Seller-doer, doer-seller, closer-doer, rainmaker … these are all terms used to reference a technical professional (architect, engineer, scientist, construction manager, etc.) tasked with bringing in business to his or her firm. We know why this model is important: clients are increasingly demanding it. We know who is typically involved – research from the Society for Marketing Professional Services and SMPS Foundation found that the most common titles for “seller-doers” are:
- Vice President
- Project Executive
- Project Manager
- Lead Designer
So we know the “why” and we know the “who.”
But what about the “what” and “how”? As in, what tools can seller-doers use to make new contacts, gain new opportunities, and land new business for their firms – and how can they use these tools?
The tools for seller-doers are no different than the tools for dedicated business developers. However, seller-doers, by their education and experience, are positioned to use some of the tools differently than their sales-focused counterparts.
This is the first in a series of occasional posts about the most effective tools that seller-doers could and should be using. Very few people will use all of these tools; rather, each seller-doer needs to decide which tool, or combination of tools, makes the most sense for them – depending upon their experience, personality, and comfort level.
Most A/E/C firms find that the Pareto Principal is alive and well when it comes to the ratio of repeat business to new business. Surveys have demonstrated again and again that most firms get approximately 80% of their work from repeat clients, and 20% of their business from new clients. So seller-doers are often the “front lines” when it comes to generating repeat work. But seller-doers need to think in broad terms and look beyond the current project(s) they have with a given client.
Take Acme Corporation. What services are you currently providing? Are there services that your firm offers, but Acme Corporate hasn’t yet hired you for? Promoting these additional services is known as cross-selling. Likewise, does Acme Corporation have multiple locations or divisions where your firm isn’t working right now? If so, you have an opportunity to more deeply penetrate the account.
As this simple graphic demonstrates, our example firm is currently working for a client at two locations. There’s a third location where they are not providing any services. Furthermore, they have four services in their portfolio – Service D is not being performed at any location, while Service A and Service C are only being performed at one location each. There’s definitely an opportunity to mine this account – expanded services at existing locations, and all services at a new location.
Your company will be hard-pressed to maintain that 80% volume if you only rely on the same contacts at your existing clients. You must meet new people: your client contacts’ counterparts at other divisions/facilities. You are already “pre-approved” to work with them, formally or informally, so take advantage of it. And remember, the easiest sale to make is an existing service to an existing client (conversely, the most difficult sale is a new service to a new client).
You’ve probably had that bad experience when a client contact, who has given your firm work for years, leaves the client’s organization. If you don’t have other, quality relationships deeper in the organization, you may suddenly find yourself outside looking in. Don’t rely on just a single relationship – make sure you meet and maintain regular contact with other individuals within the client’s organization.
Furthermore, when a contact leaves an existing client, make sure you know where they are going, and attempt to “follow them” there. You already have a positive working relationship, meaning that you can circumvent much of the traditional sales process with the new client.
As a seller-doer, your time available for business development is extremely limited – this is one of the downfalls of the seller-doer model. So you need to maximize your BD time and focus on the highest-probability activities. Selling more services to your existing clients should be at the top of the list. Remember, seller-doers are largely responsible for 80% of their firms’ annual volume!
- Contact all of your existing, active clients. Schedule an in-person meeting – over lunch or coffee, or at their office. Ask them about your performance on the current project. Find out how you could provide greater value to them. Learn about their plans and their organization – what projects are forthcoming, who are their counterparts at other locations (if applicable) and are they willing to set up an introduction, and is there an opportunity to expand your service offerings? This isn’t about selling, it is about learning. The conversation must be about them and how you can become an even more valuable resource.
- Contact all of you inactive clients. It’s probably been too long since you last spoke with them, anyway. Try to schedule an in-person appointment – again, it could be for lunch or coffee, or simply a meeting at their office. Ask them to look back on your prior projects and reflect upon the good, bad, or ugly. In retrospect, what – if anything – could have been done differently. Learn about any forthcoming projects. Discuss their counterparts at other locations, and their willingness to set up introductions.
- Track down your former client contacts who have moved on to other companies or organizations. Again, reach out and set up a meeting, if possible. Find out about their responsibilities and learn about their organization. Let them know what you and your firm have been doing in the year(s) since you last spoke. Try to rekindle the relationship and find out if there are any opportunities. Learn how you can be a resource to them.
- Schedule regular calls or emails with all of these contacts. Use a CRM program like Cosential, Deltek Vision, Salesforce, or another. Or, simply create an appointment or a to-do item in Outlook to follow up in one month or three months. Never let more than three months pass without reaching out to every contact.
- Create a plan of action for future conversations – how can you help them? Would they be willing to write a testimonial letter about their experience with your firm (or post something online)? Who do you know that can help them? Who do they know that can help you?
- Share targeted, valuable content with them. A blog. A book. A whitepaper. Make sure it is relevant to them. If it was produced by your company, great! If not, that’s okay – as long as it wasn’t prepared by a major competitor.
- Always look for opportunities to stay in front of your contacts!
Trying to invigorate or reinvigorate your business development program? Reach out to Scott D. Butcher, FSMPS, CPSM at 717.891.1393 or email him to learn how aecumen can help, from presentations and training programs to facilitation and customized consulting.