BY Michael Fleming

DATE: 05 APR 2018


I had the privilege of attending a talk this month by Commander Chris Hadfield (the Canadian Astronaut – the one whose rendition of “Ground control to Major Tom” in space went viral a few years ago).

I took my 20 year old son. He’s doing a degree in aero-mechanical engineering so I hoped it would have something of interest for him too.

It was utterly brilliant. Two hours. No notes. No wordy PowerPoint slides. “Just” some incredible stories and insightful messages about life and about personal development and achievement. And some amazing footage shot from the space station.

Inspirational. Uplifting. Humbling.

A few days after attending the talk I was delivering day one of our Rainmaker BD skills programme to some senior people in a big, international professional services firm in London. We were talking about the “attitude” and “approach” sticking points - the various fears that often hold people back from being as effective as they could be at converting contacts into clients.

Fear of rejection; discomfort around the whole idea of “selling”; pessimism – lack of self belief that your BD efforts will be rewarded; worrying about being seen as “hard-selling” but finding yourself in “friends zone” - stuck in the lunch loop with existing contacts and never finding the way to actually ask for any work.

I found the words of Chris Hadfield ringing in my ears:

“The biggest antidote to fear is competence. If you’re afraid then you haven’t prepared properly. Get more ready”


“To me it’s simple: if you’ve got the time, use it to get ready. What else could you possibly have to do that’s more important? Yes maybe you’ll learn how to do a few things you’ll never wind up actually needing to do, but that’s a much better problem to have than needing to do something and having no clue where to start!”

This is of course all brilliant advice for anyone wanting to get better at business development. So next time you’re tempted to rush out the door, late, for that informal BD meeting over a coffee, having done zero prep – stop. What are you doing!?

Sit down. Think. Prepare.

What questions do you want to ask them? What things can you talk about that will demonstrate your industry and sector knowledge? On a personal level - what are their interests, how can you best connect and build rapport. On a work level, how could you help them? What would be the benefit to them in engaging with you? What outcomes might you be able to achieve from your meeting – outcomes that would take you forward in the BD process? What might their objections be – why might they not give you any work? How could you best address those?

And ask yourself what have you done recently to hone the skills that you need to be great at business development? What have you done to sort out your own personal “attitude” and “approach” challenges. Nothing? Are you mad?

Go get yourself booked onto some good courses; read some books; watch some TED talks on your commute rather than playing CandyCrush or watching videos of cats jumping off furniture.

In the words of the late, great, American motivational speaker – Jim Rohn – “Don’t wish it was easier; wish you were better!”.


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about the author

Michael Fleming is our Head of KWC Legal. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.

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