The end of the year is rapidly approaching. (According to some stores, Christmas is just around the corner, which accelerates the feeling!) I hope you’ve been reviewing your business development plan throughout the year so you can adjust your plans to match what’s actually happening, but if not, now is the time to revisit your plan and evaluate your results. If your results are good, keep on keeping on… But what if you see failure and dead ends?

In last week’s article, I suggested you take a fresh look at business development missteps to see what you can learn from them. Sometimes you may find not just missteps but a series of closed doors, assumptions that proved to be wildly untrue, or concerted efforts directed to groups of potential clients or referral sources who simply couldn’t care less. Then what?

You Can Change the plan reminder on a notice boardWhen you see failure, think pivot. Here’s Jeff Goins’ description of a pivot:

In basketball, you are allowed to take only two steps after you stop dribbling the ball. When you take that last step, the foot you land on becomes a “pivot foot.” That foot must remain fixed, but the other can freely move about, allowing you to spin around and find a teammate to whom you can pass the ball. 

Although you are confined to where you are and how many steps you can take, at no point are you locked into any direction. That’s the beauty of the move. Even when all other opportunities are exhausted, you can always pivot. 

A pivot is powerful not just in sports but also in life, because it takes away your excuses. It puts you back in control of the game you’re playing. Pivoting isn’t plan B; it’s the only plan that works. 

Goins’ article (published as a guest post on Michael Hyatt’s blog) The Surprising Success We Find in Failure: How Pivoting Can Snatch a Big Win from Near Defeat offers specifics about the pivot and three questions that can help you discover the fixed point around which a pivot is possible. Read Goins’ post. 

With the background of the pivot, ask yourself these questions:

1.    Is the failure I’ve identified really a failure? Can I (should I) try harder or go deeper with my efforts?

2.    What did work? This is where Goins’ three questions will guide you. When you know what did work, you also know what didn’t work and what must be changed.

3.    What, specifically, was the point of failure? Were you approaching the wrong audience? (If the failure was with a specific prospective client, were you talking with the decision maker?) Did you share the wrong message, or was your message too advanced or too elementary? (By message, I mean anything from what you said in a consultation to a marketing message you delivered in some form to a group.)

4.    Why did that fail? It’s clear what went wrong if you were talking with someone who couldn’t make the decision to retain you. If the failure concerns your message, you need to get clear on why it didn’t work. Check Goins’ three questions here, and also ask yourself whether your audience understood what you were sharing and whether the message was accessible to them. This is a good point to get outside feedback. It’s often challenging to pinpoint what happened simply because we’re each so good at seeing our own perspective that it may be challenging to shift to another perspective.

5.    How might you adjust? If, for instance, you realize that you talked over a prospective client in your eagerness to help, the fix is to listen more than speak. If the problem is with your message or the audience to whom it was directed, you’ll need to go deeper and evaluate the message itself, the audience, your mode of delivery, and more. Feedback on this question is invaluable.

It’s easy to spot failure, but studying it often reveals a hidden opportunity. If you haven’t been 100% successful in business development this year, take some time to analyze your failure instead of throwing in the towel and moving on. Success may be closer than you think.