How Are You Filling Your Idea Pipeline?

I’ve just been reading a terrific new book called High-Profit Prospecting by my friend and colleague Mark Hunter. Mark is a consummate sales professional, and his book is about how to keep your sales pipeline full so that you never run out of valuable prospects.

I’m not a sales professional, but I am an idea professional. And, just like I think it’s vital for people in the sales business to keep their sales pipelines full, I think it’s equally vital for people in the idea business to keep their idea pipelines full.

By the way, as a leader, you are in the idea business.

In his book, Mark talks about the importance of not leaving prospecting to chance, not just waiting (and hoping) for prospects to fall into the pipeline. He says that a true sales professional should have weekly (preferably daily) dedicated prospecting time scheduled on the calendar. Because keeping the pipeline full is that important.

Likewise, leaders should schedule time weekly (preferably daily) to fill their idea pipeline. Because it’s that important.

So, how do you do this? Through four primary sources.

1. What you read.

There’s a reason why Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Elon Musk read voraciously. They understand the value of keeping their mental pipeline full of new ideas.

“But I’m too busy to read, Bill.”

Really? Busier than Bill Gates? Because he’s pretty busy. And pretty rich. And he reads 50 books a year. I don’t think these are unrelated. So, I’m sorry-what’s your excuse again?

Schedule time to read. Every day, if possible. (And it is possible.) I’m not talking about Grisham and Patterson. They’re fine for the beach. Read about ideas. Read about things you don’t already know.

2. What you listen to.

To those of you who have horrendous commutes, congratulations! You’ve got a great opportunity to fill your idea pipeline! Instead of listening to the news (depressing), or the generic pop music station (mindless), why not try out one of the literally hundreds of great podcasts available? My guess is that there are at least a few podcasts out there for your particular field. Or, try one of my favorites, the TED Radio Hour podcast.

3. What you watch.

Although this probably won’t help you with your commute, there’s plenty to watch online-and some of it doesn’t involve kittens. For example, in addition to listening to the TED Radio Hour podcast, you can watch actual TED Talks Or, if you want something more in-depth and academic, Stanford University (among others) puts many of their courses online, absolutely free.

4. Who you meet.

I’ve saved the best for last. There are actual people out there, freely roaming the earth, who have knowledge, experiences, and ideas that you don’t have. They can be found in your town, in your workplace, sitting next to you on the plane or train. But here’s the caveat: if you only hang out with the same people you always hang out with, you’ll never meet these others. And that’s to your detriment, as a leader, and as a human being.

So fill your pipeline! Feed your brain continuously with new ideas. It’s the highest profit prospecting you can do.

Idea Businesses – Becoming a Consultant

Opinions wanted. Huge sums of money paid. Very little work required. If that was a job description, would you apply? Chances are, you answered yes.

Literally, your job is to discuss. You heard me right. Do you have an artistic talent? Become a media consultant. Besides your base contract, which is usually a heft amount, you’ll earn a rebate, usually 15% of their money that you spend on advertising. So if you get hired for a month’s project and charge $2000, and you end up spending $50,000 on television and radio advertisements, your rebate alone is $7500.

There are two keys to setting up a consulting business – credibility and knowledge. The credibility is more important of the two. If you have a friend with their own business, get them to hire you on for a modest amount, and use it as a learning opportunity – and a reference. This gives you a chance to “break in” to the field, and show a track record of performance worthy of being hired.

When I started consulting about 4 years ago, I cut my teeth in political consulting. I had volunteered on a few political campaigns (credibility), and had legitimately acquired the contact information for several vendors. With a stack of business cards and a little bit of know-how, I have literally been able to charge thousands of dollars to people for short term work – but valuable work nonetheless!

Once you’ve started, make sure everyone you know is aware of your services. People like to have “I know a guy” conversations. Make sure that you’re the guy whose name is going to be dropped, and watch the referrals roll in!

Business Ideas and How to Manufacture Them

You can not underestimate the importance of a solid business idea when you are starting out in the world of enterprise. The core business concept is the building blocks upon which all else stands, and as such must be solid and carefully constructed. Sometimes incredible ideas just arrive, seemingly by accident; what many people don’t realize is that effective ideas can actually be manufactured by anybody who knows how.

One way to find an excellent business idea is simply to adapt one that is already out there. There are countless products out there that are selling relatively well and yet can still be improved upon in a number ways. Taking this approach to the idea creation process has an inherent advantage in the fact that you already know there is a demand for this sort of product… it takes a large proportion of the guess work out of starting your business.

By overcoming the weaknesses of an existing product (for example, by making it faster or smaller) you are not only coming up with a viable idea for your enterprise, but you are also guaranteeing it a competitive advantage. This is how people create business ideas that are not only coherent but also incredibly profitable.

A different, but equally effective approach to developing your ideas, is to start by researching problems faced by the everyday consumer. If you take a problem-oriented approach to crafting your business idea, you not only increase your scope of creativity but you also improve the chances that your idea will actually be saleable. This is because when customer buy a product or service from you, what they are really buying is the perceived benefit of having that product or service. For example, when someone buys a haircut they are buying the feeling of being attractive; when someone buys an office computer, they are buying increased productivity.

If you begin the process by brainstorming problems, an interesting thing occurs – by solving any of these problems you will be providing a massive benefit. The problem with land telephones is that have to remain stationary… when this problem was solved with the invention of the cellular phone, a benefit was created simultaneously. Everyone knew that the cell phone would sell because the benefit of NOT having to remain stationary was so apparent. If you start with by finding a problem you think you can solve, your business idea could emulate the success of the cellular phone.

Another approach to generating business ideas is to start by listing your areas of interest. You hobbies are a great source of inspiration – if you take the problem-first approach discussed earlier, then you can identify situations that would make your area of interest more fun or easier. For example, if you are a keen swimmer, you may find chlorine in your eyes to be annoying… an excellent idea to pursue would be the development of contact lens that protect the eyes from chlorine.

If you develop ideas that are closely linked to your personal interests, you are automatically meeting two of the requirements of a successful business concept. For starters, it is something that you are probably quite knowledgeable about. This means that you can make intuitive decisions with far less chance of being mistaken. Secondly, it will probably be something that you are passionate about. The passion of the entrepreneur is the number one factor that separates successful enterprises from failures.

The inspiration behind your business is the foundations upon which it is built and the fuel that will propel it to the forefront of your industry. Put on your creativity hat and generate some wealth-building business ideas today!