Hopefully, there is an enterprising entrepreneur who will read this post and do something about a challenge I have–I think virtually all of us have.

It’s the issue of “Who should I be talking to?”

No, I don’t mean in a deal cycle–we’re always concerned with are we talking to the right people, the decision-maker, influencers, recommenders, and so forth.

It’s people in my network, people I may not have spoken to in some time, but that I should reach out to because something has happened that may be relevant to our relationship or something I might be able to do for/with them.

In the past week, there are seven things that have happened to people in my network that should have provoked me to reach out proactively to contact them. (At least seven things that I was aware of, no telling the number of things I’m oblivious to).

First, a large client made a major acquisition. This was kind of expected, but I didn’t know the deal had been closed and that I should have picked up the phone to talk to Andrew. We had been talking some months ago, working on a growth strategy. As part of it, we talked about some acquisitions. At that point, I had done what I could with this client, and the ball was in their court. A few days ago, Andrew reached out, “Did you hear about the deal…..” Naturally, I went to my computer very fast, looked it up, and we started a nice discussion about possible ways that I could help with the integration. But had Andrew not called, it may have been weeks before I might have found out.

Second, a friend and EVP of Sales and Marketing of a large company just got a very significant recognition for the work done in creating one of the best sales organizations in the world. Had I been alerted to it, I could have reached out, proactively, to say “Congratulations! Job well done, and we could have engaged in a conversation about ‘What’s next?’” Instead, he reached out, modestly, to let me know–he was justifiably proud. I’m thankful Mitch thought of me, but I wish I had been the person to reach out. We have, however had a good discussion, but I wonder, what if Mitch hadn’t reached out and I missed this tremendous opportunity.

Third, Fourth, Fifth. A major competitor of several of my clients announced something somewhat disruptive. I missed the announcement. Fortunately, I had been talking (actually as much as a year ago) about something like this to these clients. We had been talking about what to do, how to deal with the new threat, and so forth. With several, we had strategies prepared for when it happened. Well the expected announcement came, I missed it, but several clients called saying, “We need help to implement the strategies.” Again, fortunately, these people called me. But what if they missed the announcement–even for a few weeks? Or what if they forgot to call me?

Sixth and Seventh. There are a couple of new prospects I’ve been pursuing for some time. I’ve been trying to find that “thing” that heightens the sense of urgency to provoke them to do something. Well, some things happened with both of these, which made the need to talk critical. Again, fortunately, I became aware of them because my “coaches” in the accounts made me aware of them.

Certainly, you recognize that I’m talking about “Triggers.” These are the things all of us look for that indicate, “This is the time we should be engaging customers in conversations about…..” “Here is something urgent that impacts my customer, that I can do something about.”

Ideally, I want to reach out proactively and provocatively saying, “Have you heard about this?” “What impact does that have…..” or sometimes even a politely worded, “I told you so….”

I do everything I can to stay on top of things. I have dozens of Google Alerts to help keep me informed. Sometimes I miss something, sometimes, I don’t connect the dots to “Hmmm, maybe so and so is interested in this…….””

I read–actually skim hundreds of articles, and blog posts every day, trying to see things that may be impactful to my clients or topics of discussions I should be initiating, or disruptive thoughts for prospects.

There’s another dimension to the problem. I have roughly 25K people that I’m trying to have the right discussions with at the right time. But there’s no way I can possibly remember, “Here’s a trigger event, here are the 500 people I should reach out to…..” In reality, at any one time, there are about 500 people I’m in active discussions with. They are either clients on current projects, active new opportunities, or other people I may be talking to. There are probably another 500 that I talk to on a quarterly basis. But that leaves about another 24K. Yes, they get my irregular newsletter, so they keep updated with our company and things we see happening. But too often, even if I see a trigger event happening, I don’t realize there are a lot of people in that 24K that I should be reaching out to and doing something. Sometimes it’s a struggle even in that 1000 currently active (as the previous discussion indicated.)

It seems with today’s analytic capabilities, there ought to be a tool that helps me do this.

Google Alerts is a big help. Some of those I’ve developed are very refined. They help me identify trigger events. But they don’t connect me to the dozen or hundred or whatever number of people I need to be reaching out to talk about the event.

There are some “tools” that help me with some triggers. Everyday, I get LinkedIn alerts, saying, someone has a job change, someone, has a work anniversary, someone has changed the part on their hair…… I send my congrats note, may initiate a conversation (along with dozens of others.) Facebook let’s me know about birthdays, I send a “Happy Birthday,” but I’ve seldom found a birthday to be a disruptive trigger requiring someone to drive a change initiative in their organization.

There are dozens of very good tools that scan my calendar and help me “prepare” for a meeting that is on my schedule. But in truth, that’s not very helpful. 80% of the meetings on my calendar are either with clients on projects I have underway–so I’m deeply aware of what’s going on and well prepared. Or they are with people on active opportunities. Likewise, I’m deeply aware of what’s going on with them and their companies. 15% may be prospects or other people I’m trying to develop a relationships with, but I research them deeply before contacting them–yes the “briefs” help a little. The others on my calendar are likely to be a dinner out with my wife (I hope I don’t have to research her), possibly an appointment for a haircut–Regina was impressed when I congratulated her on winning a surfing competition (saw it in the local newspaper).

Those tools are supposed to be helpful. I suppose if everyday I was talking to very different people, they would be. But my calendar really isn’t that exciting. For example, I’ve had 3 meetings this week with the same team–Yes, everyday I get a briefing on the people in that team—not very helpful. Particularly, since these briefings have no insight into the issues we are talking about.

I suspect most of our calendars are similar. Probably the majority of our meetings are with people we have pretty frequent contact with, so we are already pretty updated on them. So the briefings address a small part of our “preparation” challenge.

I’m surprised though, at the number of people attacking this space–scanning your calendar and giving you notes on the people/companies on your agenda. They are trying to be helpful with the people I am already talking to.

To me, the most interesting space, the greatest help is a tool that tells me, “These are the people you need to be talking to!”

My biggest worry is not the 500 people I’m actively involved with, or the other 500 that I talk to fairly regularly. I keep relatively updated on them. It’s the 24K that I’m not reaching out to, but probably should.

Solving that problem is huge! It’s those people that represent potential new business that I’m missing–just because I can’t connect a trigger event with a specific person or group of people. I suspect I’m missing 100’s to 1000’s of opportunities every year. Even addressing a small part of them has a huge impact on my prospecting and business development.

Even if once a week I got a report saying, “This thing happened and it may impact these 500 people in your contacts, you should consider reaching out and talking to them.” That’s all I need, I can do the rest myself.

I talk to hundreds of people every year. They express the same frustration, “How do find the people that are facing a problem I can solve–they may not be aware of it, but something has happened that makes this urgent?”

If you want to solve that problem, let me know. I actually have some ideas around how to do it. It’s well within the reach of today’s analytics, we just aren’t doing a great job of providing the right tools to help sales people leverage it.