THE PROJECT MANAGER S ROLE IN BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

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1 CHAPTER 1 THE PROJECT MANAGER S ROLE IN BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT Do Marketers or Project Managers Bring In the Work? There has traditionally been a push/pull that goes on between marketing and project management as to who is the lead in bringing in a project. Marketing directors say they have to chase project managers to get them to do write-ups for proposals. Project managers say they are spread too thin, and aren t trained to market. Is there an answer to this pervasive problem? The following comments are from veteran marketers talking about project managers, and seasoned PMs talking about marketers. Marketer: My involvement is mainly talking to clients, returning calls and s, making sure clients get the service they want; those should be the duties of a project manager as well. 19

2 20 Painless A/E Project Management How to Make More Money and More Happy Clients PM: The most important thing is servicing the client, and becoming personal with them, since repeat clients are the best clients you can have. Marketer: I m making sure our proposals are going out on time, and making new connections through existing relationships. There are also social events and personal connections, such as golf outings, dinners, attending conventions with our clients. In one week s time I can touch10-20 of my clients all in one place, and it s all budgeted right into our revenue stream. PM: One of the most important roles of the PM is communication; going out and socializing, and developing that relationship with the project sponsors, and getting to understand how it s going to be handled, and preventing surprises. Every PM should have that responsibility if they re doing their job well. Marketer: Proposals are the best vehicles to show your wares, and you really need good marketing materials. Quality is everything. It sends a message to your client that you care about the project. PM: Part of our deliverables in proposals is scheduled meetings. We try to find reasons for clients to periodically look at the work we re doing, and see our faces. While we re sitting there, something usually comes up and it often leads to new work. Marketer: Marketing doesn t end until there is a comfort level with the client. You have to get the PM s involvement right up front. They need to be at the meetings and see the urgency of what s discussed. When

3 The Project Manager s Role in Business Development 21 they go back to the office, they re going to respond better. If you fall down at the beginning of the job, you ve failed marketing. PM: When we sign up a project we fill out a marketing form, the client, location, size, service expected. After a job is done, the same form asks; Can you take pictures, and was it successful? The photographer takes the pictures, we do a write-up that produces a project sheet that goes into our firm s marketing database. Finally, are there as many opportunities for PM s to affect the marketing direction of the firm as there are for the marketers? Marketer: We hired a person to open doors and hold the client s interest in conversations, which I couldn t do; then, as soon as it got technical, our PM stepped in, and it worked like a charm. PM: A PM sits down with clients and their representatives all the time, and we have the opportunity to get a foot in someone s door every day. That has to be capitalized on to keep your company afloat and growing. Use a Personal Action Plan to Get Your Project Team to Market How do you persuade a project manager or someone in your technical staff to move out of the project delivery comfort zone and make time for marketing? One answer: translate practice goals into personal goals.

4 22 Painless A/E Project Management How to Make More Money and More Happy Clients Marketing for the A/E is a very personal undertaking because the A/E practitioner is largely promoting personal competencies and commitment to deliver. Personal action plans are a powerful way to get people going. We all operate to some degree under a what s in it for me? philosophy. With those new to marketing, you can design the personal action plan around what motivates the practitioner. Plus, the personal action plan helps the marketer keep the individual s efforts consistent with the practice s goals. Action Plan Basics Every personal action plan should include these seven items outlined for the individual: 1. Keep a written record of all contacts and marketing touches. 2. List personal goals. 3. Show the goals link to the practice strategies. 4. Show the implementation tactics. 5. Keep an implementation time-line. 6. Show performance measurements or a description of what success should look like. 7. Have goals signed-off by the individual and a supervising or peer reviewer.

5 The Project Manager s Role in Business Development 23 Peer Pressure One key to keeping practitioners focused on their personal action plans is to make the plans public internally, that is. This serves two purposes: 1. It puts healthy peer pressure on the practice member to set goals high enough to benefit the practice and to make a public commitment to achieve them. 2. It allows the practice group to review all personal action plans and offer constructive feedback if any personal plan is out of sync with the practice strategies. An added benefit to using the personal action plan program is that these plan often become an organizing tool for the marketer. The Benefits The written plan helps you know where to support individual practitioner s efforts. Finally, these plans create a baseline against which to measure progress. When the individual succeeds, the practice should feel the boost. Clients Are Digging Deeper for References The importance of previous work for a client s educational organization cannot be overemphasized. If a client has dealt with your accounting staff, your principals, and

6 24 Painless A/E Project Management How to Make More Money and More Happy Clients your architects, they have a good idea if your firm can produce what it says it will produce. Educational clients also value that fact that you have worked for another university or government agency. It gives them another opportunity to talk to other people and find out more about your firm. This was confirmed by a campus client in a private university setting: If you take on a smaller project, produce it the way it should be done and impress us, we will remember that, and if you come up with the proper team, it may not get you the job, but it will get you the invite. There may be firms that we don t know about, so we provide opportunities to meet the director of facilities or other people on the campus. We are more than willing to provide access to them, because in the end we re looking for the best value. Looking At Remote Projects Another public sector client commented: You have to be able to know the players, and know how people like certain presentations. Under the old system, if you did a really good job, you would always have work, because you made our project manager look good, so they would do whatever they could to convince the panel to use your firm. That s all out the window now. Also, in the past, if one of our PMs had experience with a firm on the list, they would have gone for the firms that

7 The Project Manager s Role in Business Development 25 they know. But the selection process is now monitored by procurement, not by our PM s favorite firm. Another university client pointed out how they are able to check up on the performance of a firm on a remote project: When we read your proposals, we may not know some of the other firms you re listing, and we may have to do some investigation on a team member. If a project is listed in a proposal, or shown in a photograph, we will call and find out how the project worked. A good place for us to find this information is through the Society of College and University Planning (SCUP, Not only do the facilities participate, but the financial institutions also participate. They use it as a follow up to check on your firm s credentials. You may have the credentials, but what kind of client satisfaction did you provide? Why Not Offer a Tour? Another client commented: When we look at a remote project, we want to see how it relates to our specific building, size, program requirements, location, and how it fit into the campus. Sometimes we may embrace the fact that it is from out of the area, and look at it as a positive, in the overall rating.

8 26 Painless A/E Project Management How to Make More Money and More Happy Clients One firm laid out a plan for us to visit some of their comparable projects recently built out of the area as part of their proposal. We took them up on the offer and visited the sites. The projects were not identical but similar. This approach was very innovative, and put them a step above the others. We have to check with the SCUP associations organizations to find out about a remote project. In this case, the SCUP checked their national association contacts to make sure that the building actually worked out for the university as well as the firm claimed. It did, and they were awarded the job. How to Develop First-String Project Managers You can t simply throw your project managers to the wolves and expect perfection. Strong PMs attain success and skill through practice, training, and the right amount of leadership. Here are seven ways to put your PMs on a fast-track to firm principal. 1. Encourage your project managers to be as direct and honest as possible in all interactions. Remind them that if they re honest with clients, those clients will want to enter into long-term relationships with your firm. If your PM is direct about her ability to perform and not perform, she will inspire confidence in others.

9 The Project Manager s Role in Business Development Increase your project manager s authority and responsibility. This allow the true go-getters to shine. One Cincinnati engineering firm lets each senior PM be their own profit center. On each project, the company gets the first five percent of profit, but everything after that is split fifty-fifty between the PM and the firm. The PM s are in business for themselves. The result? Each individual profit center have turned out between 15 to 22 percent profit per year. 3. Train your project managers to understand financial data. Train them to read balance sheets, industry benchmarks, multipliers, direct labor ratios, etc. By giving them a bird s eye view of firm operations, you will undoubtedly see tighter project control and higher profits in return. 4. Expect project managers to bring in new work. If they re good, they will always strive to find new opportunities for the firm at all times. You need to continually emphasize this aspect of their job. 5. Keep your project managers informed on industry trends. Invite them along to association conferences and other seminars. Pass along industry publications and highlight pertinent topics. Even better give an interested PM his own subscription. A good PM will have his finger on the pulse of industry trends and developments, such as new government regulations or project management software. 6. Set high performance standards. One civil engineering firm in Michigan keeps a list of 20

10 28 Painless A/E Project Management How to Make More Money and More Happy Clients expectations for their PMs. For example, no PM can allow write-offs and error correction to be more than three percent of gross revenues per year. 7. Don t micro-manage your project managers projects. They will never learn if you do the work for them. Also, they most likely have unique skills and talents that will come out with the right amount of freedom. Don t Let References Checkmate You Check Them First References from past clients play a vital role in establishing immediate credibility with a prospective or new client. We often take them for granted, using old references, or worse, references that have not been surveyed for their current comments. Consider these reference scenarios from different clients types: First there s the outdated reference. As one client lamented. We always make reference calls, and I can t tell you how many times firms submit a list of references in their proposal and the phone number is no longer working, or the person cited is no longer with the company. Then there is the silent but deadly reference. A client was used as a reference for every proposal that went out. However, this person harbored deep-seated negative

11 The Project Manager s Role in Business Development 29 feelings about the firm, but never told anyone only the people who called for a reference. This brings to mind axioms about negatives that were compiled from a national study by the Technical Assistant Research Program, performed for the White House Office of consumer affairs. It states: Ninety-six percent of client complaints are never voiced. On average, each client will tell a negative story to nine other people. Thirteen percent of disgruntled clients will tell at least 20 other people. The good news in this survey is that 70 percent of disgruntled clients will return if the design firm corrects the error, or apologizes for the problem. Let s not forget the surprise reference. A potential client called a reference and received this response. They did pretty good work, but we use another firm. The client was astonished, and responded, When your reference gives someone else a better reference, you don t rise to the top, the other firm does. That s a spontaneous reference, and it s very valuable. Finally, there s the wild card reference, obtained by a client who doesn t believe your references. A developer client had this comment about how he handles design firm s references. I believe in ground up references. I call people I know and ask if they know anyone in the

12 30 Painless A/E Project Management How to Make More Money and More Happy Clients firm. If someone sends me a list of references, I throw it away because I wonder who isn t on that list. If I call the reference and don t know the person giving it, it s a waste of my time. Outside Consultants One would think that periodic needs assessments carried out by the PM would spot any problems and it might. But past experience indicates that it will not. While readings on the progress of the work and the client s satisfaction is very important, the only true measure of a happy client and the potential for a good reference is found by outside consultants who are not part of the project s activities good or bad. Consider this verbatim reference acquired in this manner. They re just tremendous folks to work with. They were always on call and always responded to those times I was available to meet, which didn t fit the typical 8 to 5 schedule. We have a major renovation job just underway, and I didn t even look at another architectural firm, because I ve got a tremendous comfort zone in their ability to get that job done. You can call this client anytime. Make Project Manager Training a Priority The following seven points provide a strong outline for a PM training program. Remember: training your people is

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