Mel Lester has posted a worthy reminder about AEC business development best practices, with his article: 10 Steps to Revolutionizing Your Rainmaking. He rightfully observes these ideas aren’t in themselves new or dramatic, but together they add up to a much more effective approach to attracting new clients than many of the all-too-common business development and RFP proposal preparation responses.
Consider his first three suggestions, for example:
1. Stop selling and serve buyers instead. There’s a reason most technical professionals are uncomfortable with selling: They’ve been on the other side of the transaction! If you don’t like being sold, what about prospective clients? Thebest way to sell is not to sell. Serve the buyer instead. Focus on meeting needs. Become a trusted advisor, a valued resource. Never waste the client’s time, but always bring something of value to every sales call.
2. Make relationship building a priority. Despite claims to the contrary, building relationships in the process of selling is still a vital objective. While you’re likely to agree with that statement, your sales approach is probably more transactional than relational. That’s the norm in our business. We focus on identifying leads, tracking RFPs, and writing proposals. The best firms, however, have a deliberate process for seeking and building relationships with buyers (and clients). They recognize that the secret to sustainable success is building more long-term relationships that produce a continuing stream of revenue.
3. Stop self-promotion and provide valuable content instead. The usual marketing activities suffer the same fundamental flaw as the traditional sales approach—they’re self-centered. Brochures, newsletters, email campaigns, websites, advertisements, trade show exhibits, all with the same central theme: Look at us! A better approach is to divert most of that investment (say 70-80%) tocreating content that informs, advises, and equips clients to succeed in their business. This approach obviously complements the service-driven sales philosophy described above.
There’s not much rocket science here, yet you really don’t need to be a rocket science to truly improve your business development processes. As a bonus, it’s generally much more satisfying and enjoyable to build worthy relationships, provide worthy content, and focus on serving than selling.