What is really important (in construction marketing)?

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Engineer showing thumbs upI continue to be intrigued by the priorities people place on certain experiences/stages in the marketing process. If you want to discuss the actual preparation of documentation for RFP/RFQ opportunities, you’ll attract a crowd in this community. If you chose to explore the foundations of building the relationships and reputation to achieve great RFP results, you’ll experience a yawn. (Intriguingly, the experts providing advice on RFP preparation advocate that you not waste time on bad-case RFP responses, and these generally occur when you haven’t set the stage ahead of time (in other words, you discover the route to initial success.)

These challenges probably reflect the human nature desire for instant gratification and perceived return for effort. If you try to explain longer-range strategies where you can build the intensity and quality of relationships to achieve success, you’ll probably receive a disdainful reaction.

These challenges extend to the process of co-ordinating a business development strategy and discovering the right people to do the work. In the architecture and engineering professions, undoubtedly the best business developers (salespeople) are doers-sellers, or qualified practitioners who can attract new business — the classic rainmaker. Rainmakers achieve the marketing holy grail: They can generate current income through billable hours (subbing the grunt work to associates), while they continue to attract new clients. They are worth their weight in gold and are truly hard to capture since of course they are ideally situated for ownership roles (so you will likely have a better chance of attracting rainmakers with equity stakes, as well as really generous income guarantees.)

We have these challenges in the publishing business, as well. In our business, there are industry-normal commissions, paid when the sales actually close. But you won’t get far (or last long) with a smash-and-grab approach to sales. Trust and reputation-building take time, and require intensive involvement in community activities and respectful communication with potential clients without any expectation of immediate sales results.

The challenge is figuring the right way to compensate representatives for this development work, without blowing  budgets on hopeless cases and ineffective activities. The “salary plus commission” model might work (and has in some cases) but in others, the salary goes into a pit of wasted effort — and, as the failing sales representative realizes he or she is not achieving results, the representative turns on the hard sale techniques, trying desperately to obtain immediate orders — and in the process, turns off any of the potential clients who might have been ready to do business.

The answer to these contradictions, I expect, requires a combination of immediate thinking and longer-term creativity. You may accordingly discover some real value in attending Patrick King’s webinar about Thought Leadership in the Construction Industry on Oct. 15. More information is here.

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