Selling professional services in February 2009

Feb 23, 2009

Yes— tough times are upon us. But that doesn’t mean any one firm can’t fight back and do well in spite of a weaker market. Marketing is a big factor in how well any one firm gets work at the expense of the “other guy” who provides the same services to a particular group of clients. Following are some questions we’re hearing raised around the conference room tables in many of our client companies today about how to sell more services… and the answers: “Why do we need to spend anything on marketing that is not directly related to selling a job?” You may not need to— depending on what you’re spending money on— but then again, you may find that more non-project-specific marketing activities lead to more sales. How can that be? Because if you get your name out there often enough to the people you are trying to sell to when you are actually in front of them they’ll be more likely to hire you. Non-believers in marketing think this is BS but it’s not! “How can we justify increasing marketing expenses when we are cutting everywhere else?” Because you have to. Because everyone else will do the worst thing possible in these bad times— cut marketing. The worst thing to do is cut marketing when marketing is now most needed. This is your chance to eat into the market share of the other guys! “What to do with the web site?” If your web site looks like most firms I see, you might want to consider throwing it out. Overhaul it. Start over. Simplify it. Make it better. Make it easier to use. Say what you really need to say. Cut down on the clutter. Make it interactive. Have a blog for each of your key people or market sectors served. Create a link to Facebook or MySpace so fans can comment on (and compliment) your projects. “How do we get everyone selling?” It will never happen! But you can get MORE people selling than you have now by encouraging it. Make a big deal out of every sale! Track and report sales by person or group. Celebrate successes. And make sure when people do dumb stuff that hurts your image, reputation, or ability to sell work, you don’t just ignore it. That’s the worst thing you can do. Confront! “How can we get people to record their potential clients, new leads, calls made, and other business development activities in our marketing database?” It’s never easy. I think you’ve got to track and report on the numbers if changes, new leads, etc., by person, so people know this stuff is being looked at. If you do this you will have more attention being paid to this stuff than if you don’t. “Any other thoughts on selling you think will help?” Go back to your old clients. They are always your best prospects. Populate your database with more potential clients and more contacts inside those organizations so the odds of making a sale go up. Make more calls… the more you make the better your chances are to sell a job. Put your best people out there selling. Those who show they cannot sell, regardless of their position or status in the firm, shouldn’t be used for it. Training works— if people have the potential to sell. Not all do. And remember those who can sell are going to want to be rewarded for it! Originally published 2/23/2009

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.