The ‘Trust Factor’ In Selling Architectural Services

This post is the second post in a series of posts on marketing for architects entitled “Learning From Las Vegas”. To get article updates, subscribe by clicking the ‘subscribe' link to the left.

How important is trust in winning your next project?

Princeton researchers Janine Willis & Alexander Todorov found it takes a tenth of a second to form a first impression of a person’s trustworthiness.

This is called a ‘snap judgement’, and we humans are subconsciously making these judgements all the time.

Interestingly, more exposure doesn’t usually alter a ‘snap judgement’.

In business, you’d better get your first impression right.

How does this apply to architects, who are in the business of creating trust and selling architectural services?

Often a collection of little, fewer important things (impressions, a gut feeling, likeability) add up to a larger, more important thing (trust).

Let me explain with an example from my recent trip to Las Vegas where I taught 26 architects the ‘Petrie Method’ for persuasion and influence.

These architects are now armed with the sales and persuasion skills that will put them head and shoulders above their peers, but I digress – more on that later.

The Cirque Du Soleil

In Vegas, my wife and I took the kids to see the Cirque du Soleil at the MGM Grand.

You should see this show at least once in your life – it was amazing.

I’m not an art or dance buff (I actually tend to fall asleep in most shows – or so my wife tells me), but this show held me spell-bound.

Here’s how it went:

From the very first second of the opening act, you are bombarded with sensual sights and sounds.

Warriors fly overhead suspended by ropes, shouting war cries.

Arrows and other weapons of war fly through the air. Lights flash and then go dim, illuminating the acrobatic cast.

Within the first couple of seconds, I know that this was money well spent.

Since I’m a marketer by trade, I can’t help but see marketing and sales lessons everywhere I look.

For instance, each member of the cast has an elaborate costume.

In less than a second, I can tell the status of the character: commoner, emperor or warrior.

Isn’t it interesting how costumes reveal power, status or character?

My daughters felt the truth of this concept the very next day after an excursion to the nearby outlet shopping center.

The clothes they bought transformed their confidence.

They feel more grown up and attractive (I’ll admit I’m starting to see them differently also).

As the saying goes, “Clothes make the man (and the woman)”.

My first sales manager remarked once that my sales exploded after I purchased my first expensive suite. Either I was more confident or people treated me differently.

Probably both.

Since then I think carefully about what I wear when I meet a potential client for the first time (as I’m sure you do as well).

Research shows some ‘costumes’ are more effective than others (if you’re wearing them).

A suit will outsell casual clothes and a red tie increases sales by 30%.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you show up in a suit and a red tie for your next client meeting.

Rather, you need to understand the principle that is at play here, so you can use this to your advantage.

Your facial expression, your clothes and your overall appearance are your costume.

They tell your story and develop your ‘character’.

Remember the Janine Willis & Alexander Todorov research:

People take 1/10 of a second to form an impression of trust. Longer exposure does not significantly alter those impressions.

You design the entrance of a building for the same reason. The first impression counts.

Have you designed, choreographed and rehearsed your character entrance for the first second like Cirque du Soleil?

Here are 6 questions to get you started:

  1. What story does the first 1/10 of a second say about you?
  2. What expression do you wear?
  3. What does your costume to say about your character?
  4. Does what you wear support the character you want to portray or does it compromise you?
  5. Have you strategically choreographed yourself to the same level of detail and drama that you would choreograph the stunning entrance to a building?
  6. If you did, what would you be like?

Hope this helps.

Richard Petrie

P.S. We recorded the workshops I gave in Vegas on the ‘Petrie Method’ (a system for creating trust and persuading that will revolutionize the way you present your services). Stay tuned for more.



Enoch Bartlett Sears is the founder of the Architect Business Institute, Business of Architecture and co-founder of the Architect Marketing Institute. He helps architects become category leaders in their market. Enoch hosts the #1 rated interview podcast for architects, the Business of Architecture Show where prominent guests like M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. and Thom Mayne share tips and strategies for success in architecture.

1 Response

  1. Great post. There is a Russian proverb that says; ” When you meet a man, you judge him by his clothes; when you leave, you judge him by his heart.”

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