About the author: Don Archibeque is a Project Executive with Planifi, bringing more than 25 years of experience in construction and A/E (architecture and engineering) Project Management, as well as associated professional managerial services.
Current market data suggests that the average architecture/engineering (A/E) firm spends ~5% of net revenues on marketing, sales, and business development. Flights, hotels, meetings, association memberships, RFP response costs, the list goes on and on. Winning new business is expensive!
Architecture and engineering (A/E) sales are unique. Many firms rely upon referrals, repeat business, and responding to RFPs to sustain and grow the business. Oftentimes, architecture and engineering (A/E) projects are won or lost based upon long-standing relationships. Similarly, firm interviews and expensive presentations are relied upon for winning new work. However, the RFP process makes it difficult to build those critical relationships or sell on value in the face of steep price competition and commoditization of services.
In addition to these challenges, many architects and engineers simply do not enjoy the activities associated with business development. This makes it even more difficult to differentiate your firm from the competition, win new projects, or build the types of relationships that lead to valuable repeat business. With every lost opportunity comes, not only a loss of revenues from that project, but lost dollars in flights, hotels, and unbilled hours.
Win more without spending more
Leverage your project management expertise. World class project management in an A/E environment is a huge competitive advantage and is rarely used as a differentiator in sales meetings and interviews.
In your next project interview, your presentation should address risk (and its mitigation). This demonstrates to the owner, your firm values effective project delivery, predictable project delivery, and proactive communication. All of which translates to a successful outcome for the client.
Demonstrate your firm’s project management competency and assure them that the project will be managed in a formal project management system with real-time data.
Clients have often been burned by A/E Firms over-selling work in busy times, resulting in delays on their projects. Provide a resource utilization projection for the client’s project team, demonstrating adequate capacity for key resources.
Lastly, demonstrate how your firm manages key deliverables and milestones across projects. Clients know they aren’t your only customer, but they don’t want to be impacted by your other projects. Demonstrating to the client that you’re coordinating activities across projects can put their mind at ease that your firm can manage and deliver across multiple projects.
Planifi’s Visual Planning tools can help you communicate all of these things to your client’s with ease!
This shows that as a services provider you:
- Understand the client’s needs by identifying the correct key resources
- Value their business and will keep your promise to deliver on time
- Have available resources today to deliver the work as proposed
This resonates particularly well with Clients and General Contractors involved in alternate delivery methods such as design build or integrated project delivery. The GC’s input to the Owner can be the deciding factor in winning the project and overcoming design services’ commoditization.
Build Lasting Relationships
Once you win a project, you now have an opportunity to let your project management practice shine and win repeat work from the client. Relationships are built with the client by successfully navigating the “ups and downs” of a project journey. All projects go through highs and lows. Central to elite project management (and relationship building) is the ability to communicate proactively – both good news and anticipated challenges.
Relationship and team building occur when you face a challenge with the client, working shoulder-to-shoulder. Additionally, as a project manager, effective change management has a significant impact on the relationship moving forward. Let’s say there’s a change in scope. How did you present the additional services discussion? When did you approach the discussion? Effectively managing change orders will help you achieve the desirable “trusted advisor” status, which puts you head-and-shoulders above the competition. Demonstrate your proven capabilities to deliver a quality project management/project delivery experience for clients and this will differentiate your firm even in a highly competitive RFP process.
Secure Repeat Work
The project is complete, and your firm has proven its capabilities to deliver a quality project management/project delivery experience. This will differentiate your firm in the future, even in a highly competitive RFP process.
Be sure to create a close out process. This is your chance to discuss opportunities for improvement, as well as remind them of your successes throughout the project! Take time to review the goals of the project and your collective achievements. Lastly, close out the review by inquiring about future project opportunities and asking about a good time to follow up. Then, set a reminder in your calendar and be sure to follow up on time!
Great project managers are continuously assessing project risk. Always Identify, prioritize, and mitigate risk – from pre-design through design phases and into construction.
Business development is expensive. Travel costs and unbilled hours add up quickly, but that’s nothing in comparison to losing a long-term relationship and opportunity for renewing business. Leverage your firm’s unique value and project management expertise to make the most of those expensive firm interviews and client presentations.
Good luck and happy selling!
Interested in learning how Planifi software can help your firm improve project management? Schedule a call today!