Create your own continuous stream of opportunities with this simple tool
Create an "opportunity spreadsheet": it's a client book, success journal and strategy tool all wrapped in one. Here is how it will boost your productivity and help you get better clients consistently
What is "Take Five Minutes"?
In this series I encourage you to take just five minutes out of your busy day to set yourself up for bigger, better success.
People wonder how they can make their dreams come true: very often, it's a matter of working out a way of making a small dent in a big ambition, putting the right systems in place, and making sure that it's easy for these systems to work.
I will share my own systems, so that you can test them and see whether they work for you.
If you want to share a five-minute system with my readers or indeed give me feedback on how this is working for you, tweet me @SusanHayes_
Remember, it only takes five minutes, right now, to change the course of history - your history at least!
Create a spreadsheet with all of the opportunities that you have and update it regularly
If you don't already have one, create a spreadsheet that gathers all your opportunities in one place. The whole project will probably take a bit longer than five minutes, but in five minutes you can get started and make good headway.
My chosen tool is a spreadsheet, as I love them! However, you may prefer a project management software like Trello or any other app - whatever works for you.
Related: How to use the "GROW" model with Trello.
Related: What is the GROW model?
Who and what should you include in the spreadsheet?
- Clients or potential clients you've contacted recently but haven't heard back from yet, with a reminder to follow up
- Past clients or contacts you haven't heard from in a while: what did you last work on together, when did you last contact them and about what, where they are at in their business at the moment
- Interesting people you met at networking events, and what they are interested in, and how you might collaborate in the future
- "Blue sky thinking": list dream projects to work on and dream people to work with, people you read about in a magazine or heard on the radio, people you're aware of, but haven't yet met - not necessarily "celebrities", but people who are just outside your circle of influence as yet.
Include the following: Client's name, contact details (and contact person if relevant), your history of working with them, what you would like to do with them in the future (and any insights about how the project went), when you last got in touch, what you talked about then, and a date for next follow up.
Increase your productivity with your Opportunities spreadsheet
Your spreadsheet will have lots of different content:
- factual information (a bit like an address book),
- information that will allow you to plan your workflow and your cashflow (when you should budget time to work with somebody),
- information about your own strategic choices (what projects you are interested in, and why your clients turn to you specifically - lots of data to mine here),
- information to organise your calendar (when to next get in touch with people, with reminders).
This spreadsheet is amazing - every day, you can turn to it and find something productive to do. Call somebody, follow up with somebody, send a proposal, brainstorm the next step in your business strategy, hatch long-term plans... You will never be left waiting for the phone to ring: you can proactively approach prospects and follow up in a more timely manner with clients, simply by referring to your spreadsheet.
The data that is included in this spreadsheet is extremely precious - you won't believe the insights you will gain!
The other benefit of your opportunity spreadsheet is that is works as a reminder of what has gone right. On those days you're feeling "Is anything working at all?!", you can turn to your spreadsheet and find black-on-white evidence of your successes : what clients have bought and how conversations progress to leads to customers to cashflow.
"I don't have any opportunities to follow up on..."
That's exactly why you need such a spreadsheet. You have to prime the pump, you have to start somewhere. Instead of worrying that your spreadsheet looks a bit empty, turn this into a challenge to fill it in. An empty-looking spreadsheet is a blank canvas: now is the time to brainstorm and create your future. What opportunities are waiting for you? What do you want your spreadsheet to look like? Be creative and go after your dreams.
You will also realise how much money you've been leaving on the table by not following up and getting back in touch. This can be a salutary wake-up call that will motivate you to take action to grow your business. You can simply start by recapitulating who you worked with in the past and take it from there.
"I don't want to work with that type of client again."
That's an opportunity right there. Perhaps you're in a transitional phase in your career - past clients don't have to dictate the kind of future clients you want. Fill the spreadsheet with the people you worked with in the past and think about what it is about the projects that doesn't resonate with you anymore. Then brainstorm what type of projects and clients you would want to work with.
Of course it's better to have positive, "towards" goals (I want X), as opposed to negative goals (I don't want Y). But knowing what you don't want in your life is very important - that's what will help you formulate positive goals. "I hated working with that client because I always had to chase them for payment" becomes "I don't want to work with late payers" becomes "I want to work with people who are comfortable paying at least part of my fee up front". By reflecting on past projects in order to fill in your spreadsheet, you will get to know yourself better and you will have the opportunity to create better systems for your business.
Read more about how to set positive goals: Book review - Focus, The Art of Clear Thinking, by Valerie Pierce
Why you should start your spreadsheet today
- Your spreadsheet is an amazingly convenient way of gathering in one place, in an organised way, all the tacit knowledge, all the factoids and the thoughts that are, right now, churning in your head. There is incredible value in your insights, make sure that you write them down.
- Your spreadsheet becomes a "command central", the dashboard that will turbo-boost the progress of your business - you will be amazed how this speeds up opportunities.
- - the harder you work, the luckier you get! Your spreadsheet is a way to make opportunities more systematic. Instead of waiting for the phone to ring, you are taking action and creating an endless stream of opportunities. The spreadsheet will create a self-sustaining momentum.
- Now you have insight-rich data at your fingertips. Patterns will emerge and you will see much clearer in your business strategy. This will increase your motivation and productivity.
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