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Why You?

Dear Dave
We are a civil/survey firm working with a mix of public and private clients. We’re busy, but we still do make time to look for new projects and clients on a regular basis. This is nothing new, but seems like every time we come across a project it always seems that there are several other firms in there chasing the same opportunity. We get frustrated because we feel we spend a lot of time and energy trying to get this new work, but it seems to us like we are coming in second or third too many times. Any suggestions on how we might improve our rate of success?

Dear DW
I’ve got one word for you: Differentiation! What compelling reasons are you giving prospective clients to want to select you over the other (probably) equally qualified firms under consideration? In other words, if the client were to select you, what set of unique benefits will they receive or, conversely, what problems will they avoid by picking your firm out of the pack for this project? If your benefit/avoidance message is too weak, or unclear, it will contribute to a disappointing number of opportunities going to your competitors. So think. Will you make them taller, thinner, and more handsome? Will you keep the community happy, avoid lawsuits, save money, or minimize change orders?

Learn to distinguish between features and benefits. Too many firms concentrate on telling prospective clients about their features, i.e., that they possess state-of-the-art engineering software, or have X number of staff, or have a new office building, and then assume the client can figure out what this means to them. They generally don’t. The prospects need you to spell it out for them.

Here are a few examples of what I mean: “Our custom software typically cuts 20% off the schedule, and a 10-15% reduction in construction material cost for projects similar to yours, saving you money and helping to ensure your project will be done on schedule. Our new office allows us to employ a “hoteling” concept. With hoteling, your project will have its own dedicated floor space established in our office, with each member of the team assigned to your project seated together for the duration of your project with all pertinent design files and information readily at hand. Should you ever need to contact us, a knowledgeable team member will always be available to either assist you on the spot or see that you receive a quick response.”

To differentiate effectively, you first need to thoroughly understand the client and the proposed project to know what to emphasize. If you fail to develop a more than passing knowledge about the project you’re pursuing, and uncover some hot-button issues you can use about the personality, or preferences, or peculiarities of the client, there is no way to develop a strongly differentiated message. Most firms would be better served by chasing half the number of projects, but putting in twice the effort for those they do pursue in order to more fully understand the particulars of the projects/clients to allow them to better tune their answer to the all important question:“Why You?”

Wahby and Associates