The Biggest Trap Preventing You from Your Next Great Opportunity

We hear a lot about the importance of building relationships, especially in selling and business development.

blah talk comic bubble textOne mistake I see many people make is too much “me talking”.

This is particularly true during initial scoping discussions, when you are trying to uncover opportunities, understand a problem and create a positive impression.

The tendency is to talk and sell. Maybe a few questions get thrown here and there but the focus is disproportionately on you, your company, your project, your solution.

The talking equation ends up looking like this:

# minutes you talk during an interaction  > # minutes they talk during an interaction

Experts Zip It and Listen

Master relationship builders, communicators and sellers know the above equation is wrong. They know that they have to let the other person, the potential client, do most of the talking.

They do that by asking the right questions and listening.

The 2 objectives in scoping discussions are a) learn as much as you can about the problem/opportunity and b) build a positive relationship.

It’s impossible to meet these objectives if you’re doing most of the talking.

At PeopleResults, we’ve found the best way to prepare for scoping discussions is to organize a series of questions that:

  • yield the right information to develop a sound proposal
  • convey an interest in the person and their challenges
  • explore fresh ideas and encourage new ways of thinking

The Right Questions are the Answer

Consider these scoping questions:

  • Why now? What is driving you towards change?
  • What are you hoping to accomplish?
  • What are the outcomes and deliverables you are looking for?
  • How will you define success?
  • What barriers and challenges will get in the way of success?
  • Who is sponsoring the project? Who are the decision makers/stakeholders/team members?
  • What is the timeframe and other important dates?
  • What other options are you considering?
  • What are the competing priorities?
  • How do projects like this typically get funded?
  • What can you tell me about the decision-making process and criteria for selecting a partner?
  • What concerns you most about this work? What keeps you up at night?

At the end of the day, you want to know if this opportunity is worth pursuing. Is there support? Is there a budget? If there is, great, you have enough information to turn around a proposal and you’ve made a positive impression.

If you walk away realizing this is a dead-end, that’s OK too. Better to know that now.

Either way, you won’t come away with what you need if you do all the talking.

Marta Steele is a Partner at PeopleResults. Connect with her on Twitter @MartaSteele.