Posts filed under ‘Dealing With Clients’

The End of the World is Upon Us! (Naw, not really, its just the end of the 3rd quarter)

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

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Sales Aerobics for Engineers
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This is the time of year when many civil engineering and A/E consulting firms start pressuring their employees to complete outstanding projects for invoicing by year’s end. Now is the time of year when companies start pressuring their business development folks to bring in more work, win more contracts, make appointments with more people, talk to somebody, anybody who appears mildly interested in doing business with your company. It’s also the time when management simultaneously starts to threaten and cajole employees to become more productive and generate more revenue…. “or else.”  It’s the time of year when we sometimes sit with our collective heads in our hands and wonder how we ever got ourselves into all this.

OK. Time to climb off your mental ledge and get your feet firmly back into the building. While I am not about to wave a magic wand and tell you that all will be OK, there are some things you should think about doing if you haven’t already started. Regardless of whether your corporate fiscal year aligns with the calendar year. 

Some thoughts for teeing up for this fiscal year’s end and beyond….

  1. Next year’s business development campaign starts January 1 of the previous year. Clients’ and prospects’ sales years and cash flow simply do not align with your or your company’s need to generate revenue. You work for them, not the opposite. As you identify prospects and projects, put them into your “mental file folder:” is this particular project or client worth your time and effort, should they not be in a position to move forward for, say 12 months? Some of the big projects are won in this manner. You have to work differently with these types of clients and develop a strong understanding of how decisions are made within their corporate culture and infrastructure.
  2. Providing value to your clients doesn’t involve constantly jumping through their hoops. Some clients are sadistic: they treat all of their vendors in this manner, constantly changing their minds, upping the ante, and expecting not to be charged for their indecision and vanity. (You are not an advertising agency which self-selects for individuals who like living on the edge like this). Perhaps these are not the types of clients your company should be pursuing, even though they may offer the potential for landing big, juicy, high-profile projects. They may not treat you very well, while expecting you to put up with them and rack up a huge amount of non-billable hours in the process. If all of your clients are like this, how compromised and exhausted do you feel by the end of the year? Perhaps it’s time to clean out your client closet.
  3. Best may be better than optimal. While you pursue your technical quest for the optimal solution, how much is it costing your company? Unless you are an architectural or engineering genius and are the only reason your company was awarded the contract in the first place, you are part of a collaborative team effort. So communicate and determine whether the optimal solution really is optimal in the long run, before you pursue that design path. Depending on where we sit around the table, we see the same thing differently. Make sure you validate your ideas along with everyone else’s perspective. The best solution may be the most robust, in the long run.

What is your strategy for finishing up the current fiscal year? Let me know.

September 27, 2011 at 11:35 am 2 comments

A La Carte, All-Inclusive or Somewhere In-Between?

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

Featured Guest Blogger: Babette Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Strategies and Toolkit for the Sales-Engineering Interface
Connect With Babette On Linkedin Linkedin Logo
Read The Sales Aerobics For Engineers Blog


So how do you handle business development for your company? You do realize that every time you speak with a customer, you are making some sort of impression that will either make the customer: 1) want to do business with you; or 2) not. That’s business development. It’s about developing a customer and retaining them. It’s not about simply closing a sale or answering a technical question and then rushing on to the next one. Business development: it’s in your job description. Even if you are an engineer. Yes, you read me correctly.

So, how do you develop business for your company? Do you let your customers choose from an endless list of options and then add it all up? Or are you the voice of reason that stops them at a certain point and weighs the pros and cons about their choices? What directives does your company give you on how far to let the customer go before you jerk them back into reality? Or are you constantly participating in the bid process as your sole strategy for customer acquisition? You know, giving away everything for practically nothing.

If you are a “custom” company, then everything is a la carte. Cha-ching for you! How many of your customers are repeat customers as a result of this process? How many of your clients tell their friends about their experience with your company, which hopefully was positive? And does being “custom” set you above your competitors, in terms of the products, services and complete experience the customer receives from working with your company? Or are you perceived as a bunch of divas at the high end of the price-value continuum who niche market to, well, other divas? You create a great design at a high cost and people brag about how much they spent…while they complain about various aspects of their experience. It’s all part of “your” package.

OK, so you aren’t a custom shop. Perhaps semi-custom. Neither a la carte nor all-inclusive. That means you have retained customers who have provided repeat business for your company because they were happy with the products, services, price and experience you provided to them. Which means you are doing “similar but different” iterations of set pieces across the country or in various local municipalities. The customer knows what to anticipate from similar builds you’ve created either for them or other folks. You have created a great formula and understand how to build and maintain relationships starting with the person answering the phone to the person ordering materials to the individual doing the build. As far as the price-value thing goes, your customers feel they are getting a great deal (meaning a lot) for their investment because you include a bunch of practical stuff in the build package, based on your experience with other customers. It’s all part of “your” package.

Or you are known as the third bid, all-inclusive folks. The ones to whom the bid is always awarded based on price alone. That means you have a solid and successful track record of participating in public works projects and receiving the contracts on these projects. Because you possibly have turned your company into low-ball specialists. It’s all part of “your” package, which is basically 100% “their” package, anyway.

You know, there’s nothing wrong with any of these business development approaches. As long as you, your employees, and your customers “get it.” I mean, you should be focusing your marketing and sales efforts on the type of customers you prefer doing business with. Right? You just need to constantly ask yourself whether you are the a la carte folks, the folks in the middle or the all-inclusive low-ball folks. And whether you are doing business with the type of customers you actually prefer doing business with. So you understand why your customer base, and your profit margins, look the way they do.

Think about it.


civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

June 30, 2011 at 7:34 am 1 comment

Are you making others feel like they are on the outside, looking in?

 

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

Featured Guest Blogger: Babette Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Strategies and Toolkit for the Sales-Engineering Interface
Connect With Babette On Linkedin Linkedin Logo
Read The Sales Aerobics For Engineers Blog

There’s an art to building and maintaining client relationships. It’s more important than ever before. Clients are becoming more difficult to “win” and their loyalty is more elusive. And the definition of “client” encompasses those individuals within the workplace, your subcontractors and the companies who have contracted your products, services and capabilities.

There’s no room for elitism in client relationships. Your clients, subcontractors, co-workers and boss may admire your skill set and communication acumen. However, they did not hire you so they can worship you. They hired you for What’s In It For Me (WIFM): what you bring to the table and how you build their revenue stream.

Your “wow” solution or creative design allows people to appreciate you for understanding their needs. They assess your ability at communicating and asking good questions. They are delighted in your facility in translating these needs to the various technical disciplines involved in the project. And they will laud you and your company for producing output that not only solves their initial problem, but perhaps moves their company further along competitively as well. 

So don’t ruin the momentum you, and your company,  have created by “wearing” an attitude that communicates you are “too cool” for your clients. Or worse, that your clients are “too ignorant” for you to truly impart the sum total of your amazing skill set.  Or that the language and principles of engineering and architecture are too far beyond the capacity of your clients (mere mortals) to understand.  Oh, please. This is not the differentiator you want to establish no matter how good you are, how educated you are or how wonderful your solutions are. There’s someone to replace you right around the corner.

That’s not to say, alternatively, you should be your clients’ best friend, either. There is a fine line to maintaining professionalism while being accessible to the full range of your clients’ needs. Developing the extra set (or two) of professional “antenna” which allow you to assess the context of business decision making is crucial to building and maintaining client relationships.  And while professionalism may extend into playing golf, providing tickets to events, and invitations to company social events, you still need to remember that you are hired by your clients (and your company, for that matter) to provide solutions, not companionship.

When it comes down to it, your client base doesn’t owe you anything after they pay their last invoice to your company. No matter how much they fawned over you during the course of the project.  Regardless of whether or not they made you feel invincible and infallible during the course of the project.  Repeat business isn’t guaranteed.  And the context of the next project with this same client may not afford you anywhere near the same degree of familiarity as you encountered during the previous project.

Think about it.

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

May 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm Leave a comment

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