We all know that generating revenue is a core necessity for any business. No matter how great your service offering is, if you can’t sell it, your firm will struggle to stay afloat, let alone grow. At the same time, in the AEC industry, client relationships and business development efforts are intrinsically tied to the actual work that gets done. This is the reasoning behind why many AEC firms have let go of traditional sales models in favor of a seller-doer approach, which combines business development and billable project work into a single role. In fact, according to the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), over 75% of AEC firms say their technical staff also have business development responsibilities.
Of course, like any industry, there is no one-size-fits-all formula for success in AEC. So how can you know whether the seller-doer model is right for your firm? Read on to find out what factors to consider before making the switch and how to set your seller-doers up to thrive.
What are seller-doers?
Before we dive into best practices, we need to clearly define what a seller-doer is. Essentially, they are professionals who balance billable project work with business development activities, meaning they are responsible for both finding client relationships and maintaining them by ensuring quality work is delivered. You might have also heard this role referred to as a doer-seller, closer-doer, or client manager.
The actual title of a seller-doer varies dramatically across the AEC industry, covering everything from project manager to lead engineer or designer to principal or partner. Regardless, seller-doers are highly sought-after individuals given the breadth of their skillset and client relationships.
Why “just selling” isn’t enough
For any business development professional, there is nothing more heartbreaking than losing a hard-won client because of poor project management or lack of follow-through. Meanwhile, on the client side, they want to know they can trust any business partner to actually deliver high-quality service. That is why the seller-doer model has exploded in the AEC industry specifically – because of the level of risk involved with each project and the heavy reliance on strong client relationships to generate revenue. According to the same SMPS survey cited above, 70% of AEC firms note the biggest reason for adopting the seller-doer model comes from the client’s expectation to meet with the people who will ultimately be working on their projects.
The seller-doer nurtures that client experience not just during contract negotiations, but throughout the entire project lifecycle and beyond. When done right, this model can set your firm apart and make it easier to build trust and earn repeat work. In an industry where repeat work makes up the majority of a firm’s business, what could be more valuable?
How to make the jump from seller to seller-doer
Arguably the most important step when transitioning from traditional sales to a seller-doer model is education. Many firms fumble when they send seller-doers out into the field without proper training, either on the business development or project management side. For those with more technical knowledge, it takes time to build up strong client relationships and establish yourself as trustworthy. Conversely, seasoned business development professionals need to learn how to take a project over the finish line.
This dilemma is why many firms choose to seek out a seller-doer externally rather than assigning that role to someone already at their company. However, that’s not to say that training an internal candidate can’t be done. If you do opt to shape one of your existing employees into a seller-doer, lean on the knowledge of other members of staff to help teach the seller-doer skills they may not already have.
Apart from training, one way seller-doers differentiate themselves is by representing their firm at industry events like conferences. Speaking at a trade show is a great way to meet new potential clients, demonstrate the thought leadership of you and your firm, and showcase technical knowledge in front of peers. Similarly, staying active on social platforms like LinkedIn and putting out content like white papers or blogs shows prospective clients you know your stuff.
Whatever your specific strategies are, as a seller-doer, it’s important to always be thinking in hybrids. Try to take actions that move your agenda forward from both a business development and project standpoint.
Tools to unite selling and doing
While people and processes are obviously crucial parts of transitioning to this model, you must also consider how technology can help support your new strategy and set your seller-doers up for success. The best approach is adopting a tool designed with hybrid workflows in mind. Unanet is a rare example in that their CRM integrates directly with their ERP software, meaning all of your firm’s business development work flows seamlessly into project delivery.
With so much falling under their job description, seller-doers are always chasing the clock. Any extra time spent reconciling disparate tools or data sets adds up, so a fully integrated tool designed with the AEC industry in mind will make a big impact on your firm’s overall output and revenue.
No matter the size of your AEC firm or your specific service offering, take time to consider whether the seller-doer model is right for you. With adequate training and technology behind them, seller-doers can be a major force to help drive revenue and improve client experiences at your firm.
Unanet CRM for Architects and Engineers
CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is a solution that helps businesses manage sales opportunities, log activities and customer interactions, store internal and external contacts, track leads, and grow their business—but not all CRMs are alike. Some AEC firms have tested well-known CRM tools, like Salesforce, to manage their customer relationship activities. What they found is that these CRM tools don’t have the specific capabilities that the uniqueness of the AEC industry requires. These “one-size-fits-all” CRM tools aren’t built for the AEC industry, and thus aren’t tracking some of the most important aspects of the AEC sales lifecycle. Many firms discovered that they needed more specific tracking for business development and sales activities that these “one-size-fits-all” solutions weren’t designed to address.
Unanet CRM for AE is the only CRM built specifically for architecture, engineering, and construction. The company has spent the last 20+ years tailoring its platform’s robust CRM and proposal generation features to the AEC industry, enabling business developers, marketers, executives, and project teams to win better projects and grow more revenue.
Unanet ERP for Architects and Engineers
Unanet is a leading provider of ERP solutions. More than 3,200 project-driven organizations depend on Unanet to turn their information into actionable insights, drive better decision-making, and nurture business growth.
Unanet AE ERP is purpose-built for Architecture & Engineering firms and offers a powerful combination of Project Management, Business Intelligence, Time and Expense Tracking, Financials, and Integration tools in one single source to run your business more effectively. Powerful and customizable analytic dashboards allow organizations to gain greater visibility and control, analyze data and trends in real time, interact dynamically with their data, and drive their business forward.
If you’ve applied any of the tactics in this blog and want to learn more about how to win more meaningful business, make better decisions, and grow revenue, request a demo today.