Business development wins by making your prospects “feel” your proposal

Business development is a funny old thing. Let me recount a true story to you. A while ago I was pitching for a piece of work to help an IT department improve their brand. I knew the IT director but had never met any of his team most of whom, it appeared, were less than enthusiastic about the idea of being branded in any shape or form.

The IT director asked me to present to his team at the tail-end of one of their monthly meetings which I was delighted to do – but on one condition: that he let me approach the presentation in a way that I felt would get the best result. He agreed and the meeting was set.

As regular readers will know I am obsessed with being early and on this occasion I was sitting outside their offices in London with half an hour to go. Sitting there dressed in my gardening trainers, a pair of tatty jeans, my oldest tee-shirt and a jacket that had belonged to my father before we bought him his new bib. I did feel a little nervous I must confess. Pro business development? I think not.

I left it a full 15 minutes after the agreed start time, dropped a text to my PA that said “5 minutes” and went in. The IT director did that double take thing  they always do in the cartoons when he saw me in all my student-like glory. I could see he wasn’t best pleased; so much the better. When I entered the room I can still recall there was a most pronounced frostiness in the air not helped by my louche appearance and “A-Team” ring tone that burst into life as my mobile went off.

“Mind if I just take this” said I and then proceeded to have a one sided conversation (my PA had put the phone down as soon as I’d answered) about a meeting I should have been in at that very moment and why I wasn’t there (car broke down and waiting for the AA man to arrive – such fibs!). I than sat down and asked the person sitting next to me if they had any spare paper and a pen; I had forgotten mine.

By now the room had gone through annoyance, anger, resentment and some of them had now entered the realisation stage. They knew nobody could be this unprofessional.

The game was up time to make my pitch. “I know that some of you are not necessarily in favour of running this departmental branding exercise but what you have just experienced is a strong negative brand albeit a bit over the top. When you are late, unprepared, untruthful, disrespectful and not smartly dressed you are bound to make a negative impact on your customer. If you want to avoid this why not create a positive brand which will have a completely opposite effect. Would you like me to talk you through the process?”.

They were unable to hide their feelings with the most powerful one being unanimous realisation. Were they engaged for the rest of the meeting and did I get the deal? Well, I will leave you to ponder on this (no I won’t  – of course I did).

As a  business development tactic it worked like a dream and I know many of you will think that I made this up but it really happened and anybody who would like to speak to the IT director concerned please contact me.


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Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

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Posted in Differentiation, Sales Conversion

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Mike Ames

Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

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