Featured Author

Elizabeth Bellsey

Marketing and Business Development Coordinator

BAM Architecture Studio

On March 17th, an engaging panel of CEOs/principals, marketers, business developers, and seller-doers shared their personal insights and experiences of managing client relations and training employees in business development. The panelists all agreed that the strongest marketing comes from the technical teams and the projects. Each firm varied in their approach of highlighting how their technical knowledge creates success for their clients – while some firms have active seller-doers, others have a BD team that solidifies the client connection and introduces the technical team at strategic meetings.

Client testimonials and thought leadership through articles and blog posts were discussed as wonderful opportunities to enhance client relations and share technical project experience. EDiS shared their tactic of reaching out to clients to discuss projects and encouraging clients to share the follow up marketing pieces on social media, increasing exposure for both the client and the firm. An added benefit is the chance for firms and clients to engage on a friendly level based upon mutual support and encouragement. Additionally, Jane Smith of SpaceSmith made the point that thought leadership may lead to business development. Her blog posts opened the door for invitations to write articles and speak on panels, which further promoted the SpaceSmith name and brought her to the attention of clients.

While discussing in-house training, Dewberry participates in a “train the trainer” program. Two members of the firm will learn recognized, process-driven business development techniques and will return to train the rest of the company. This method enhances in-house knowledge and doubles as a team-building opportunity. Pavarini-McGovern has a unique approach to training by selecting employees to serve the role of pretend clients for a long-term program. The trainees attend practice meetings and presentations with these “clients,” learning how to speak with them socially and feel comfortable asking about upcoming projects. While the employees will push the trainees farther than most clients, working with fellow team members is a safe way to practice before being put in front of a client and trying to win a project opportunity. Shen Milsom & Wilke features a similar training session for the medical equipment planning team. Following a virtual training sessions, teams are required to present to an internal panel that scores the presentations and provides feedback.

When asked how to build a seller-doer culture, M-E Engineers examines how each employee will excel. Rather than working under a rigid, blanket process, it is the role of leadership to adapt what is asked of the employees and tailor it to his or her strengths. If a team member enjoys engaging with clients, he or she is supported and trained in this role. In a similarly progressive method, M-E Engineers encourages team members to enhance their relationship building skills and become friendly with clients – not only to bring in new projects, but because it won’t feel like work if everyone is working with friends.

While each firm presented a different approach to the business development culture, a common thread that tied each together is the importance of supporting and training the internal team to be comfortable interacting with clients. Employee comfort creates a stronger business development culture within the company and further solidifies client relationships for future opportunities.