Last week I spent time in the Nashville and Atlanta offices – basically ‘The South!’ Fried green tomatoes, grits, pimento cheese with bacon jam (yummy) and craft beer! And, of course. I experienced southern hospitality.
Jim Crabb, Casey Hester and I visited Earl Swensson Associates architects which is a large architecture firm headquartered in Nashville. Sam Burnette, healthcare principal, has been a friend of mine for some time, and he graciously opened his calendar to meet with us along with a couple of his project managers, a designer and a planner.
Business development is about building relationships, taking interest and listening to others, and asking people about their needs and wants. So we did ask: “What are you looking for from your MEP engineer and Medical Equipment team?” Their responses flowed as if we had prepped them in advance.
- Be responsive to emails and requests for information. Just acknowledge that you have received the email or phone call – you don’t have the answer immediately. This was unanimous!
- Be involved in the design process. Work with the architect to problem solve and discuss challenges. Be proactive and bring recommendations to the table.
- Be prepared for meetings. If you don’t know what is required for the meeting – call them.
- Accept that design is iterative and things will change throughout the process.
- Submit proposals with a break down in fees. Identify the steps in each phase, milestones, number of trips, etc. as this helps the architects to compare competitive submissions.
- Wait to ask for additional fees. Choose your battles by asking for fees after a few smaller changes and not for each little change request.
- Attend OAC meetings with a smile – no whining!
- Be likeable – if everyone likes you they will cut you slack.
Another question we asked was, “What helps us build trust with a firm we have not worked with before?” Response: “References from clients we are currently working with will provide a lot of leverage.”
At the end of our meeting, Sam told a story about a small MEP firm in Nashville that had been consistently knocking on their door seeking work. Eventually a project came up where the owner requested this MEP company on the project. Since the firm had developed relationships with ESa and did a terrific job for the small project ESa has partnered with them again and again. Now ESa is partnering with them on larger projects.
Moral of the story: Your persistence will pay off by building relationships and doing quality work. And dependability in the small projects will lead to larger projects.
Business development requires internal and external attention and we all have a role to play. What stories can you share where you have won over a client by building relationships, going the extra mile, or doing quality work?