Business development and marketing in challenging times


Give credit where credit is due---liberally!

We’ve seen some spikes of (selective) optimism in the economy in this past year. This has led us to believe that the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry could be improving in certain sectors. Our perception partially relies upon which indicators we are reviewing: stock market, gas prices, corporate office rental rates, national health care policy, housing market, government infrastructure initiatives, the list goes on.

Yet, even as some of us are becoming more optimistic regarding the health of our AEC businesses, there’s still an overarching layer of stress that has not yet evaporated. It has led to business relationship tensions—not just between co-workers, but also between prospects/clients and their service providers.

As business development professionals, what can we do to alleviate some of this overall negative mood that lingers? Well, in addition to numerous strategies and tactics—hustling aggressively, expanding our reach through social media, sharpening our pencils at proposal time, and so forth—we can adopt a behavioral shift: generously giving credit where credit is due. It’s simple, it’s straightforward, and it’s effective.

Let me explain.

For the past 18 months or so, I’ve been studying the behavior of a fringe competitor of mine—fringe in that she occasionally delves into the AEC space where I’m 100% focused. She (let’s call her Sandra) provides services that are similar, though sometimes complementary, to mine. Yet, she keeps me “close.” She includes me in numerous networking opportunities. She sings my praises to others. She passes me leads now and then. And by the way, I’m not the only lucky recipient of Sandra’s gracious acknowledgement of talent and achievements.

I study Sandra because I’m in awe of her ability to make people feel good about themselves professionally. These are my takeaways from Sandra:

Be liberal with your compliments. Sandra keenly identifies the positive (usually professionally related) attributes of individuals and companies. She shares openly and liberally. She doesn’t save compliments for special occasions in an attempt to make them more meaningful. (Incidentally, her voice is truly heard; she has over 15,000 Twitter followers!)

Do not hesitate to offer well-placed constructive comments as well. Part of the reason Sandra is so respected is because she is a straight shooter. Yes, she has an uncanny ability to point out positive attributes of others, but she is not wearing rose-colored glasses. She is equally open when she needs to share constructive comments, but she does this with decorum and a level of discretion.

Be as specific as possible. Sandra is more likely to say, “I admire Jack for his proactive approach to creative solutions and his same-day responsiveness,” as opposed to, “Jack was a pleasure to work with; we’ve contracted with him often.” Both are good, but her specificity is what sticks in the minds of others.

Try to articulate a mini-tagline on behalf of others. In multiple networking scenarios, I’ve seen Sandra introduce people to one another with an enormous amount of enthusiasm. Not only does she state the person’s title and role, but she also states her best rendition of what each person has to offer (based on her understanding of their role) even if she has never worked with them. I have never worked with Sandra directly, yet she seems to know things about me and my work that I have not told her directly. Rather, she has gleaned them from my website, from my social network activity, and from talking with others.

Remain consistent with this behavior. Whether economic times are bleak or hopeful, Sandra is abundantly armed with her observant, positive comments about others’ performance and talents.

In sum, times are still a bit rough. Business relationships remain strained. As business developers, we have to work harder than ever. But this behavioral adjustment—liberally giving credit where credit is due—will go a long way towards creating positivity and strengthening business relationships.

RainToday and PSMJ's AE Rainmaker

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