So, I’ve written a few posts previously that came out slightly on the negative side of hiring a business development person in an architecture firm.
I thought it would be a good idea to share a few thoughts on how to actually make it work. I’m in the midst of watching one such decision/hire go terribly awry and it has driven me to create the following brief “do’s and don’ts” list.
DO – Formally introduce the new person to the entire team, and explain their presence in the firm. It may seem elementary, but since many BD people are hired on part-time or on a commission basis, management can often think it’s unimportant to treat them like a real team member.
DO – Set up specific times with all key people in the firm to meet with them. Principals, Managers, Directors, Marketing Execs…anybody responsible for bringing in new contracts or being a first line of communication with prospective clients has valuable information for the new BD hire. Formalize the orientation so that every player knows their role and sees the value. (Remember – some of your senior team may feel threatened by the new position, so involving them in the process can help ease the worry of being replaced or outdone)
DON’T – Expect them to start making calls right away. Unless you really want a cold caller, this is a waste of time and can do more harm than good. In the first few weeks your new sales person should be learning all about your AEC firm, your culture, your projects…what makes you, YOU. Think, “If a prospective client answered the phone and actually engaged them, would they know enough about my design firm to answer any questions?”
DO – Give them a marketing plan and/or brand guidelines to follow. If you’re tagline is, “Breathtaking design” they shouldn’t have, “Design that takes your breath away” in their email signature. Even more so than most new hires, this person will have contact with the masses, so they should understand who to target and what to say.
DON’T – Isolate them from marketing and vice versa. A new business development person should have a great relationship with your marketing team and the two parties should develop goals and projects together. It’s also important to outline just how much weight they have with marketing. Extra conflict can arise when there is a big BD meeting and marketing can’t drop other priorities to accommodate a last minute presentation.
Selling architectural or engineering services is a tall order. Relationships and referrals usually dominate, and the typical sales cycle can be very long depending upon the project type. Hiring a successful business development person is possible, but it takes a clear plan and supportive team to make it happen.