Conversion van

May 01, 2022

Improve your win rate by listening to what your clients say they want, instead of pushing the services you want to sell the most.

Growth, scaling, and optimization within organizations is a process that requires strategic planning, deliberate execution, and buy-in from all levels of the org chart. Skipping steps, failing to include the right people, or failing to exclude the wrong people, can create chaos and waste valuable resources, both internal and external. Active scaling involves coordination of resources, which is a very broad term that encompasses both the tangible and intangible. The ultimate goal is to create a successful environment in which people, skill sets, external relationships with stakeholders and clients, financial resources, and company resources are aligned to capitalize on the economic conditions and market need.

So what does this have to do with a conversion van? Active scaling is all about getting everyone in your organization to understand their unique role and how crucial it is to growing the business. And that is all about putting the right people in the right position.

If you recall the movie Napoleon Dynamite, you might remember that Kip, Napoleon’s brother, joins Uncle Rico in his ill-fated business venture selling plastic storage containers throughout southeastern Idaho. Kip then proceeds to take a perfectly good sales opportunity, place it under the back wheel of Uncle Rico’s orange conversion van, and shatter it to pieces. He finishes up his sales call by moaning and driving away.

Silly analogy? Yes. Does this happen every day in AEC? Yes. Just as an example, we all know people who approach every single proposal and every single project in exactly the same way, every time. Their proposals have exactly the same language and scope elements for every single client, regardless of what the client has stated about their needs. But by changing the way you approach proposals and scope elements, there are efficiencies to be gained for both you and for your clients. For you, that efficiency nets your firm the client’s trust and repeat business, and for the client, that efficiency helps them on total project costs. It sounds like a win-win – and it can be, except when you’ve got the Kips of the world driving those orange conversion vans over your projects.

One very easy way to improve your win rate and overall company success is to really hear what the other party is saying, not only the thing you want to sell the most. Sometimes, that may not be your department. This is one of the biggest hurdles to get past, and we see this all the time. Zweig Group even has a course that can get people to look past their P&Ls and see the benefits of cross selling.

A big part of the solution to this is just being a good listener and someone who enjoys problem solving and providing a solution to clients, both internal and external. At the end of the day, that’s really what the AEC industry does. So, make sure you’ve got your best listeners at the front end of your efforts in all aspects of your business. It’s really not that hard to avoid running over your project with a conversion van. 

Stephanie Warino, P.G., WV LRS, PMP is a licensed professional and an advisor with Zweig Group. Contact her for systems-level thinking evaluations of compensation and performance programs at

Elevating Doer-Sellers This course equips professionals in architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental firms to grow the business while serving clients. Elevating Doer-Seller 2022 is hosted by three industry leaders: Chad Clinehens, PE, and Dan Williams, PE. This interactive seminar presents business development techniques proven to drive value in your firm. Rooted in data and case studies, Elevating Doer-Sellers focuses on what works in today’s AEC firm utilizing practical and proven techniques that resonate across your organizational chart. Click here to learn more!

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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.