Calling to find work

Jun 01, 2020

Getting on the phone right now may be the single most important thing you can do to bring in new work.

Because of COVID-19, there has probably never been a better time to get on the phone to call clients and potential clients. They are more likely than ever before to answer a call and will likely spend more time talking to you than they would have pre-COVID-19.

If you would like to bring in some new work to your A/E firm, here are some thoughts on these business development calls and how to make them:

  1. Start by calling all of your current clients. This is usually the most fruitful. Are they happy with what you are doing for them? What problems are they having you can help them with? Do they even know everything your firm does for clients?
  2. Next, call your past clients. What’s happening? How are they faring? What can you help them with? Do they know everything you do? What are you doing with other clients like them right now that would be interesting to tell them about?
  3. Call everyone you think you would like to do business with. How is their business? What problems are they having and how are they dealing with them? Do they know anything about your firm? What would it take for you to get a chance to demonstrate what you can do for them?
  4. For new clients, your singular goal is to get to the next step in the selling process. Is there anything we can help you with? What is the next step for us to learn more? Who else do we need to be in touch with over there?
  5. Open up with lots of questions. Get the client talking about themselves, their business, and their problems. It’s a fact that people love to talk about themselves more than anything else. So ask questions to get them talking about themselves. Odds are if you do that they will think you are a “great person” and be willing to keep talking with you.
  6. Try out the “assumed need” approach. This is very simple. You open up the discussion by thanking the client for taking your call but quickly move to telling them the reason for your call is that you heard they had a need for your services. Then be quiet and wait for their response.
  7. Speak more slowly than you normally would. This will help the client have the time they need to switch gears mentally from whatever they were doing before you called. It’s essential. Speaking slowly will also show that you are not the typical “telemarketer fast-talking sales type,” and are instead just a serious professional trying to be of service.
  8. Stay away from politics or any other controversial subjects. Right now it seems like even social distancing and mask-wearing are being construed by some as political statements. Make no assumptions about anyone and what their politics are. Best to avoid anything that could make them think less of you.
  9. Remember “KLT – know, like, trust!” No one will buy anything from you if they first don’t know you. Once they know you, they will hopefully like you. And once they like you, they have a chance to trust you. Only if they trust you will they actually buy whatever it is you are selling.
  10. Volunteer to be of service. Being helpful so you can establish yourself as a “go-to” resource for the client has always been a great way to sell our industry’s expensive intangible services. This means solving a problem, sharing an idea, or doing something else for them that is helpful. It’s a great selling tactic.
  11. Know when to pass the baton. I have noticed over the years that some business developers do not know when to make the introduction to someone else in the firm who is more knowledgeable. Whether it is fear of not getting credit or selfishness or just being stubborn, this is a problem to look out for as it is completely avoidable.
  12. Follow up. Once anyone else is involved, or you get that first small opportunity to be of service, follow up to make sure it went well and the client is happy with you. Sometimes when that baton is passed, things do go wrong. The baton is dropped. Someone doesn’t do what they say they will. You want to make sure that doesn’t happen with you and blow this opportunity for your company.

Getting on the phone right now may be the single most important thing you can do to bring in new work. So stop reading and start calling!

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.