I am not particularly good at the key skill that every architectural firm must have - SELLING. You might have the same problem that I do. I have always had to wear too many hats, and one of those other hats always seemed to 'need me' more than sales. Being an introvert doesn't help either. Nevertheless, I have learned tons about how you are supposed to do it; and I have a pretty good track record when it's crunch time.
My preferred strategy, which happens to fit my personality, is to:
- research who I would like to work for
- find a way to meet them
- keep in touch at least every three weeks - by email primarily
- find ways to help them (info, maybe a sketch or two)
- rinse and repeat until a project idea comes along that I can help formalize
One of our largest projects was a private high school that took 7 years to get to the point of getting hired. Then, I helped the Owner put together an RFP process to meet oversight requirements. Needless to say, with what I had learned about them and the project in 7 years, we were the obvious choice - even over a couple of alums.
There Isn't Any One Way To Go About Sales
Building a niche is the only strategy that is likely to require just modest sales effort. That's because your marketing, if done well, turns Sales into just answering the phone and taking the order. Brilliant!
Whatever you choose to do, somebody needs to wear the Sales Hat at least 75% of the time - every day. That is probably you or a partner/fellow principal, because Sales is the hardest position to hire for in a design firm. But you can always find a way of doing Sales to suit you. Here’s a sampling of some tactics you can consider:
- Make contacts through a country club
- Join a fitness club for contacts
- Join the Chamber of Commerce
- Volunteer for a non-profit board
- Make cold calls
- Use drop-in visits to meet potential clients
- Join business clubs
- Write a newsletter
- Ask prospects for help (doesn't matter what) to build rapport
- Meet prospects by doing a face-to-face survey,
- Respond to RFPs
- Master the government selection process (the one way you can hire for the sales role)
Just one article like this can’t cover the entire Sales topic, so here are some additional resources to fill you in on some of the other considerations:
The Four Value Propositions
The 3 Ways Of Business Development
Choosing Your Clients
Start Your Own Firm - Sales
The Best Marketing Tactics
A Final Word
No amount of good reputation will keep you in work (unless you have a niche). Find the strategy that works for you and spend lots of time on it, consistently, so that your Sales strategy brings you the opportunity to be a success.