Paths over Facts
"But we had the better offering... We had the better product... Our price was more competitive... Our team is stronger... We were objectively better. We laid out all the facts in our pitch. How did we lose?"
They didn't hear you.
If you're leading business development pitches with facts about you, there's a strong chance that you're regularly coming in second to a winning rival who is presenting a path forward for them. A path to success, a path to resolution, a path to closure. But a road to somewhere.
There's a place for facts - in marketing literature. It's the right place to put qualifications, awards, rankings, presence, product/service ratings. Marketing literature is needed and appropriate. It's your storefront.
In a business development proposal, the facts should be the backdrop, with the path being in the foreground. This is the direction, this is the contour of the ground, and here's how we'll get to that destination. Together.
It can be summarized this way.
The fact approach:
"We're the strongest firm at xyz, based on these data points, qualifications and rankings. Therefore, we're the best and you should hire/buy us."
The path approach:
"We understand you want to get to this outcome (destination). We've looked at your challenge and believe that there's a viable path that looks like this (the steps you'll take together). Based on similar journeys we've taken with you and other clients, we believe we're well placed to support you on this journey."
Note that it's all about their path, not your smarts.
Your proposal walks through the like steps of the journey, the risks and opportunities that you see along the way, and the actions you'll take to mitigate the risks and maximise the opportunities for them.
A different way to think about this is that the fact approach is providing a proposal. The path approach is talking beyond the proposal. One is the language of vendor, the other of partner.
Moving Your Business Development Mindset from Fact Approach to Path Approach
1. Accept that for a potential client facts are blurry. In choosing to engage an advisor/vendor, a client is not reviewing data on an objective basis, but how they apply relative to their issues. Facts are immutable to science, but flexible to human interpretation. You may top the league in your field, but may not make the top of your client's perceived field.
2. Embrace that marketing materials and business development materials are distinctly different. Marketing materials should talk about you. Your business development materials talk about your client and the path you'll take together.
3. Park your "facts" - the league rankings, qualifications, awards, biographies - into appendices or sidebars. This is the backdrop to the pitch, projecting gravitas and credibility over the foreground.
4. Practise the mindset of the client.
5. Write and speak exclusively from the perspective of your client. The aspirations and concerns of that mindset and how your experience translates directly to supporting their path. This is the foreground of the client pitch. The spotlight sits here, on the road ahead.
And After the Client Says Yes
Keep the path mindset. The work is not done when the proposal is fulfilled, it's done when the client has reached their destination.
Work this way and you'll never need to re-pitch a client again. Positive destinations, and the people who support the journey, are (healthily) addictive.