Understand Your Clients’ Motivations – Part 2

January 24, 2012 at 6:36 pm 2 comments

Babette Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
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Babette Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies

[This is the second of a two-part series. Part 1 was posted on 1/23/2012 on the Sales Aerobics for Engineers® blog. Click here to read it! http://bit.ly/wDZE3S ]

Do we really understand each other?

If you are a civil or other type of engineer involved in the sales process (which means all of you), or if you are a business development professional working for a civil engineering firm, sometimes client relationships really frustrate us!

Part 1 of this two-part series addresses what happens when our clients “go away” or disappear after what we feel is a sure-fire, slam-dunk win for us. A lot of time, it’s because we make assumptions about the way the sales close is progressing. From our perspective, not theirs.

Why else might our clients disappear during the business development or design/engineering process? Just when we thought we had them from “hello!”

One reason we are frustrated is that our customers do not make decisions in a straight line.

The straightest path towards winning business for your company is not that straight line. Of course you spoke with the CEO, another civil engineer, or their company’s business development professional, and said all the stuff you were supposed to say, created empathy and “connected”, determined what their focus and priorities were, and their timeline and budget for making the decision to do business with your company. So the next logical step should be to ask for their business and sign that contract.

Except it never quite happens that way, the majority of the time. Because there are a ton of other factors impacting your client’s ability to give you the thumbs up. And they are never going to share these factors with you, no matter how well you know them, how frequently you golf with them, no matter how many interesting bits of information you share with them.

Our customers do not make decisions the same way we do.

So while your company may have sold you on “how great they are” as a solutions provider, you are not the one making that decision to sign that contract, are you? Clear the business development process of all of your own biases and baggage. You bring a lot of “you” into the business of winning business for your company. Identify a number of potential, sometimes illogical, and certainly not straightforward, paths your customer may take on their way to signing that contract.

Consider their revenue stream and prior years’ profit margins, the number of projects and commitments they already have on their own plate, the human assets on board to oversee and manage projects, the cost of logistics and raw materials, whether they have a diverse presence in the marketplace or whether they rely on a niche market. Where does your design solution fit into their overall business and market mix? How does your design solution solve a current business priority? (Hint: this is not the same as solving a discrete project’s needs)

We are too myopic in our client relationships. It’s not about you and them. It’s about you in relation to them and their business universe.

Where do you fit into their constantly shifting, dynamic business universe? Something to think about, isn’t it?

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Entry filed under: Business Development, Career Development, Civil Engineering, civil engineering blog, Civil Engineering Companies, Civil Engineering Issues, Marketing, The Workplace, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Babette Ten Haken  |  February 28, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Most of us don’t back the selling process up far enough prior to the client’s deciding to call us in to present. Often, there are behind-the-scenes factors that – had we known and had the client told us – would have changed the solutions we proposed. Our clients may never tell us all the stuff we need to know about their priorities. However, it’s up to us to determine these priorities during the course of our discussions. Take the time to determine what the top three priorities are for the company – you may find out they have nothing to do (initially) with your design solution. Consider how your solution impacts their priorities and then align certain elements, often ever-so-slightly. We are so gung-ho to close deals and win contracts that we don’t recognize these small but important variables that can stall the project once in-house. Take the time upfront.

  • 2. Brandon  |  February 12, 2012 at 6:06 am

    We are going through this right now. The design solution should not only solve the client’s priorities, but the solution should make sure to address any possible future priorities. The priorities seemed to be completely opposite of what we were told on one of our current projects.


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