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Six Takeaways: From Handshake to Hired Building a Business Development Strategy that Suits Your Style

In the event you missed our event last month on Business Development (From Handshake to Hired Building a Business Development Strategy that Suits Your Style), I’ve got you covered with six big takeaways.

Who’s responsible for Business Development?

  • The Architecture industry seems to have an identity crisis regarding who should be responsible for Business Development. Ideally, it should involve both your Business Development Leader and your firm leadership.
  • Furthermore, business development is everyone’s job. It requires collaboration among your staff to combine your networking resources. If you have one person responsible for business development and they leave with their contacts, you don’t want to start over.
  • Don’t discount your friends as business development leads. They might have insight you didn’t know you needed.
  • Initiate your younger employees into Business Development. If you’re going to an event, bring a younger staff member along so you can grow your entire team.
  • Let your younger staff speak in interviews. If they’re the ones doing a lot of the work, they should be able to speak to it

Myth Busted: Business Development isn’t  about glad-handing

  • Contrary to popular belief, business development isn’t all about glad-handing, attending golf tournaments, and luncheons. This way of thinking can scare your younger staff away from Business Development.
  • Be genuine, comfortable, and contribute to your community. You’re not a stereotypical used-car salesman, so don’t act like one.
  • Contributions to your community can involve volunteering, blog posts, and thought leadership.

The Marketing and Business Development Departments need a symbiotic relationship

  • Your website is the first place a client is going to look. Make sure website reflects your best work and the user experience is easy to navigate.
  • No one wants to read boilerplate, so customize your proposals. Make the client aware you know what’s important to them.
  • Focus your Twitter and LinkedIn on Business
    • Know the typologies of your client in terms of the social media they use. For instance, Independent Schools are more private in their social media use than colleges or universities.

Clients want a specialist they can trust

  • Instead of pursuing every proposal, take the time to really assess if a project is in your wheelhouse and do a vigorous go/no-go.
  • If you decline to pursue, the client will often appreciate that honesty means more than taking their money and not delivering the excellence they were expecting.

Have a plan for fluctuating markets

  • Do your market research and keep on top of trends.
  • If you know one of your specialties might be drying up soon, have a plan to slide seamlessly into a new one.
  • Don’t have a plan? Check out the SMPS Resources to help craft one!

Tips for getting the client

  • Clients are busy. If a client doesn’t respond to your first few emails, don’t give up! You need the client’s attention to build a relationship.
  • Do not go over your contact’s head to get their attention. Their higher up will likely pass it back on to them and your contact won’t appreciate it.
  • It can take 7-12 touches to lock in a client and you’ll need a meeting. Get creative with your touches. Instead of simply repeatedly asking for a meeting, send articles or thought leadership pieces that may be relevant to them.
  • Holidays are a perfect time for a free touch but be genuine in your message and don’t reiterate requests for meetings or work. Show them that you appreciate them as a human, and not just a means to an end.
  • If a client invites you to an event, keep shop talk out of it.
  • If you attend an event to meet a speaker, think about what you’re going to say to them beforehand. There’s always a stampede to meet with the speakers and network. Make sure you have something valuable to add to a conversation other than, “I’m_____ of __________, we’d love to meet with you about your upcoming opportunities.”

There’s obviously much more that goes into a Business Development Plan, but hopefully you gained a few insights you can use to adjust or confirm your own plan.

Kristie Norris


Kristie Norris is a Proposal Manager who enjoys theatre as a both a performer and audience member, horseback riding, and occasionally lifting kettlebells. She is a contributor for the Favorite Five blog series and a member of the Communications and Professional Development Committees.

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