable, even if it existed.)
According to the experts (you know the definition of an expert: someone who knows one more thing than you on any given subject), I should be able to identify the four or five out of the couple of dozen I've met in the last month who are the most potentially valuable to the business, and consign the rest to the dustbin of history.
Trouble is, with all sales activity, particularly that generated through networking, opportunities have a habit of arising out of leftfield from the least expected sources. Hot prospects wither on the vine, while major business appears out of the blue from no-chancers. All this after the event of an initial meeting.
So qualifying prospects is all very desirable, but it doesn't necessarily help you pre-qualify potentially valuable sales contacts and referrers at source. You still have to meet up and assess thereafter. So, it seems as if that 4-hour idea is still just a pipe-dream, and it's back to the good old 5- (6/7?) day week. Anyone know any different?
All this proves, if any evidence were needed, that no one has all the answers, and we all require different specialists to help our businesses grow, from time to time.
It helps to have a wide network of those specialists of course. And the willingness to ask for help - sometimes when we don't really believe we need it.