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I recently met with the head of an architectural firm who is trying to ‘re-invent’ himself due to the need of the particular specialty of design in which he has built his practice has pretty much disappeared. As we discussed various options, I could not help but to be reminded of one of the very first architectural clients I ever had.

This contract was to help develop a business and marketing plan for a very accomplished architect who was one of three partners of a well-known regional firm. For some reason, he decided to go out on his own with a new firm and start from scratch. I have a saying I have often repeated and will again now, ‘In all my years of being in the A/E/C industry, I have yet to meet an architect, engineer, contractor or sub, who started their own business because they wanted to be in sales.” This client may have been the epitome of that.

After we completed all the research and legwork for the business plan and after getting to know him, his goals and vision for his new venture, we began working on his marketing plan. I soon realized he needed some coaching on sales and marketing as that was going to be one of his main functions.

Following along the old line of, “The best way to appear sincere is to be sincere.”…I am a big believer that no one should be able to sell a company better than the owner. No, I am not saying owning a company suddenly turns one into Jeffrey Gitomer or Zig Ziglar but there is a lot to be said for being the one who has their ‘name on the door’ and their reputation at stake when marketing the goods and/or services of a company they own.

As we finished the marketing plan the last part of my contract was to help him with his presentation of why an interested party should hire his company. Since he was out of state, we decided we would meet at a restaurant on his next trip through Atlanta and role play the following scenario. I would be a businessman looking to develop my own office building and he would be the third architectural firm I was considering. Pretty simple.

After we met, ordered dinner, chatted and caught up, it was ‘show time’! I reached into my briefcase, pulled out his marketing package and went into character. “Joe, I appreciate you meeting with me and have to admit, I am very impressed with your brochure and portfolio. As you know, I am looking to develop a 20,000 square foot building and am trying to select an architectural firm that will be able to help me with this goal. Tell me why I should consider your firm.”

(Long pause…)

After what seemed like minutes, he finally looked at me and said, “I can’t do it.”

Not only could he not make a presentation on the how’s and why’s someone should consider his firm, he could not even make a ‘pretend’ presentation.
Granted, not everyone is cut out for sales, which, as a business development sales and marketing consultant is good news for me. However, I believe everyone in every company is in sales in some shape or form. So, after my client confessed his ‘stage fright’ we discussed techniques that would work for him and he left happy and not as concerned about his next presentation.

The reason I share this with you today is lately I have been inundated with calls and emails from people who, because of the economy, find themselves looking for new opportunities. I can sincerely tell you that I have a real heart for people in this situation as I have been there before. We all thought we would retire and die with CMD (Construction Market Data), my former employer, and when I got the message that I had a meeting with Human Resources in five minutes and just a few hours later, I was walking to the parking lot with a cardboard box of personal items and 13 years of memories, I too had to ‘re-invent’ myself.

My father is full of sayings and one that sticks out to me is ‘Can’t never could.’ The meaning of that is the shortest lesson in believing in yourself. There are many examples of people who came to greatness through a path they never dreamed. In today’s tough economy, these people are not necessarily looking for greatness, just a way to earn a living.

I will close with yet another saying I picked up along the way which I have found value in more than once. “Man can live for about 30 days without food, for about seven days without water, for about eight minutes without oxygen but not for one second without hope.”

I know it is easy to toss out a ‘hang in there’ to someone who seriously needs that one connection, that one lead, that one contact that will lead them to their next opportunity but if you are one of those people or know someone who is, whatever you do, don’t say, ‘I can’t do it.’ At least not where I can hear you. I know things are genuinely tough out there for many, many people but as long as one has hope, there will be less ‘I can’t do it’ mindsets.

Pardon me if I sounded a bit maudlin with this post but I truly love what I do, I truly enjoy seeing people build new business and truly enjoy helping others as best I can. If you are, or a friend, relative or neighbor is close to saying, ‘I can’t do it’…don’t stop…shoot me an email and I will send you my ‘New Opportunity Starter Kit’ which is really nothing more than a list of ideas, links and a short outline of ideas I have developed through the years. Because we do recruiting for the A/E/C industry, we get all kinds of calls from our friends or neighbors when someone is looking and though they are usually not a good candidate for our clients, the blueprint for finding something new is quite transferrable.

Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged people who kept on working and had more hope than they had ‘I can’t do it.’

——————–

Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

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This really is not so much a continuation of my last posting as it is a follow up discussion answering a few of the questions I received.

For those who read my last offering, you are aware that it was part of a unique ‘blog blast’ that I was privileged to have been a part of…six A/E/C marketplace bloggers all writing on the same topic, the perfect CRM.

My own take was to approach it from the perspective of using a CRM to manage leads, prospects and customers for building new business. I gave a little background on my history of working in the construction information business for 13 years and seeing how companies use and ‘misused’ the leads they purchased.

Allow me to steer off topic for just a bit and address the subject of paying for leads and say that Reed Construction Data, McGraw-Hill’s F.W. Dodge Reports, Construction Wire, CDC News, etc. are all good at what they do. I have used or consulted with companies using all of these and more and the main point I would like to make is that as helpful and useful as these leads are, the chances of their ‘uniqueness’ are slim to none. What I mean by that is, chances are, dozens and in some cases hundreds of your competitors are using the very same leads.

The difference is how one utilizes the information in those leads. Very much the same way I could play Phil Keaggy’s guitar or hit a few balls with Tiger’s driver, but the results would be much different. It is the old ‘where do you put the fulcrum for your lever?’ idea.

Now, on to the questions:

Q: How do I get ‘buy-in’ from my employees who I know are going to resist a new CRM system?

A: Well, there is always the “I am the general, you are the private, I out-rank you so do it!” approach, which I do not recommend as the initial presentation. This is simply nothing more than following the old business adage, “If you get them to help plan the fight, the less likely they are to fight the plan.”

This will require a much better understanding of what a CRM can do that your future users. This is where you, the boss, play the role of the consultant with your sales reps as your client. Most CRM’s are customizable and have more features than the average user will come close to using. Start by asking what their challenges are in tracking prospects, making sure you follow the shortest path from ‘stranger’ to loyal customer. Get their input from the beginning, hold round-table discussions, let them participate in the sales presentation from the vendor.

Q: We have employees all over the country, what challenges should I be aware of before implementing a CRM?

A: Easy…standards! This is what I call “Making the ‘Big-Mac’ taste the same.” What I mean by that is, if you buy a Big-Mac in Albuquerque, it will taste just like a Big-Mac you would buy in Atlanta. Make sure you develop standards for entry and use that are easy to understand and help you reach the goals you have set for implementing or upgrading your CRM.

Q: What do I need from a CRM?

A: This is a very open question but important because, depending upon one’s knowledge of and understanding of a CRM, it can be very easy to over or under buy. I worked with one company that spent several hundred, thousand dollars on a system that would take a lead or prospect information and weave it through their accounting, human resources and operations.

The system is very, very robust and if used properly can save a company tons of money. However, in this case, it was the equivalent of trying to kill a fly with a stick of dynamite. A good sales rep can make any CRM look like the best thing since penicillin so spend some time and effort understanding what you need and how you will use it before you begin your purchasing process.

Q: What is the biggest mistake a company makes in investing in a CRM?

A: Believing that purchasing a CRM is a ‘silver bullet’. I have said it before that the purchase alone of a CRM is much like the purchase of a ‘Bow-flex’…the purchase alone will do nothing for you. What will make a difference is the effective and continued use of one will.

In closing, I will admit that all of this plays well into my ‘healthy level of OCD’. And, yes, I admit that when it comes to discussing CRM’s, data standards, feature comparisons, execution plans, etc. the real inner geek in me comes alive but that is because of all my years in business, I have seen fewer programs that can help a company build new business and grow than a well-executed CRM system.

——————–

Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

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When I first started writing ‘Building New Business’ my goal was to make it a weekly offering but it did not take too long before I realized that was a bit ambitious. The amended goal was every other Thursday and then…as often as I could.

The reason so much time has passed since my last post is things are slammed on this end…which is good. Also, when I started this, I was in the middle of a six month streak of not having to set foot in the airport. That streak is now over and I am writing this waiting to board yet another plane.

In the time since my last offering, I have been up to my neck in alligators but still have enjoyed the calls and emails I have received with people asking a question, wanting to bounce round an idea or just to ‘talk shop’. I always enjoy and welcome such inquiries.

The reason I am entitling this ‘Thank You’ is because I sincerely want to express my gratitude to those who find time to read my blog. I do this out of my unbridled, unapologetic and unashamed passion for capitalism and the free-enterprise system. Being able to share that same excitement with those who have reached out to me and to be able to toss around a few ideas or answer a few questions is fuel to my fire.

Capitalism seems to be getting a lot of negative press here lately with corporate bail outs, government ownership of private companies, threats of bankruptcy, etc. Let me assure you that of the inquiries I have received in the last several weeks, none came from hedge fund managers, bankruptcy lawyers or any government official. They all came from either small business owners or someone responsible for bringing in new business. These are the people that inspire me and help make me wake up each day excited to be doing what I do, helping to churn the wheels of commerce. It is even more rewarding when I hear that our little chat appears to have helped in even the smallest way.

This one will be short gang but I promise a new post soon. I just completed a huge project and will be able to exhale a bit, pour another cup of coffee and hopefully offer a nugget or two of something you may find useful as we all go about building new business.

Have a great weekend…

——————–

Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell@cmconl.com

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