Business development should be a collaborative effort in AEC firms, with all employees, even technical experts, playing a role in identifying opportunities.
Business development is an important component in any architecture, engineering, or construction business. It’s not a solo operation either. Everyone in the firm, regardless of their title, should have some level of involvement and responsibility for business development. As Mary Kay Ash (founder of Mary Kay) used to say, “Nothing happens until someone sells something.”
Business development helps keep work coming in the door and provides a pulse on what clients and prospects are looking for in design and construction firms. They are the ear to the ground for your firm. They focus on developing and building those relationships for your firm. Everyone in the company needs to be aware of the business development plan, like who the firm is targeting or in what markets they want additional work. This gives everyone the ability to be on the lookout for those clients and plant the seeds for those relationships. Even if the business development person is the champion, the technical team should also be involved.
What if you are a project manager, superintendent, engineer, or technical expert? Well, you are actually the best business developer a firm could ask for. You are the technical expert and the ear to the ground. Clients and prospects appreciate the knowledge and expertise you bring, because you are going to be the person they will be working with on their project. You don’t necessarily have to be out beating the bushes for work. You can nurture the natural relationships you have already built during projects. It’s as simple as listening for those comments and challenges that might allude to a future project for your client/prospect.
Many times, companies send a group of employees to a golf tournament, gala, fundraising event, etc. These people are typically technical and don’t necessarily have a business development role – or they don’t think they do. As a project manager, project engineer, or superintendent, you talk to clients and prospects at these events. Make sure to listen for valuable nuggets of information about future projects or challenges they are facing in their business or industry (in other words, things that your design or construction firm could assist with!).
Recently, I chatted with a superintendent of a construction company who had played in a golf tournament with some of his coworkers. After the tournament, they were having lunch and started talking to a couple other golfers at their table. During the conversation, a few questions revealed that these individuals worked at a school district this construction company was trying to get work with. Because one of the superintendents had prior knowledge of the business development plan (management had informed the team about their prospect list), he was better prepared to ask some additional questions and then pass the information along to the business development person for follow-up purposes.
This is how everyone can and should play a part in business development. It’s not knocking on doors that gets work every time; it’s educating and empowering your team to be part of the business development process. It’s making them aware of what your marketing and business development audience is and how they can play a small role in getting more work in the door.
Lindsay Young, MBA, FSMPS, CPSM is a marketing services advisor with Zweig Group and president and founder of nu marketing. She can be reached at email@example.com.