Although a prized skill, business development can often be hard to define, especially in the highly specialized and hierarchical AEC industry. What constitutes “business development,” exactly, and what makes it such an effective tool?
On Friday, November 30th, three veteran AEC marketing professionals sat down to tackle the topic of business development in a panel discussion as part of SMPS-NY’s monthly Coordinator’s Club: Andrew Weinberg, Director of Business Development at Whitestone Associates; Jeffrey Taub, Senior Technical Director of Business Development at AKRF; and Carrie Villani, Director of Marketing at LERA Consulting Structural Engineers. Hosted by LERA in their New York City office, the lively and open discussion covered all the BD bases. Here were a few takeaways from the session:
- Confidence and Self-Education are Key
At its core, BD is about cultivating client relationships, and nothing sells better than confidence. If you aren’t confident in your message, you won’t make a lasting impression on prospective clients. However, far from championing a “fake it until you make it” approach, both Andrew and Jeffrey urged up-and-coming—as well as established—professionals to self-educate. Learn the technical side of things as best you can, sit in on project meetings, visit a job site—if you immerse yourself in the services that your firm provides, you’ll develop a natural confidence that will come through loud and clear to your clients.
- The “BD Ninja” Skillset
A BD rock star is someone who pulls out all the stops to land that elusive client meeting. Charm, drive, focus, determination—you name it. A BD ninja, on the other hand, goes even further to communicate the value of BD to internal leadership and key staff, making it a priority for the firm. Here, a different skillset is required: diplomacy, nous, planning, coordination, and, of course, a gift for gab.
- Relations! Relations! Relations!
The famous adage in real estate is “Location! Location! Location!” When it comes to business development, relations trump all. Beyond maintaining client relations, what often gets overlooked is maintaining—and nurturing—internal relations. This means encouraging young staff to get involved in BD, instilling a passion about the firm in those around you, sending polite reminders about BD initiatives and deadlines to key personnel, building camaraderie between teams and departments, maintaining open channels of information, and more.
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