Selling a lot of work

Aug 06, 2018

As it relates to the AEC “industry,” we all should know by now that those who can sell a lot of work are the people who rise to the top of their firms, have the greatest job security, and make the most money.

And yet, in spite of the irrefutable evidence that what I’m saying is true, so many people in this business – and ones who actually WANT to get ahead – don’t do what they should be doing TO sell a lot of work.

Besides all of the dysfunctional stereotypes that are used for sales people, and the attitude that so many design professionals have – engineers most of all – that selling means you are a “liar,” there are still some people who manage to be successful sellers of lots of work AND are still effective professionals in whatever their primary discipline area is. Let’s examine some of what makes these people different from everyone else:

  1. They believe they CAN succeed. No one will accomplish anything if they don’t believe it is possible in the first place. This is fundamental and is essential in being successful in your selling efforts for AEC services.
  2. They have a disciplined approach toward their selling activities. This means they make so many calls to clients and potential clients every week on a specific schedule. This consistent outbound effort to “reach out” (and I can’t stand this clichéd phrase!), generates a certain number of opportunities over time. It’s a statistical certainty. But it takes a lot of discipline to make these calls.
  3. They value long-term relationships with other people. The best way to sell is when your clients become your friends. They won’t be your friends overnight, though. It takes time. And we all know the older we get the more difficult it is to form new, long-term connections. As individuals, we only have so much time and emotional energy to put into these new relationships when it’s hard enough to sustain the old ones. But it’s essential if you want to ultimately succeed as a consistent seller of services in this industry.
  4. They understand that selling is often not a short-term process. There are many steps. Your goal is not to make a sale the first time you speak with a potential client. It is simply to establish the next meeting/call. Inexperienced people try to sell too soon – before the relationship of trust is established. More contact during any period is one way to accelerate the process, but at some point, only patience and time will do.
  5. They like to help people. I know the number one salesman at one of our local car dealers here. He sold 264 cars last year. He told me that he doesn’t really “sell” anything. All he does is help people with problems. My experience observing the top sellers in AEC firms is much the same. They don’t “sell.” Rather, they help. If you help enough people, they’ll eventually be buying from you. Makes sense.

How to sell more work is one of those topics that never goes out of style. After all, we can’t do any of the good stuff we do without first making a sale!

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

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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.