What happens in a typical business development meeting isn’t always what the client wants to happen. As a sweeping generalisation I think too many meetings are firm focused, not client focused, meaning too much is centred on the capabilities of the partner and of the firm. This ONLY works when the client is in the process of picking a firm for a particular piece of work or as part of preferred supplier review. Outside of this, the client doesn’t really care about you and your firm’s track record – because they have another firm doing their work. I’d suggest that for 75%+ of business development meetings, clients aren’t interested in hearing about you, yet it’s often the default.

So what is the answer? The answer is to understand where the client is in the buying process and align yourself with them. Most prospective clients have existing firms that they are generally happy with and you will rarely overcome incumbency by pitching your capabilities and experience. Instead, you win by bringing new thoughts, ideas, risks, opportunities, trends and lessons learned to the table. You win by discussing and debating potential risks and issues the client may or may not be aware of. Don’t assume all incumbents are doing this – many aren’t.

I think it’s time to give clients what they want.

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