New! BD Essentials: Turn your team into federal intel-gathering experts






7 Deadly Sins Destroying GovCon B2G Win Rates

7 Deadly Sins Destroying Your Win Rates

The original deadly sins were inspired by mankind’s perpetual struggle to rise above their animalistic instincts and rein in the emotions of lust, pride, greed, gluttony, envy, anger, and sloth.

But do you know the 7 Deadly Sins of Business Development?

These 7 Deadly Sins negatively impact your customer’s perception and can prevent you and your team from achieving your revenue and professional goals.

These bad habits in your customer engagement strategy can limit customer intimacy, customer intelligence, discriminators for proposals, and severly impact your PWin and win rates.

By recognizing and avoiding these sins in yourself or your team, you will overcome many of the mistakes of your competitors and quickly stand out from the rest.

In this article we’ll cover:

  1. Lack of Preparation
  2. Talking to Prove Value
  3. Ignoring Relationships
  4. Superficial Discovery
  5. Driving Next Steps
  6. No Follow Through
  7. Lack of Emotional Self-Control

The single biggest sin committed by BD and Sales professionals is their lack of pre-call planning and preparation. Look at your schedule for next week. How much time do you have blocked for customer call planning and preparation? We’re guessing it’s zero or very little!

Customers can see a lack of planning and preparation, and they know you are winging it. So they mentally disengage and passively participate in the corporate capability briefing or canned presentations knowing there is zero value for them.

At the Hi-Q Group, we say, “If you don’t have a plan, don’t engage!” Great engagement is a derivative of good preparation. On the contrary, unplanned calls usually provide limited customer insights and no customer value, making it almost impossible to secure future meetings with them.

Good preparation requires developing a call plan, understanding whom you are meeting, understanding the questions you will ask, knowing your call’s purpose and goal, and anticipating the next steps. Most of the remaining sins outlined in this article can be minimized with a little pre-call planning.

An hour of planning can save you 10 hours of doing.


In business development, 20 minutes of planning will go a long way to be prepared and feel calm and confident throughout the meeting.

It will help you secure valuable customer human intelligence your competitors likely aren’t getting, and, more importantly, it will help you strengthen your customer relationships, making future engagements easier.


Nobody likes listening to someone go on and on talking, yet despite knowing how irritating it can be, talking too much is a common sin among business developers. One of the primary reasons people talk too much is nervousness brought on by a lack of preparation.

Many in a sales or business development role feel a need to let their egos drive the agenda. They attempt to impress the customer and feel good about themselves by making themselves the “star” of the show.

Larry King once said, “I never learned anything while I was talking.” Stop telling, peddling, or educating the customer and instead facilitate a dialogue about them and their needs. Learn to question, listen, and pause. This will significantly improve the quality of intelligence you receive and improve your relationships.

Ask questions that help you get to know your customer better, then actively listen, pause, and respond with follow-up questions or comments that show you heard and care about what your customer is saying. This will likely improve your win rates because customers like to work with people they like and trust. If there’s one thing customers want, it’s to be heard and understood, and you simply can’t do that while you are talking.

Sales Interrupting Customer


Elite professionals prove their value not by selling or getting their ego stroked but by focusing on the customer. They question and take the time to listen, understand, and clarify the customer’s perspective and needs rather than trying to validate their assumptions or impose their agenda and timeline on the customer.


For long-term success, people matter! Blindly responding to RFPs with no customer insights is not a successful growth strategy. Good relationships are based on trust. Without it, the customer won’t feel comfortable sharing the intelligence that matters, and neither will seriously consider your shaping suggestions. Would you?

When engaging customers, in an attempt, to win a contract, it is easy to forget that basic interpersonal skills apply. Unfortunately, many BD and Sales personnel see connecting or rapport building as just a step in the process as they rush towards pitching their offerings. Often, their rushed small talk and feigned friendliness is perceived as sleazy by the customer.

Unfortunately, many see connecting or rapport building as just a step in the process as they rush towards pitching their offerings. You’ll stand out immediately and build trust by avoiding this.

So, rather than pushing your capabilities, or asking a standard list of questions, be customer-focused, shift your thinking to developing better relationships with government customers!

It’s often challenging to connect with customers without doing some research, and it’s more difficult in a virtual environment where you lack the visual clues an office visit might provide.

Customers love to talk about their problems. They love to vent about their work challenges and the injustices they suffer. Don’t rush to the business at hand.

Take your time, be empathetic, be interested, and you might be surprised how valuable this type of conversation is for fostering trust.

What Customer Problems Do You Solve


Elite professionals understand the value of high-quality relationships.They prioritize relationship building and develop contact plans to do this.

They know that it takes time and effort to discover what’s important, their interests, career aspirations, and what bothers or worries them – both inside the Government customer, with industry counterparts, and with their internal stakeholders. 

Early engagement enables you to connect and foster customer relationships long before the conversation shifts to the specifics of the upcoming opportunity.

Another common sin is not developing relationships with all the relevant communities – warfighter / end users, contracting, leadership / sponsors, and the prime / partners. You must know who they are, what they do, and invest time nurturing relationships with each of them.

Quality relationships deliver quality intelligence! Without trust and good relationships, you put yourself at an intelligence disadvantage to your competition that does.


Discovery focuses on understanding your customers’ root needs, and if done correctly, it will differentiate you as someone focused on helping them achieve their envisioned outcomes.

Many business developers conduct very superficial Discovery. They ask the same questions everyone else asks because their focus is on moving an opportunity through internal gates rather than helping the customer. Unfortunately, in doing this, they receive the same answers everyone else is getting, and they miss the critical human intelligence needed to gain a competitive advantage.

Others make assumptions on the needs, ask a few loaded and then begin pitching their predetermined solution without fully understanding what is needed. This is called the “itch to pitch” or “premature solutioning.” Both are a waste of time and will likely cause the customer to disengage due to misalignment of need and solution or your inability to articulate how it solves their specific needs.

How to Prevent Sales Getting Ghosted


In Discovery, it’s essential to tailor your questions to align with the customer’s role and procurement responsibilities. Don’t fall into the trap of asking everyone the same set of questions. You are an intelligence gatherer, and if the customer doesn’t understand the question or doesn’t possess the knowledge to answer it, you will waste time and come away with no actionable intelligence or discriminators for your proposal.

Prepare open-ended questions designed to get your customer to share their needs and concerns. Then use follow-up questions to fully explore each need until you have uncovered the root cause issue. Then assess the impact to the customer of solving or not solving the problem.

Most in the BD role don’t understand that all decisions are emotional. Understanding the personal impact is what will motivate the customer to take action. This knowledge will provide you critical insights into their appetite for the program and if they will find the budget to make it happen or perhaps elevate your program above the cut line.

Elite professionals know that a leading indicator for success is their relationship quality. This determines the quantity of intelligence they will receive. They use short questions to elicit long responses. Nobody can guarantee a win, but this customer intelligence puts their competitors in an intelligence deficit, and as we all know, good intelligence wins wars!

You should only start solution discussions once you understand the customer’s root cause needs, perferred outcomes, potential solution insights, and the impact.

They only start solution discussions once they understand the customer’s root cause needs, preferred outcomes, potential solution insights, and the impact of solving or not solving their problem to both the organization and the person. Most importantly, they know that customers make decisions emotionally and prefer solutioning to be collaborative rather than seeing it for the first time in an RFP response. This is a critical aspect of customer intimacy many teams involved with government business development miss.


How many times have you ended a meeting by saying something like, “I will follow up with you sometime next week.” But, by not agreeing to specific next steps, you open yourself up to the frustration of unresponsive customers when it comes time to reengage!

Customer Connection Engagement Sales


Another common sin is to push your agenda by suggesting next steps aligned with your urgency or the needs of your capture process. Allowing the customer to articulate their next steps helps you align with their priorities and urgency, stopping you from pushing your agenda.

Unfortunately, neither of these approaches will likely deliver the consistent re-engagement results you want.

Elite professionals get the customer to define the path forward by focusing on what’s next, other stakeholders involved, timelines, potential agendas, and criteria for success.

They know that getting the customer’s agreement before concluding the meeting stops them from making assumptions and leaves nothing to misinterpretation. But, more importantly, they already have an agreed commitment to what comes next, making re-engagement painless.


During a meeting, you will often make certain commitments or promises to follow up with specific information or connect the customer with internal resources. It’s a deadly sin not to follow through on these commitments.

Most people don’t deliberately do this, but they get busy, other priorities take precedence, and they forget! Then, before they know it, the deadline has passed, and it’s the customer who reminds them! Not a good situation.

Character and Competence for Sales and Business Development Success


Worse than this, the customer assumes that you are unreliable. Reliability is a crucial component of developing customer trust. Not delivering your commitments on time is the quickest way to give your customers cause to evaluate the trust you have fostered.

Elite professionals know that it’s often the little things that significantly impact your relationships! They know that attention to detail is critical, so they use call reports, action trackers, or a CRM system to ensure that they deliver on time when it comes to promises or commitments.


If you begin to feel anything on a sales call, beware. How often have you felt something on a customer call? Worry, excitement, perhaps embarrassment. Maybe your feelings caused you to say or do something you later regretted? I’m sure we all have.

When you lack emotional self-control, your attention shifts from being customer-focused and listening to the customer to being self-focused, listening to your inner voice, and consumed by what you are feeling, in doing so, you have lost control of yourself, and often, the conversation.

Surprising Fears Holding You Back in Sales and Business Development


You must learn to control your feelings and not let them control you. Remain anchored in the present focused on the customer and their needs and not your emotions. It would be best to do this regardless of what the customer says or does.

Elite professionals aren’t robots. Of course, they have positive or negative feelings, just like the rest of us, but they know how to compartmentalize them and don’t let those feeling distract them from what matters on a call.


Now that you know the Seven Deadly Sins, your team must avoid these at all costs. And, if we are honest with ourselves, we have all committed one or several of these sins.

But here’s the good news: Building customer rapport and increasing your organization’s customer intimacy is within reach with the right skills and habits. They not only drive organizational growth but improve the culture and morale as well.

Skills such as active listening, empathy, and emotional control are all tools that continue to provide benefits beyond business development.

But the impact on your results will be hard to miss.

85% of job success comes from emotional intelligence skills, while only 15% is attributed to technical skills.

A whopping 90% of top performers in the workplace have high emotional intelligence according to a new study by TalentSmart, and the Stanford Research Center found that 85% of job success comes from excellent people skills, while only 15% is attributed to technical skills.

According to a 2023 Deltek report on government contracting, 87% is the win rate on NEW bids and 80% for recompetes for top performers. How do your win rates compare? Teams that excel at customer engagement are also 80% more likely to win competitive bids.

87% is the win rate on NEW bids and 80% for recompetes for top performers. Teams that excel at customer engagement are also 80% more likely to win competitive bids.

SOURCE: 2023 Deltek Clarity Report

People often believe the ability to create winning relationships™ comes down to a born talent or superficial influences that make it feel unattainable. But it’s simply a set of customer engagement skills that anyone can learn, regardless of their background.

(And that realization gives our students so much confidence!)

Although historically, emotional intelligence training has not been prioritized, 40% of companies now plan to develop their team’s social influence and leadership skills according to the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Future of Jobs Report. This is expected to grow as a competitive advantage moving forward.

7 Deadly Sins of Government Business Development That Kill Win Rates

If you or your team is ready to turn from your “wicked ways” and improve win rates, enroll in one of our emotional intelligence courses for BD and Delivery Teams today.

Whether you’re experienced or simply a beginner in GovCon, you can learn new skills to create federal winning relationships™.

govcon courses:

  • BD Essentials (Beginners)
  • BD Masterclass (Advanced)

read more:


BD Essentials

Turn your entire team into relationship-building, growth advocates. 

Turn your team into relationship-building, growth advocates. 



The LinkedIn Lift
Get the most insightful posts from LinkedIn™ in this monthly roundup.



Join hundreds of teams creating Winning Relationships™ now.

get started


Top 3 Mistakes


26 Best Practices