Selling secrets of the business development pros

Feb 01, 2010

Selling is what everyone in the A/E or environmental business WANTS to do right now. I mean really— who doesn’t need more work? That said, selling is something that most firms don’t talk about much and few are good at. I thought it was time again for a little focus on selling. Here are some secrets of business development pros that I wanted to share with you: Love what you are selling. If you love it, you’ll be good at it. You will be passionate. And you won’t have to force yourself to do it. Know your audience and your services. You have to truly understand the psyches of your target clients and keep them in the forefront of your mind at all times. Sell yourself. It’s a cliché, but you had better do it. Dress well. Have a clean car and even cleaner breath. Shine those shoes— or replace ’em. Have business cards. Spend more time asking questions than talking about yourself. Buy a lunch. Refrain from political and religious talk. Aim high in the hierarchy. Always try to sell to the highest level people in the client organization. It is always easier to get kicked down than it is to “fall up!” Activity precedes results. You need to have a lot of people in your Rolodex and make many calls on them. You have to have many projects to pursue and make many proposals in order to have a consistent ability to sell. Sell only the next step. Don’t try to sell a $50 million project at the first meeting. Sell the next meeting. Just keep inching the client along to the next step in the process and eventually you will succeed by moving them to the LAST step (signing the contract). Never give up. If you have young kids, you might have seen the show, “Yo Gabba Gabba!” There’s one skit with a song that is stuck in my head that goes, over and over, “Keep trying, keep trying, don’t give up, never give up.” It’s a good song to know for A/E professionals who want to sell their services. Even if the client says they would never consider you, keep trying. Even if a potential client says they are happy, don’t believe it. See point number seven above. No one is totally happy— and they certainly aren’t happy all of the time. Every client can be won over by someone else at some point in time. You need to make sure you are around and thought of when that time occurs. No job is too small for a new client or established one. Clients have small jobs. You cannot send them away! This is the chance for another firm to show them why they are better. Small jobs are inevitable! Do them gladly for clients who may have bigger ones. People want to buy from people who are helpful and show they care. You have to be willing to answer questions, give free advice, and make yourself available if you want to sell something to a client worth chasing. Clients don’t always know what they need. You have to help them understand what their real options are and guide them accordingly. This is one more reason you need to understand your client’s organization (and business) as well or better than they do. Study up! Stay in frequent contact. It has been shown that the last person to see a potential client is probably the one who will get the job. Be that last person. Originally published 2/1/2010

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.