As a BD professional, you invest a great deal of time and energy building the requisite, first-person trust relationships with potential or current customers. You also allot time to understand their history, organizations, responsibilities, challenges, and how solving problems will affect them professionally (and even personally) in their careers.
With all of this first-hand knowledge, it is often difficult when you finally realize you’re not going to get the business you had planned to win.
In many industries, this outcome may be caused by a number of factors that are out of your control (e.g., corporate reorganizations, M&A, timing, budgets, or changing priorities). And, you must face the decision to let these opportunities “go” and take them off your pipeline.
Even though you may understand there are no guarantees in BD, psychologically it is difficult to process this. After all, energy, time, and expectations were invested in the relationship. The prospect may need to buy to solve his/her issues, but isn’t obligated to buy from you. That agreement was never established prior to your commitment and investment.
Remember, prospects and customers do things in their interest and for their reasons – not yours. If forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, then letting go and disqualifying early is a gift, too. Letting go liberates you from unrealistic expectations and frees you up to begin anew. It also allows the customer the freedom to return to you for assistance based on their needs and timing.
Holding on to the same level of relationship after the fact really isn’t a sign of strength, but indicates “neediness” on your part which translates into you being perceived as a pest by your customer.
Disqualifying an opportunity means you let go of it and learn from it. This doesn’t preclude your engaging on a non-frequent basis to “stay in touch” to find out if new opportunities arise. But letting go means exactly that … letting loose of this one potential opportunity and engaging actively with others in your pipeline that need your undivided attention.
If you’ve stuck by your purpose – always working hard to help your customers solve their problems whether or not they buy the solutions from you – you’ve crafted appropriate consultative relationships which preclude the need for you to always win their business.
There’s a big difference between wanting to win business and needing to win business … and this is very evident to your customers. Let opportunities go in a positive business manner, and you give your customers permission to engage you again when appropriate situations arise.