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How to have Better Business Development Conversations #GoodWalk

Updated: Feb 12, 2020

Find out how to have powerful Business development conversations that win business by converting listening to collaborations.


On today's #GoodWalk I went with the flow and let my body follow my mind - 3.75 muddy miles later, and I'm focused and ready to share the missed opportunities created by a lot of Business Development teams.

Business Development Thinking | 3.75 Mile Good Walk
Business Development Thinking | 3.75 Mile Good Walk

Do you miss the opportunity to listen?

It always amazes me how many Business Development conversations miss the opportunity to listen.

I took a #GoodWalk today to prime myself for a development session for a Business Development (BD) team that is struggling with client engagement. Critically, they are not winning enough business.

Start by asking, are you a service provider or a solutions provider?

Imagine a company bidding for a multi-million dollar contract. The Business Development team spend two days together preparing slides for a bid presentation. The whole process focuses on transmitting what the company does, without considering the need to listen to client needs. The process is one of a service provider when the stronger position is one of a solutions provider.

In another example is a manufacturing company, where the Business Development team asks a team of Project Managers to engage their clients using a script. The script focuses on improving engagement, and selling services when the opportunity is there to listen and sell solutions. The script fails and clients become less engaged, subsequently creating less engagement when he objective was to strengthen relationships.

Our approach is to facilitate conversations where people become engaged in the BD conversation. To do this, BD teams need to consider the opportunities found in a blend of four concepts:

Ecopsychology green exercise
Green Exercise - finding time to connect with nature

Self-Determination Theory

CAR | Self Determination Theory
CAR | Self Determination Theory

We ask BD teams to consider that people want to make their own CAR decisions.

  • Do you like it when you feel boxed in and forced to accept something that you doesn't fully fit your values, needs or expectations?

  • Don't create unnecessary uncertainty, ensure that your conversation finds common ground where people feel competent in taking a decision.

  • Build a conversation where people relate to the fit between what you are offering and their pain points.


Design Thinking

The most significant opportunity we create for BD teams is hidden in the power of listening first and selling second. To help seize this opportunity, we take BD teams through a Design-Thinking conversation.

Muddy Good Walk Pembrokeshire
Muddy, but productive
  • Empathise: ask questions that help you to discover what is energising and de-energising the people you are engaging. Remember, every challenge brings an opportunity. Build trust, and you'll find the problems that gift you opportunities to provide solutions.

  • Define: You've listened, now play it back and find out if your understanding of the challenge is correct.Ideate: We ask teams to build familiarity by demonstrating that they have seen it all before and that they can apply their experience to help, and fast.

  • Ideate: We then ask BD teams to take people on an ideation journey built on what we could do and what you want to do | "If we could do x, then it would help you to overcome y | In a perfect world, what would you like to see happen... (see the video below for six quick tips for more powerful conversations). 

  • Prototype: Restating the definition of the problem and the ideas that emerge from the "could do"/"want to do" conversation, put forward your prototype solution for feedback. Use the feedback to make adjustments until you form a co-developed solution, where the person you are engaging has co-created the final offering.

  • Test: Help develop safety in the decision to work with you by making it safe-to-fail, where the risk of your offering is limited. 

Good Walk around Colby (Pembrokeshire, Wales)
Good Walk around Colby (Pembrokeshire, Wales)


When it comes to cognitive-led coaching, there is way too much to cover here (see our Coaching Cafe concept for more ideas on coaching). However, for a Design Thinking led approach to BD conversations to work, you need to be able to ask powerful questions.

Take a look at this video, and access six quick tips that will accelerate conversations toward collaborations - it's me pre-weight loss, obviously :-)

National Trust Colby Amroth Pembrokeshire Wales
The National Trust has some amazing spots for reflection

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Good Walk Amroth Pembrokeshire Wales
Back to Amroth after my #GoodWalk

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