Listening to (and understanding) the owners’ perspective

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boston college

boston college sealIf you are tasked with organizing association events, you can almost certainly be sure of success in attracting a crowd if you schedule as guest speakers representatives of the owners of current and future projects. Everyone wants to know about opportunities and I think most of us sometimes dream of gleaning the bit of information from the owners’s representative that can lead us to future business.

The question is:  How well do we listen to (and learn from) the owners’ perspective?

Consider, for example, some of the advice from Mary Nardone, Boston Colleges associate vice-president for capital projects. In her SMPS Marketer article, If I told you once . . . Rules for Working With Owners, she gives 10 pieces of advice, most which seem so simple and obvious to me I’m amazed that anyone seriously seeking business would even think of breaking them.

For example, her first rule, Don’t be late.

When you are attending working sessions with our end-users, design meetings with senior administrators, construction meetings with the general contractor, or providing a proposal for design services or a request for additional service fees, don’t be late — and don’t miss deadlines.  Tardiness makes an immediate impression that is difficult to erase, especially if it occurs more than once.  Make sure the team members representing your firm understand this to be your rule.

Seems simple enough. And so do the others, including:

Do your homework

Do your  best

Share your toys (meaning, if you have other owner clients, bring them with you on site tours. I can see how this would create a great reference/relationship marketing opportunities. She also suggests you might co-ordinate office visits to show your technologies; possible with private institutions, but I suspect harder to pull off with public organizations)

Actions speak louder than words

“We don’t care if everyone else is doing it!”

This is a big one — and it’s a fine line. On the one hand, owners want to see the trends on other campuses (as I noted under ‘share your toys’) but we do not intend to jump off bridges just because everyone else does. This ties into ‘Do your homework’.  Use care that your recommendations and examples are relevant to our campus context. This rule also applies to signature design elements; we don’t care if you are doing it elsewhere, that doesn’t mean it’s the right fit on our campus.

If you struggle with the owner’s logic for not wanting a particular element or option, don’t ignore these objections (hoping we’ll forget or give in.) And never make the owner over-defend a position — remember Mom’s number one reason, ‘Because I said so.’

Watch your language!  — be careful with jargon, and understand the technical terms and wording used by your potential client. Is it a “dormitory” or “residence hall” at this campus?

Money doesn’t grow on trees

Keep your promises

I’ve provided some explanations for some of the less obvious rules, because I think you can read quite clearly the meaning in the ones that I just list in order here.

Underlying these rules, of course, is the fact that you should appreciate in seeking out new business, the story behind success is far more quality than quantity. Grinding out boilerplate presentations will just turn into a grind. Truly knowing your prospective client, understanding needs, and maintaining/extending solid relationships will almost certainly lead to new business.

Realize that even in public-bid/competition environments, you can be confident that the general rule in the ongoing Construction Marketing Ideas survey applies. Most business — more than 70 per cent, arises from repeat and referral sources. Anything you can do to enhance these two streams will be disproportionately effective. You’ll see how, in these examples, why Nardone’s rules are much easier to successfully apply when you can connect the dots and provide a meaningful related client recommendation and how you will kill future (repeat) business by breaking these rules. Perhaps you can build your ability to comply with the 10 rules into your “go/no go” matrix as well. Score a perfect 10, it’s a go. Anything less, be careful — and if you can’t get eight out of 10, then maybe you should look elsewhere before jamming another proposal through the system.

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