The Truth About Business Development For Architects
Recently I sent this email out to the subscribers on the Business of Architecture email list.
Read the email I sent, the responses I got, check out my response at the bottom of this article, and then let me know what you would suggest regarding this question about business development for architects.
From: Enoch Bartlett Sears AIA
Yesterday I talked with a friend and fellow architect.
He's struggling because project inquiries aren't coming in.
Like a doctor, I asked him a few questions about what he's done over the past 6 months to develop new work pipelines.
Here's what he did (see if you can identify what he should do next):
- Emailed 6 local contacts who could potentially refer him work.
- Got a positive response from 5 (so far so good).
- Met in person with 4 (good job!).
- Scheduled a follow up meeting with 1 (great).
- That 1 person canceled the meeting before it happened.
- Wondering what to do next, feeling down and under-motivated (I know the feeling).
How should my friend proceed from here?
I got some great responses to my query, proving to me that the Business of Architecture faithful are indeed the smartest architects in the world.
Here are some of your responses, in no particular order:
Steve N. (Colorado, US)
In the longer term, 6-18 months at least, he needs a better strategic plan if he wants to be in independent architectural practice. Either that, or depend on his wife for the strategic life dollar plan.
Matthew G. (Melbourne, AU)
Denn Sigauke (Harare, Zimbabwe)
Michael W. (Nebraska, US)
Example: no one wants to spend time in a lawyer’s office…. because every minute you're there you assume it is costing you money. Now it seems they put on a pretty good act about being busy.. and have lots of papers and folders on their desk. Mostly they are unorganized and have staff research and prepare most of the legal documents that you would ever sign. Ooops… off on my lawyer tangent. Fact is: The perception of what you believe your Lawyer or Doctor's time is worth is based on what you believe…
Now put yourself in the position where you have just won FIVE PROJECTS and you are scurrying to find some draftsmen to work on them. Lo and behold Joe who you spoke to a month ago stops in your office because he has narrowed his search to five firms to design his brand new two story office building. WOW!!! He sees you busy on the phone… your calendar marked up, blueprints and sketches out on your tables and thinks WOW!!
“Momentum tends to attract more work”
Joshua L. (US)
Simon J. (Washington DC, US)
Go out more socially and tell everyone you are an architect….Everyone!
Try and get published, anywhere.
Sit on juries so as to meet other architects for referrals.
Wisdom from Norbert Lemermeyer (Alberta, Canada)
- This person should develop a systematic long term program.
- This person should develop some business development skills.
- This person should not expect instant results.
- This person should develop a business development initiative.
- This person should pay attention to what works and build off of that in the business development program.
Better yet this person should join the Architects Marketing Academy. He needs an architectural doctor's help.
Daniel H. (Ontario, Canada)
Then I’d ask them for a review on Houzz.
Both are really just an excuse to check-in with them and ask if they know someone who could also use my help.
- I would speak to the person, who canceled the meeting, to check what is the reason and try to pick a new time for it;
- I would call and try to schedule follow up meetings with the other 4, who gave a positive response on the first meeting;
- I would email and call more contacts who can potentially refer me work and follow the same steps with them.
Charles H (California, US)
Alden Neufeld (Manitoba, Canada)
Re-schedule the meeting with the person that cancelled.
Sounds like he got favourable feedback from his initial contacts………I would go back to them and see if he could schedule a follow up meeting with them.
Paul I. (Manchester, UK)
Marcus M. (New York City, US)
David C. (Utah, US)
Dan K. (Texas, US)
Brian Lewis (Trinidad and Tobago)
Kahina Ferreira (Angola)
Your friend that will hopefully become mine as well should:
- Make a list of the top 30 people that influence others; then narrow it down to the top 6;
- Create a newsletter with solutions related to frequent problems in the built environment to catch the prospects attention;
- Create a monkey's fist;
- Arrange weekly meetings with prospects and with professionals from the same area counting with possible quitters;
- Do a follow up on the ones that replied and start working on them.
- Show how he can solve a couple of problems by giving good advice to prospects so that they trust him.
- Keep them interested and make random calls even just to say ‘Hi'.
Claire McManus (Ireland)
Susan T. (Pennsylvania)
Well Susan, thanks for being honest!
Hopefully this article has given you some ideas.
Finally, here's what I actually said:
- Reschedule the meeting with the contact who canceled. He is probably just busy. When you reschedule, make sure you approach it from the position of how you can help him (leave your portfolio at home!). See response from David M. above.
- Reach out to more contacts. Try 30 or 40, not just 6. As you can see, people fall out of the process along the way. To end up with a decent number of meetings, you need to go big! See many responses above, including that from Mike W!
- Lastly, shift your mindset. A no isn't a personal rejection. You need to continue to follow up a lot to get results! See response from Paul I. above.
As you can see, business development is a process, and it needs to have a system.
This cannot be overstated (see the response of Norbert Lemermeyer above)!
Now, what do you think? Leave your thoughts below!
Enoch Bartlett Sears AIA
founder and publisher
Business of Architecture