Packaging things to sell

Feb 06, 2017

AEC firms have a big problem. We wait for clients to tell us what THEY want or need and then we give them a proposal. That may seem perfectly normal to you. What’s wrong with it is that when you play this game you’ll almost always have competition and even if you don’t, fee will be an issue. Plus, it’s slow. You’re waiting for the client to act so you can respond. If they don’t act you can’t respond.

Years ago we did some high-level consulting work for a small firm (about 30 employees). I led the consulting job. After we finished with our process it was apparent these people needed help from three other of our service areas. So I called my three discipline heads together and told them we were going to make these people three proposals for the various things they needed. I gave them my thoughts on what to include and the fee I thought was appropriate for each and they each did a proposal as I asked. We reviewed for format, content, and graphic consistency. Then I called the client and told them we wanted to see them at 9 a.m. on a Monday morning – that I was going to bring three of my key leaders and make them three separate proposals for services I thought would help them. The client agreed to the meeting.

When the day came, I had each department head make their pitch and at the end presented all three proposals to the client who signed them all and gave us six figures’ worth of work and a retainer check by 11 a.m. My people and I all went to lunch and reviewed the lessons learned. They were shocked that we were successful but all of them learned what is possible through this exercise.

Folks, it is still possible to do this today. Why are you always waiting for your clients to tell you what they want? Figure it out and PITCH them. Tell the client what your assessment of their need is, how you will address it, what it will cost or what your contract will be based on, and why they should hire your firm to do it. Throw away all of your boilerplate and other BS on how many years of experience and how many registered professionals you have. That is how successful sellers do it. And when you do there will be less competition and less fee pressure. Try it. Tell me how it works.

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

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This article is from issue 1184 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here to subscribe or get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.

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.