Prospecting for Gold – How to manage your work flow
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It’s gold rush time. The muddy river banks are crowded with dirt-splattered men and women in grubby work clothes, sieving and panning the watery silt and stones, all their attention focused on that hoped-for glint of precious metal. Piled around them are heaps of discarded debris.
Well, whether you know it or not, you are now in the prospecting business. Except that for you, the gold dust sparkling in the bottom of the pan is a job order from a customer.
In fact, that’s exactly what professional business people actually call it - prospecting – searching the market for work opportunities and filtering out the unproductive ones. They use a simple tool called a Work Flow Funnel, because if you map out the stages of your work activity over time, that’s the shape it will inevitably look like.
So let’s look at this funnel.
Out there in the translation and interpreting market there is a number of potential customers who could benefit from your experience and expertise; these are your prospects. Just like the gold diggers, your job is to sift through all that material to find those valuable nuggets, those prospects who will pay you to do work for them. This process is what business people call qualifying.
Here are two dictionary definitions which sum up what to qualify means in this context:
to reach the later stages of a selection process or contest by competing successfully in earlier rounds
to have the abilities or attributes required in order to do or have something, such as a job
Of course qualifying works both ways; your potential customers are also deciding whether or not you fit their specification for the work they have.
In proz.com you have already started qualifying by deciding on your language pairs and areas of expertise. When you apply these filters to the universe of jobs posted on proz.com, you are beginning the qualification process, and the jobs which then remain are by definition your qualified prospects. If you have chosen to have these automatically emailed to you, then so much the better.
Now you are at the stage where you need to study the details of each job to decide whether to quote or not. Factors affecting your decision might include:
• Pricing - the job might not be paying enough
• Time-scales - the delivery deadline is too close
• Your current work load - the job is too big
• Subject area or difficulty of text
• Quality of feedback about the customer
• Number of competitor quotes submitted
Clearly what this means is that you are not going to quote on all of your qualified prospects.
But when you do, and your quote is submitted along with all the other competing quotes, then the customer will choose, and this time we’ll assume they choose you. You’re at the bottom of the Work Flow Funnel now.
This is where the order from the customer emerges. Let’s make sure we know what we mean by ‘order’. That’s an official, contractual request for you to do the job. It might be a formal Purchase Order, it might be a less formal email, but it should be unambiguous, and it should be in some form of text or writing.
Your Work Flow Funnel thus has 4 stages, from the top:
Over time you will be able to gather your own data for each stage of the funnel, and this data will not only tell you a great deal about your business, but will also enable you to forecast future work flow and hence earnings.
At each stage the numbers decrease, because you and the customer are both going through the filtering out process; you have fewer Qualified Prospects than Prospects, fewer Quotes submitted than Qualified Prospects, and so on. Crucially, it is the ratios between these numbers which form the basis of the funnel as a management tool, and the basis of the next article.