What sets high-growth architecture, engineering, and construction firms apart from the competition? Winning new business in a competitive market isn't easy, so how do the top AEC firms make it happen?
The Hinge Research Institute surveyed over 2,000 buyers and sellers of professional services to discover which factors tip the scale in favor of one firm over another. The results uncovered factors that winning firms consider instrumental to their success - and also the factors that buyers value more than sellers realize.
How can these insights help you close more business? Here are four key lessons from the research.
1) Gain trust by educating prospects
Simply presenting credentials and expecting prospective buyers to draw their own conclusions isn't going to help your firm stand out from the competition. It's easy to claim expertise, after all. Instead, the firms that consistently win new business go the extra step to gain the trust and confidence of their prospects. How? They demonstrate their knowledge and problem-solving approach through educational content.
This content helps audiences understand what it's like to work with you, as well as proving your expertise in your industry. When prospects see your firm as a knowledgeable resource, they'll be more likely to entrust their business to your expertise.
2) Develop a top-notch reputation
When we asked buyers and sellers of professional services what tips the scale for winning firms, we found a few inconsistencies between what buyers identified and what sellers expected.
As you can see in this chart, the most influential factor for buyers when selecting a firm over the competition was a good reputation, with over 20% of respondents naming this key factor. Not far behind a good reputation was the importance of having an existing relationship with the firm in question.
These two top responses highlight the importance of positioning your AEC firm as an ongoing partner for your prospects, rather than simply a one-time solution to a given problem.
Perhaps even more enlightening than what buyers reported as their top criteria for tipping the scale is what sellers replied in comparison. For instance, sellers put significantly less emphasis on having a good reputation and significantly more emphasis on exhibiting better expertise or specialization. This tells us that, beyond basic skill and credentials, buyers crave more connection and collaboration in the path to making their selection - and that this notion is misunderstood by sellers.
3) Clearly communicate with prospects
Say your firm specializes in a certain area. Even if this specialization is highly relevant to a client or buyer's needs, it won't matter to them if they aren't aware of it. Communicating with your buyers at each step of an engagement not only helps to showcase your firm's unique strengths, but also works to build the relationship that buyers value so much.
One of the best ways to communicate your expertise and value is by building up your online presence. By consistently publishing informative content on a user-friendly website, and by utilizing clear branding that represents the core purpose and values of your firm, you can bridge the communication gap between buyer and seller.
4) Don't be afraid to sell differently
A big takeaway from our research was that closing the sale often required winners to sell differently than their competitors - which essentially boiled down to selling better. With the help of our friends at RAIN Group, we examined 42 separate factors to determine how the firms that won the sale distinguished themselves from those that came in second.
There ended up being ten factors that combined to predict success in closing the sale. In many cases, these factors also helped to forecast the clients' satisfaction with the purchasing process, as well as their likelihood to purchase additional services in the future.
The figure below shows ten factors that when combined will predict success in closing the sale. The left column depicts what sales winners do differently from those who did not win the sale.
It's safe to say that the basic rules of doing good business, such as listening to and understanding prospects' needs, are still incredibly important to the selling process. Once again, this list of factors brings us back to the importance of educating your prospective clients in order to win new business. Clients aren't likely to accept your solutions at face value without an effective education strategy that utilizes blog posts, webinars, articles, whitepapers, ebooks and other types of content.
To tie it all together, it seems that beating out the competition to win more new business often comes down to prioritizing your buyers' needs above your own. By putting the needs of the buyer first - by educating, collaborating and communicating - AEC firms can tip the scale in their favor and establish an effective approach to not only sell differently, but sell more.
Don't just take my word for it either. Download our book where we go Inside the Buyer's Brain and shed light on the qualities that clients look for in professional services.