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?
Seller-doers 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
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.
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.
The Right Tools for Seller-Doers in Architecture, Engineering, and Construction
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.