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Three essentials for a successful business development conversation

Business-development savvy consultants and professionals often say they have difficulty closing sales. But (nearly always) the problem is not about closing at all. It is about the way the conversation is set up.

By this I don’t expect people to stick to a rigid sequence when talking with a client. You really can’t listen to people if you are trying to push an agenda. I’m talking about what has to happen before the conversation makes the transition from being relatively unstructured to addressing a specific opportunity or problem. It’s like a major staging post in a journey. Before proceeding you need to be sure you have all the right things on board.

Here is a quick checklist:

  • The client needs to be aware that a solution exists. This doesn’t mean that they have to understand it, or even believe that it will work. They just have to be aware of it. In a future posting I’ll say more about how you can express solutions in ways that fulfil this condition without getting bogged down in technicalities. They can come later.
  • The client needs to have identified an issue that merits serious attention. This might be a problem, an opportunity they don’t want to miss out on, or it could be an unrealised aspiration. Whatever it is, the consequences have to be made explicit by them – not you. (Although there are some exceptions to that last bit, you should try going the extra mile before you even think about spelling out the consequences yourself.) More on exploring consequences in a future posting.
  • The client needs to have expressed the desire to change a relevant aspect of their situation. Of the three, this is usually the most neglected. Perhaps we hope clients will be so overwhelmed by the opportunity we are presenting that their concerns about change will melt away. Well, they might, but only if we acknowledge the concerns properly in the first place. Again, I’ll return to the subject of ‘desire to change’ later on.

If you would like to explore a bit more about this in the context of a real issue, then check out an article I wrote some time back, originally for the top-consultant web site. To make sure you don’t miss out on future articles, select RSS feeds or Email updates at the top of the column on the right.

In the meantime, please post your question or comment or email me personally, and I’ll respond as quickly as possible.