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  • Writer's pictureDominic Testo

How I Forgot to Fill the Pipeline


TALE OF THE SALE: Like any small business, ours started out a little wobbly. With not much of a safety net, my business partner and I quit our corporate jobs and launched a speaking and training company. We had no customers or clients lined up. It was not that we weren’t prepared. I had a desk. I bought a fax machine. We had AOL dial up! We also had a book we self-published that we planned on using as a lead generation tool. But still we needed to get in front of prospects and by the way, since this was quite some time ago, there was no such thing as social media.

After five months of prospecting which including cold calling and direct mail, things looked grim. We didn’t have any yeses yet. But we attended a conference and ended up meeting several great prospects, one that hired us right away, basically saving us in the process! (Oh, behind the scenes is not all glitz and glamour. It’s sleepless nights, persistence, and basically living on the edge. Fun, right?)

Getting that one big client finally opened doors to other prospects we’d been talking with, paving the way to closing more business. We were thrilled. But like many small business service providers fell into the need to deliver what we were selling. At least all the groundwork we’d laid months earlier was finally starting to pay off because the phone was ringing on its own.

Fast forward about 18 months. I’d gotten used to having a full calendar without much effort. Complacency had set in. One day I looked at where we were and realized that we didn’t have much going on. We’d completed a giant project that took a ton of our time and I hadn’t picked up the phone in forever. I quickly went to my prospect list and found a deal I’d been working on. Luckily, I was able to close it that very day.

A friend came into town and we grabbed lunch to “celebrate” the win. When we returned, the light on our answering machine was flashing. (Yes, again, this was a while back.) I had a very bad feeling about this. I just knew this was not good news. As it turned out, the client who had just said yes was backing out. They had new leadership who was not ready to move forward on anything until they got focused on the company’s new objectives.

So, with that sudden no, there we were, practically out of business. No real deals in the pipeline. It was a huge wake up call. I felt like I had gone all the way back to the start of our business. Fueled by fear and healthy embarrassment for letting this happen, we mobilized and worked on building up the pipeline once again.

LESSON LEARNED FROM THIS TALE OF THE SALE: I learned an important lesson that day. You can’t become complacent and rely on the phone to keep ringing. You can’t forget about outbound sales and marketing no matter how “successful” you think things are going. And if you only do a little, at least do it consistently. If you let the pipeline run dry especially if you have only a few opportunities, and lose one like I did, it’s devastating. Also, as we teach today as part of our “Go for No” strategy, the more deals in the pipeline, the less that any one NO can have an emotional impact on you.

Andrea Waltz is the co-founder of Courage Crafters, Inc. and co-author of the best-selling book, Go for No! Yes is the Destination, No is How You Get There, a short, powerful fable for organizations and sales professionals of any kind who must overcome fears of failure and rejection to be successful. For more NOtivation from Andrea, visit


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