Effective selling is nothing more than communicating your value in a way that your prospective client understands and helping them to take the next step.
In today's episode you'll discover:
- Why ‘selling' is about communicating, not manipulating
- The 7-letter word that will drastically improve your power of persuasion
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Enoch: Hello, Architect Nation. I am Enoch Sears. This is the show where, each week, I speak with a successful architect, designer, or consultant to discuss tips, strategies, and secrets for running a profitable and impactful architecture practice.
Today’s show is sponsored by BQE Software, the makers of ArchiOffice. ArchiOffice is the office and project management software built with the needs of architects in mind.
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Today is part two of my interview with Richard Petrie, the world’s leading architect marketing coach and trainer. He leads the training over at the Architects Marketing Academy. You can read more about that at http://www.ArchitectsMarketing.com.
In this episode, you’ll discover how to attract and land better clients, projects, and fees through the power of effective communication. With that, here’s today’s show.
Alright, Richard, welcome back to Business of Architecture.
Richard: Nice to be back.
Enoch: Richard, I thought we’d focus these two sessions, the last episode, which is 102, and this episode, 103, on the selling part of architecture. “Sales” and “selling” is almost a swear word, a curse word, in architecture. What has been your experience with that?
Richard: Yup. Oh, absolutely. A lot of architects hate to be seen as a sales person. The irony is we’re all selling. Whether we’re providing accounting services or even doctors, we’re all selling our services or products. We, sort of, need to get over that a little bit.
Ideally, I think, architects would like the world to come to them and see their great work, and their work would speak for themselves, and they would be referred so much that they would never have to do any selling at all. The truth of the matter is, sometimes you’re busier than you could handle, and other times, you need to work.
So, we do need to think about selling. A better way of, maybe, saying it is we need to get better at communication. I don’t necessarily think we need to sell. We don’t need to manipulate. You don’t need to jolt people in to doing anything. What you do need to do is to be really good at communicating how you can help people.
That’s what architects don’t do particularly well. They talk about what they do, but (we talked, in the last one, about the “Benefit Buster” and there was a video we pointed people to) you’ve got to be able to communicate how you can help people get what they want. So, a good saying is: “If you help people get what they want, they’ll help you get what you want.” The other good saying is: “Marketing is nothing more than finding out what people want and giving it to them.”
Architecture is nothing more than finding out what people want and giving it to them. One, we’re not very good at finding out what people want, that’s the first problem, because we don’t ask very good questions. The second thing is we’re not very good at showing how we can get them what they want. We get caught up in saying things which are not very clear because we’re worried about things. So, what we’re trying to do is help people communicate better.
Enoch: Well, it’s interesting you say that because what I’ve noticed is that, in every episode I’ve had with architects, they are excellent communicators. I’ve had some great architects on the show who really do have that gift of communication. If you look at their work, it’s actually represented in the caliber and the kind of work that they do.
Stuart Magruder, who was on six or seven months ago, he’s on the board of the AIA Los Angeles. He’s rubbing shoulders with a lot of really influential architects down there, so he’s had the time to study them. I say this to back up what you said, Richard, he said that in looking at these architects that are successful, the one thing you see that’s in common is they’re all excellent communicators.
Richard: Right. When we talk about communicators, there are people who are articulate, but that’s not really what we’re talking about. We’re talking about being able to communicate and convey how certain things that you’re proposing can change someone’s life in line with the way they want it to be changed. So, I guess, that’s a subtle difference.
Here’s a good example: So, Marcus Marino, who you know very well, was at the Las Vegas conference and we’re talking about… One of the big things that came through at the Vegas conference and the Petrie Method was communication is around helping- actually, architecture is around helping people feel the way they want to feel, not just see what they want to see, but feel how they want to feel. I don’t know what it is for other people, but some people want to feel inspired, some people want to feel relaxed, and some people want to feel safe, right?
As an architect, you’ve almost got to be a bit of a psychologist. You’ve got to be a marriage counselor – I’ve heard that a lot. You’ve got to be a bit of a psychologist to find out what is driving this person, what’s important to them, what’s their hot buttons, not just in a lunch call, superficial level around “How many bedrooms do you want?” and “What sort of space do you want?”, but at an emotional level.
So, we’re dealing with Marcus and we’re trying to create a bit of a pitch for him and help him communicate his value. He was talking and I said, “What do you do?” He’s, “Oh, you know, architecture is like writing a song. It’s about feeling. It’s about movement. It’s about rhythm. It’s about style.” “That’s right. It is.” I’m not sure how this links to the next bit, but, what he was saying, I thought it was, kind of, interesting talking about it like a song.
We need to convert it away from getting superficial briefing to getting an emotional briefing, at least having some questions in there. So, one question we designed for him when he goes to speak to someone is: “How do you want to feel in this space?” “When you come home… “or “When you come to your office, how do you want the space to feel?”
Another way of doing that, of talking to that person’s deeper needs is… Say, I’m the architect and you’re my potential client, Enoch. “Have you ever walked in to a space, in to a house, and looked around and go ‘Wow. This place feels amazing.’ ?” You probably say, “Yeah, I have actually.” So, okay, “Tell me about that feeling that inspired you so much.” You’ll then tell me about that. “Okay, that’s great. My job is to try and give you that feeling in your house. Now, maybe we don’t have the budget of that place that you saw, we don’t have the range that it had, but through good design, when you come home, we can still give you that feeling. That’s my job on your project.”
Some people will listen to this and go, “That sounds, kind of, corny.” You know what? I don’t care; because it’s not corny; because that is the essence of what people want. They want to feel a certain way. That’s the secret to anything, not just architecture – I use this in other areas.
People have certain ways they want to feel. If you can understand how they want to feel, and then show them how, by your designs, you can get them to feel that way, you will win so many more projects, and you will break down so many more doors, and you will then know why you had trouble closing deals and winning projects in the past – because this was the page you’re missing.
Enoch: Why does that not come naturally to a lot of people, Richard? Do you have any insight on that?
Richard: Not really. I think we’re just trained… As we get older, we’re trained to get more and more intellectual, more and more analytical, and more and more logical, so we deal on a higher level. When you get back to dealing with someone’s soul, and someone’s heart, I think we lose that. We’re quite emotional as we were kids and we learned to train that out of ourselves – we get more rational. Maybe that’s why, when you go back to that place, what you end up doing is connecting with people in a deep level.
Most of the architects in this program, you would have had projects where you’ve connected really deeply with your client, and you really felt that you’re on the same wavelength, and you really understood what they want, and what they felt, and they wanted to feel – it was a great project. Likewise, I bet there are other projects where you just felt you didn’t get that connection. They were giving you a description of what they wanted and you were designing to that brief, but nothing… It’s like two singers slightly out of sync, right? That’s the difference, I think.
When we’re in sync, when we’ve got rapport with our clients… Rapport is an emotional connection, right? Why do we lose it? Oh, I don’t know. But, when you’re emotionally connected to another human being, whether it’s a client, or a wife, or a husband, then we’re in sync and everything works. When we’re not emotionally connected, then it doesn’t work so well. It’s very deep [Inaudible]
Enoch: Yeah. Well, a couple of weeks ago I had Frank Harmon on the show. Frank Harmon is, I think, one of the world’s greatest architects living right now. I mean, he’s been mentored by Richard Meier and he does just a pristine, excellent work.
He’s been going at it for a long time. I think he’s in his, maybe, early seventies now, so a very experienced architect. He said that one of the most effective questions that he asks people to get at that is he said, “Imagine a room that you had when you were a kid that you really like to be in, and then tell me about that room and why you liked it.”
Richard: Yeah, exactly. It’s going in to the same place. If he’s a great architect and he’s doing it, then everybody else should be doing it too. That’s a great way of doing it.
Another great way to ask that question is: “Imagine you’ve walked home, and you walked in to a house, and you’re so proud of what you’ve got. It’s two years down the track…” or “It’s one year down the track, and you’re really happy with what you’re seeing. It makes you feel good, and everyone else is pleased with it, and your husband’s happy. What do you see?” It’s the same question asked from a different perspective.
We’re looking for different things. Were not just saying, “How many bedrooms do you want?” and “Do you like curls, and do you like…”
Enoch: Like Victorian or [Inaudible]
Richard: Yeah. We’re designing for the heart. You’ve got to include those logical things as well, but most people only include those things and they leave. Don’t forget, too, it’s not how you want to feel when you walk in to a house. You’re the architect. Your job is to find out what they want to feel, and then use your skills to give them that. It’s not about designing something for yourself that you’re proud of, it’s about designing something which really hits the mark for them.
It will be very specific. You can’t generalize. You’ve got to go in and ask them – that is why doing the diagnosis, almost doing an emotional diagnosis, is very important. You’ve got to be armed with good questions to pull it out. The top guys, I believe, they do have their questions. That’s part of what makes them great.
Enoch: Richard, you told this great story in a recent blogpost on Architects Marketing about Joshua Bell. Would you recount that story for our listeners?
Richard: Yeah, it’s a great story. It was an award-winning journalist who wrote the full article on it. Joshua Bell was one of the greatest virtuoso violinist who can play the most intricate pieces. He was, by all accounts, a child prodigy – he’s now thirty-something. When it comes to playing the violin, he’s a genius.
The Washington Times did an experiment. He had previously, about three weeks earlier, sold out the Boston Philharmonic – one of their theaters. Average ticket price $100 per seat, and it was full. You couldn’t get them. What they decided to do was a little experiment to see if we took him out of that environment and we put him somewhere where he’s completely incognito, what would happen?
So, they dressed him up in some baseball gear and a baseball cap. They gave him a place to play which was at an arcade just outside the railway station during rush hour. They’re worried about a little contingency. What happens if a big crowd forms? What happens when too many people are there and it causes problems? What about this…? They need not have bothered.
Joshua Bell gets up. He’s playing on a $3 million Stradivarius violin. He opens his case, he starts to play, and you know what happens? Over one hour period – virtually nothing. The crowd just walks by. A few people slowed down. A couple of people stopped. I think it was about seven people who stopped in total, and there was a 1093 people who walked past him. They measured it all. They went and interviewed the people who did stop, “Why did you stop?” “Oh, it sounded quite nice.”
A thousand people walked past, only seven stopped. He made $32 in the hour. One lady recognized him and she actually, they took this out, she actually gave him $20. They didn’t count that because she recognized him, but everybody didn’t recognize him. For that one hour, he was worth $32.
Now, there are lots of morals or lessons we can take from it, but the one I take from it is: Unless you are surrounded by symbols and a story, unless you have a story wrapped around you like he does when he’s at the Boston Philharmonic Theater, even Joshua Bell is only going to earn $32 an hour because you can be the best violinist in the world, but most of the people in the world aren’t good enough to be able to identify that.
One person knew he was a really good violinist because that person was a violinist. Another person had seen him play, so two people knew. The rest of them didn’t know. He’s a basket for all they knew.
Now, I think, it’s very similar to being an architect, right? I am not an architect. I am not in a position to know that Enoch Sears is a great architect or not. I can look at the nice pictures on his website, but, then again, everybody’s got nice pictures on their website. I don’t know. You all look good. All your pictures look good, so what am I to know?
So, the lesson for architects is you do need to think about this stuff. You do need to come with your story, because without a story, you’re just another architect. You’re just a violinist playing in a car arcade. You’re $32 an hour. With a story, you could be worth anything, (it depends on how good your story is) but you need to think about what is your story. What makes you special? What’s your superpower? Then, make sure that there’s a story built around you.
Enoch: Well, let’s bring that back home to Mona Quinn and talk about her story. What story is she wrapped in and how was that to her benefit?
Richard: Yeah, sure. So, when we started, probably three years ago, I said, “What do you do?” “I’m an architect.” “Okay. Do you specialize in any particular areas?” “Not really. I’m a generalist.” “Oh, okay.” I’m thinking, “Oh, no. Here we go again.”
“Right. Is there any particular area you’re really good at or you really like?” “Oh, I like doing heritage buildings.” “Okay. Right, let’s investigate that.” So, we investigated together. By the end of the meeting, I said, “Look. I’ll tell you what I’d like you to do. Have a think about it. Go, and have a think about it, and come back. I’d like to position you as New Zealand’s leading character home architect.” That was a type of heritage building – character homes.
“So, you are Mona Quinn, New Zealand’s leading character home architect.” She says, “Well, I can’t say that.” I said, “Well, you don’t. We can get other people to say it for you. We can write it down in the third person. We can write books. It can be mentioned if you get in the paper.”
Anyway, we built up that she was going to be New Zealand’s leading character home architect. It wasn’t a lie. It was because no one else defines themselves as a character home specialist – no one else did. So, therefore, if she’s the only one that defines her as that, she must be the leading one. She’s the only one.
So, we did that…
Enoch: Hold on, Richard. That’s just unethical.
Richard: I know what you’re saying. I know you’re speaking on behalf of everyone listening.
Richard: It’s not only… She is an expert in that area, just like you listening to this thing. You’re an expert in a particular area. It’s just that you’re underselling yourself by being a vanilla architect, a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none, you know, “I’m a GP.”
If you chose to highlight and put a spotlight on the areas where you are really good, that are true, you are good in those areas, and call yourself an expert or a leading architect in this area, it is true, right? It’s not true to call you just an average architect. It’s not. In some areas you’re really good.
So, we put a spotlight on those areas. We don’t exaggerate. If it’s not true, don’t say it, but we do pick the area you are good at and we accentuate it.
Anyway, so Mona became known. She got interviewed in the paper because she was an expert in this area. She got asked to attend events. Six weeks ago she sent me a text saying, “Guess who has just been asked to be on the heritage board for New Zealand?” That’s probably not the exact words, but something like that. So, I texted back, “Oh, was it me?” She says, “No, try again.”
So, she’s just been pulled on to this board because she’s getting the reputation of being known as this person… If she was still a generalist and she’s doing a bit of everything, that would have never have happened. She would just be another architect, a commodity, having her fees questioned, trying to win deals. Now she has official, authoritative positions, but it’s all come from her taking a position, taking a stand, and accentuating the areas she’s really good at and saying, “I’m going to focus doing that type of work and picking up that type of client.” That’s where it all started. Now, her positioning has become her position.
Enoch: Richard, there’s something you call “The Power Pyramid.” Tell us about that.
Richard: Yup. Okay. There is another video on this one, by the way. We do have it on… Maybe there’s a link to that…
Enoch: We’ll try to dig that up and put it in the show notes.
Richard: Yeah. I know it’s on the AMA, Architects Marketing Academy, blog. There’s a video.
The Pyramid is – there are certain levels of power when we’re selling things. So, imagine a pyramid. The bottom is where there’s not much power. The top is where these people at the pointy end of the pyramid, they have a lot of power. They command high fees. They are sought after. They are revered. There’s not many of them. At the bottom are lots of them. They tend to be slightly commodity. They get treated like commodity. I’m just taking you through what happens as you go through it.
At the very bottom is anyone who is selling themselves and gets seen as a bit of a sales person. They’re a commodity. The first level of going up the Power Pyramid where you have people that can command higher fees, and all those good things, is when you become a specialist.
A general practitioner is at the bottom. A specialist earns more, is more respected, is more revered, and can’t be as easily replaced. If you’ve got a GP and the GP is away on holiday, you can see [Inaudible] They are easily replaceable. A specialist? I have a problem with my brain; I have to wait for the specialist to come back before my brain can get sorted out.
So, at the bottom we’ve got Generalists. Specialists is the next level that you want to try and get to. Then you become an Authority Figure, so they might be the lecturer at the university. These authority figures they have certifications. You don’t need to have the certification to be a specialist.
Then, at the top of the pyramid, the Celebrities. In our culture, we value celebrity endorsement, highly value expert authority endorsement. So, in psychology, you’ve got the normal psychologist, then you’ve got the specialist, then you’ve got the head of the Harvard Psychological Department, and then you’ve got Dr. Phil at the top. Dr. Phil earns more than all of them put together. He’s not necessarily any better, but he’s a celebrity.
So, our goal with Mona, with anyone, really, is to at least move them up to Specialist phase and try to get them seen as a bit of an authority in their niche. If you don’t pick too big of a niche, it’s not that hard. As you go up, you get more sought after, you can charge higher fees.
People who do those types of projects are more inclined to gravitate towards you because you are seen as a bit of an expert, a bit of a specialist, a bit of authority. You would probably not become a Dr. Phil, or like Frank Gehry, or something like that. You’re probably not going to be that, but you don’t need to be. You just want nice projects, good projects that you can work on and earn a decent fee without getting your fees squeezed all the time. Well, you need to move up the pyramid and be seen higher up. That’s what we did with Mona. That’s what, really, you should be trying to do to yourself as well.
Enoch: How does someone move up that pyramid, Richard?
Richard: Hey, you’re asking these questions. It takes a while to explain. Go watch the video if I do a bad job explaining it here. Go watch the video.
Let’s have a go anyway.
People at the bottom tend to have sales brochures. They tend to have websites which look sales-y. They surround themselves whit stuff which screams out that “I’m just a commodity,” “I’m an architect. I do any type of work,” “No job is too big or too small.” You know, I do this, I do everything, but I specialize in nothing.
Whoever educates the market, owns the market. The people higher up surround themselves with symbols which are consistent with people who are higher up. So, sales people have brochures at the bottom, experts have books.
So, I’ll give you three or four things that people at the top have deliberately use to move themselves up the top. They write a book. They get themselves interviewed like this today. Because I’m being interviewed, you’re watching me and Enoch talk about, you know, da-la-la. I carry a certain more authority.
Imagine I’ve rung you up and said, “Hey, I’d like to sell you marketing services.” I’ve called you on the phone, how would you react to that? Probably, you know, “He’s calling me on the phone, he can’t be any good.” But, if you’re watching me talk here on this interview, you immediately think, “Well, Enoch’s interviewing him. Enoch’s one of the top guys in the world for business, and he’s interviewing Richard Petrie. He must be good,” so there’s assumption.
So, you write a book, you get interviewed, and you do some PR and get yourself in the paper. Those are three quick and easy ways. Is there anything else off the top of my head? Who you associate with… I don’t want to say “name dropping,” but if you do get yourself, particularly in America where it’s such a celebrity culture, if you can be seen hanging out with someone famous, and it’s on your website or maybe it’s on your newsletter, then people will see that, and their credibility will rub off on you a little bit. That’s how you do it.
By the way, there are a lot of different organizations that do this. Celebrities do this. It’s a manufactured process. You can do it by waiting for other people to anoint you, but you’re often waiting a long time to be anointed by your peers to say that you are the authority or you’re the expert. It’s not in their interest to do that, so you have to do it yourself.
There will be a lot of people, I know, listening to this who would be too scared. “Oh, I don’t want to promote myself and all that type of thing. It seems unethical. It seems…” Okay, great. Yes, but that’s what is done. That’s what celebrities do. It’s what actors do. It’s what all sorts of people in all different professions, not just architects, should do to move up the pyramid. That’s, sort of, how you play the game. If you’re too scared to do it, write a book or position yourself as an expert, then it limits you big time.
Enoch: Well, Richard, you’re a successful guy. You’re the world’s leading architect marketing coach, but something people don’t know about you is that, in the past, you’ve competed at the highest levels of professional sports in New Zealand as a professional cricket player. Something that you shared with me that I’ve learned from you, something that I’ve seen, the more and more lessons of success that I learned about how to be successful is a lot of it deals with mindset.
Richard: Yes, a lot of it, maybe 80%. There are two parts. There is the mechanics of what you need to do, then there’s the mindset you need to adopt.
One of, maybe, way of understanding this or explaining it that might help people is… There’s a good saying, I don’t even know where it came from, and I don’t even know who said it, but it’s: “If you want to be a champion, you need to think like one first.” So, if you want to be a champion, or if you want to be a leading architect, or the best in your field, you need to think like that person first.
This was a thing I adopted when I… I was struggling as a sports person. I wasn’t really going up the scales. I plateaud and I got stuck. I thought to myself I really need to go to the next level, but it wasn’t motivation that was stopping me. I was highly motivated, but I couldn’t get through the next step, and I wasn’t being selected for higher teams, and I wasn’t going anywhere.
I started to adopt this thing. If I want to be a first class cricketer or an international cricketer, I’ve got to think like that player first. So, I started to sit there and think, “Okay. If I was…” The next level for me was called “First class.” “If I’m a first class cricketer, how would I think? What would I believe? What would I think about training? What would I think about all the hardwork, or when it got tough, or when it got hot, and when everyone else is wanting to give up, what would I think then?”
I, sort of, reverse engineered it back, oh, to start with “I don’t know.” Then, I thought, I put together: I need to think this, I need to go for runs when everyone else is going out drinking, I need to do this, and I need to do that, and I need to enjoy hard work, and I need to enjoy training. So, I trained myself to think that way first.
What tends to happen is there’s a lag between reality and your mind. If you can lift your mind up to a certain level and hold the faith, and keep seeing life as you want it to be, keep seeing yourself as you want it to be, life has a funny way of catching up to you – but there is a delay. There is that faith gap that you do need to stick with it.
So, if you were an architect earning $50,000 and you want to earn $100,000, you’ve got to train yourself to think like an architect who earns a $100,000 a year. I don’t know what that is for you, but you have to know what it is for you. Then you have to train yourself to think that way, and life has a funny way of catching up.
That’s what I did. I just did it. I just took myself up, up, up. How would I think if I was here? How would I think if I was there? I think that’s what all top sports people who make it and anyone who succeeds on anything. I believe that is what they intuitively tend to do. They tend to take their mind there first, and the reality of the situation then, there’s a bit of a lag time, and they have to stick with it, and they have to maintain their faith, but there is a delay, and life catches up. Then, they have to think to the next level, and the next, and the next.
Enoch: There’s a marketer who I like listening to. He talks about head trash. I know that I’ve had a lot of head trash myself. It’s only recently clicked for me, Richard. In the past couple of years, I used to think that was a lot of foo-foo, you know, all these personal development stuff, and visualization, and thinking, and imagining yourself there.
Richard: Yeah, it’s definitely not. But, it’s everywhere, this stuff. You look at someone like Muhammad Ali. Did he believe he was good even before he was? The way he talked and the way he thought… I know he was brash and all that type of stuff, but you could see he had trained himself before he even fought Sonny Liston. He had trained himself to believe he was the greatest. He had trained himself to overcome all the obstacles. He saw himself as the best.
The other interesting thing, I’m not overly religious or anything like that, but if you look in the Bible… Like I said, I’m no expert on the bible, I shouldn’t be preaching. There are a lot of stuff in the Bible which lines up with this. “Ask, and the knowledge that you shall receive, and you shall receive,” or something like that. It talks about a lot of this stuff. The Bible is almost one of the earliest self-help books. There is so much stuff in there that’s in line with all this type of sport psychology that there must be something in it somewhere, and it seems to work.
Enoch: Thanks for bringing a bit of religion to the program, Richard.
Richard: Incredible. That’s right.
Enoch: Richard, I think we’ve covered a lot today. Hopefully, our listeners got a lot out of it. Now, they can go to http://www.BusinessOfArchitecture/FAB and get the F.A.B training video that we talked about last episode.
Also, in the links to this video, we’ll go ahead and put the Power Pyramid. So, we’ll make that available. If you go to http://www.BusinessOfArchitecture/Pyramid, you can pick up that Power Pyramid video that Richard was talking about.
So, Richard, what’s next on the horizon? Where are you going? What does the future look like?
Richard: Well, since I’ve teamed up with you and Eric, we’ve been trying to save the world one architect at a time. We’re on a mission to help architects around the world with the Architects Marketing Academy. It’s through helping them communicate better and sell their services, because I honestly believe architects are given a real, raw job that… You know, you guys work for eight years, like a doctor, and you end up, I don’t know, you’re not treated like a doctor. You’re being commoditized to a great degree, so we need to sort that out. We need to get you communicating in a way which addresses the balance.
I am enjoying specializing in helping architects market themselves because it gets easier and easier, because it’s the same problems coming up again and again. As we see these problems, we come up with tools and resources to help them. So, I’m thoroughly enjoying that.
There are a lot of free stuff, so put your name down for some of that stuff. There are some stuff you can pay for which takes it further.
I’m thoroughly enjoying working with architects. It’s, sort of, 70% of my work at the moment, but I’m really enjoying it. It’s really great working with people from around the world, so I’m having a blast. I’m pleased I’ve come in to this funny little world of architects.
Enoch: Well, Richard, thanks for joining us in the funny little world of architects.
Richard: Yeah, you’re welcome.