In my role as a procurement consultant, Clients often ask me to help them identify Architects for new projects. Many times these Clients are either expanding into new geographies or are building for the first time.
This means making calls to Architectural firm where I have no contacts.
It’s surprising how easy it can be to connect with someone at a large firm. Many of the most notable Architectural firms feature their key staff and Principal Architects on their “About Us” page. In some cases, email addresses and phone numbers are posted with their profiles.
Even when calls route through Administrative Assistants, I am typically directed to someone who can help.
My experience calling smaller firms has been many times more difficult. Websites often feature little more than a main number or a general email address. Calls are often greeted by gatekeeper receptionists that seem to neither have interest nor understand the reason for my call. These transgressions make bad first impressions and sometimes cause potential new Clients to simply move on.
Today I want to share some recommendations on how to avoid missing out on opportunities.
Offer several ways to connect
One of the most frustrating things about cold calling firms is when your call goes straight to voicemail. The second is when you send an email to a general email address that is not monitored.
Don’t assume that offering a single phone number or a general email address is enough for Clients to reach you. In addition to a main number and email, consider posting the email address and phone number of the person responsible for business development. This ensures that your potential Clients know exactly who to contact.
Make yourself available
Nothing beats speaking directly to a decision maker.
I know that running a small practice means Principals are spread thin, but consider the value you create for your firm when you devote your time to bringing in new business.
As I discuss in my article on $1000/hr work, you need to be thoughtful about where you spend your time. If you are spending time on work that can be delegated over taking calls from potential new Clients, you are not spending your time wisely.
If your firm is so small that you don’t have a business development person, then YOU are the business development person. This means reaching you should not require transfers between multiple gatekeepers. Be open and welcoming to new opportunities and they will find you.
Train your staff
I know small firms cannot afford top tier talent in every position and receptionists are the first place where salaries are either cut or reduced, but if your Clients are calling, consider how they are being received.
A receptionist with an unpleasant manner or one who asks questions like “What is an RFP?” (Yes! Someone actually asked me that) make a bad first impression. Make sure your reception staff know what to do when a Client calls.
Consider writing a script or mapping out a decision tree that gives them direction on when a caller should be routed to management and when to simply take a message.
Whatever you do, don’t have your receptionist direct callers to repeat their inquiry through a general email address, because they probably wont.
Return calls promptly
If your reception staff does take a message, prioritize calls so you are promptly calling potential Clients back.
Often, when I call a potential bidder, I’m under schedule pressure to release the RFP. My process often includes the need to secure non-disclosure agreements. This takes time and asking for time extensions because you took three days to call me back does not endear you to the Client.
Returning calls within 24 hours should be your target.
Make your website searchable
I don’t know why Architects love Flash websites!
Fancy animations with sound effects and awkward scrolling mechanic seem to be the norm for so many small firms. While some of these visuals can be cool and modern, the truth is that Flash websites take too long to load, are frustrating to navigate, and do not rank well on Google. This has the net effect of driving potential Clients away.
Use HTML sites instead of Flash sites. This will make your site easier to navigate and if you update it frequently your site rank will improve as well. This will make it easier for Clients to find you and less frustrating once they do.
So there are my top 5 ways to ensure you make a good impression and are easier to find for new Clients.
Balancing current workload with business development is not easy and I know you need to prioritize active projects ahead of BD, but ensuring new Clients can reach you is critical. I hope these simple steps stimulates some ideas for how to manage your time and yields you new business.
Tell me what other steps you have taken and how well those have worked for you.
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