8 habits that push your customers away

GettyImages.com/Peter Dazeley

Business development expert Nic Coppings offers a reality check for government contractors and the many ways they alienate customers.

How often do you hear yourself speaking, only to realize you haven't listened?

In the GovCon market, many deny having these eight habits yet continuously exhibit them, alienating customers and stakeholders.

It's a subtle dance of ego and intent, where the line between being assertive and outright intrusive blurs. The real question is, are you genuinely customer-focused or just playing the part?

1. Talking Too Much: The Art of Listening Lost

Dominating conversations has become a default for many. You think you're demonstrating expertise, but you lose the essence of engagement by prioritizing your voice over the customers'. The irony is that in your attempt to impress, you express nothing but your inability to prioritize the customer's voice. Remember, if you are talking, you are losing. If the customer is talking, you are winning.

2. Jargon Overload: Communication, not Confusion

The government sector loves its acronyms, but clarity is vital. You might know your "gov-speak" or tech terms, but does your audience understand it? Speak plainly, simplify complexities, and ditch the jargon to ensure your message hits home. Confusing your audience isn't expertise; it's a barrier.

3. "Solution-itis" is an actual disease: Diagnose First

Jumping into a solution discussion before understanding the problem is like skipping the diagnosis in medicine. This assumption-driven approach often leads to misalignment with the customer's real needs. Slow down, diagnose first, and tailor your solutions to fit those needs.

4. Question Quality: Dig Deeper

Failing to ask questions is a missed chance for insight; asking generic ones wastes it. Quality questions uncover the customer's unique challenges and differentiate you from the competition. Craft your questions carefully and go deep to unlock valuable perspectives that most of your competitors will never get.

5. The Disengaged Listener: Be Present

Showing up isn't enough; engagement is key. Too often, we're caught up in our own thoughts, rehearsing what to say next rather than absorbing what's being said. This disconnect hampers your ability to respond appropriately and signals to customers that their words are falling on deaf ears.

6. Self-Centered Approaches: Align with the Customer

In an increasingly busy world where time and attention are often lacking, it's tempting (and easier) to push your agenda rather than asking what they would like from the meeting. This self-centric approach is transparent to customers, who quickly sense when they're being pumped for intelligence or peddled solutions. Success comes from aligning with the customer's needs, not overshadowing them with your own.

7. Skipping Personal Connection: Connect Before Business

Rushing into business misses the vital step of building connection. Connecting with the customer on a personal level lays the groundwork for trust, without which any business relationship is superficial. Skipping this step undermines the potential for a deeper connection. Take a few minutes to build rapport, understand their situation, and create a comfortable environment for open communication.

8. The blame game, look inwards

It's easier to blame external factors than to examine your own shortcomings. Take responsibility for your communication style and actively seek feedback.


Though widely denied, these habits are all too common, acting as silent saboteurs of your relationships. It's time to confront these behaviors head-on, acknowledging their presence and taking proactive steps to mitigate their impact. Being truly customer-focused means transcending mere lip service to embody the principles of effective communication, empathy, and genuine engagement. The path to success in government contracting is paved with more than just good intentions; it demands a commitment to truly understanding and prioritizing the needs of those we serve.

Nic Coppings, a Senior Partner at Hi-Q Group, has been pivotal in helping clients secure billions in contract wins by enhancing their customer relationships and intelligence quality. Hi-Q training programs go beyond theory, equipping teams with the 'how' to forge Winning Relationships and weaponize customer intelligence. Connect with Nic on LinkedIn for more on how to Win More with Winning Relationships.