This is a guest blog by Lindsay Diven, CPSM
It’s interesting that in the engineering industry, our sales teams are often referred to as Business Developers or Client Managers. The sound of the word “sales” makes you think of a used car salesperson or a telemarketer. I get it. You studied to be an engineer and practice your craft with pride, as you should. You are very skilled in your expertise.
However, there is a point, when you must win that next project for your team or firm. This typically involves finding potential new clients and meeting with decision makers. Having worked with engineers for more than a decade, I know that this is easier said than done.
Resisting Business Development Meetings
You may resist meeting with clients because you feel you must sell your experience and ideas. This often feels like a “dog and pony show.” The clients often feel this way too. They don’t want to sit in an hour-long meeting listening to how great you and your firm are. They are busy too and more often not taking as many “sales” meetings or are making them shorter. I have experienced some clients only giving us 15 minutes!
So, how do you make business development easier for you and more accepting for your clients? How do you make those type of meetings valuable to both you and your client so that each party feels their time wasn’t wasted?
You do this by redefining business development.
First, let’s start with the original definition.
Business Development (BD) is the act of identifying and developing opportunities for work. BD comprises of several tasks and processes generally aiming at developing and implementing growth opportunities with and between organizations.
Many engineering firms equate this to finding and winning new projects. But many engineers don’t see themselves as salespeople.
Helping Instead of Selling
Now, let’s redefine business development to something I believe will help both you and your clients.
Business development is personally connecting with clients to understand their needs and developing a solution to address those needs.
Approaching BD first by trying to find out what the client’s needs are and then, trying to come up with solutions is mutually beneficial to both you and your clients.
You should approach your business development meetings with the intent of listening and finding out the client’s unresolved issues and how they are or aren’t being served now. As they share, really listen and ask exploring questions to have them dig deeper. Examples of exploring questions can be:
- Why do you say that?
- Let’s make sure I understand…
- Is that a common problem?
- I’m not sure I get that…
- Can you please build on that?
After you have fully explored the client’s issue, then it’s time to respond with a recommendation. You can provide alternatives and suggest solutions. It’s okay if you can’t solve the entire problem in that meeting. Better yet, if you have a reason to meet with the client again or send follow up material. This way, you can continue to provide value to the client and deepen your relationship.
This turns the meeting from selling your services to trying to help them solve their issues and meet their goals. Your conversations turn from “here’s what services we offer” to “we experience that before, and some solutions might be…”.
You are helping your clients instead of selling to them.
It really becomes about understanding the client instead of trying to sell them your services. When I have coached engineers on this approach as part of their business development training, the engineers were much more comfortable going into “sales” meetings with clients.
I challenge you to redefine what business development means to you. Then, approach your clients from the perspective of first seeking out and really listening to what they need help with. Then, instead of selling them your services, you provide different ideas and approaches to resolve the client’s issues.
About Lindsay Diven, CPSM
Lindsay Diven, CPSM is the founder of Marketers Take Flight – a company that provides marketing and business development training to the A/E/C industry. She has served as a Board of Director, Principal, and marketing and business development director responsible for managing a nearly $70 million sales goal and a team of over a dozen business developers and marketing professionals at a national architecture/engineering firm. Lindsay has worked for more than 15 years with both marketing and business development teams to implement business strategies to increase sales opportunities and win rates. She also serves as a Senior Consultant for Full Sail Partners, a Deltek Platinum Partner. Feel free to reach out to Lindsay on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about redefining business development.
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions in the section below.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success