The way consumer goods are advertised and sold, one might get the idea that success requires some kind of "overpowering" of the buyer's thinking. Yet the successful way is exactly the opposite.
Marketing and sales are essentially educational activities. The starting point in both is that the prospective client doesn't KNOW enough in order to make a POSITIVE decision. That's the hardest one to make. Deciding NOT to go ahead with a project is easier. And deciding not to DECIDE AT ALL â€“ postponing the decision indefinitely â€“ is easiest of all.
These are your adversaries when marketing and selling Architect services.
In marketing â€“ commercial or residential sector â€“, your task is to FIND the prospective clients that have PLANS to have a building constructed... and to give enough information so they understand what to do. In other words, you "activate" these dormant ambitions to build that so often take months or years to develop into ANY kind of action. The main reason for this inaction is simple â€“ these are nonprofessional builders and they just don't know whom to turn to!
May sound too simple to be true... but survey and experience proves otherwise.
Once the contact has been made and you HAVE a prospective client, your goal is to ENLIGHTEN him about his future project so that he can understand it better and conceptualize it in his mind.
Each of these â€“ marketing and sales â€“ involves tens of separate, gradual steps that each are really educational processes on their own. These ARE steps because they each bring the prospective client higher in his understanding. Once he fully understands the project and the benefits of using your Architect services, you have a sale.
The bigger the decision is, the more steps you need as the ability of people to absorb information sets definite limits to how much data you can give at any one time. Imagine a staircase that you have to get the prospect to climb on his own willingness. He won't take the next step unless he understands the previous one. He can only take a few steps at a time after which he needs a break.
The gradualness of this process is rarely understood fully. The more carefully each of these steps are planned ahead, the more tested and proven each step is to EFFECT the result desired... the better and more reliable your sales system is.
If no preplanned "staircase" and strategy exist, an Architect is often faced with the impossible task of trying to push home HUGE amounts of information at one meeting. Obviously, if it took YOU months to study these things way back when... and if it took YEARS of experience to achieve full certainty of those principles... well, you're facing an impossible task in trying to get a nonprofessional to grasp those concepts in a couple of meetings.
The ultimate problem of sales in Architecture â€“ as in any industry involving highly developed conceptual understanding â€“ is the IMMENSE GAP between the Architect and his or her client in understanding the project and all its parts, actions, and the consequences thereof.
It isn't hopeless â€“ but without some major work in planning a workable SYSTEM that includes all those steps... well, it will definitely APPEAR totally impossible.
The basic principle of presentation â€“ be it to find prospective clients OR to present your services to those found â€“ is to visualize the whole action as a CHAIN of actions. Then you just "unbuild" it â€“ sort of take it apart and analyze each part. (The word "analyze" in fact means "to take apart and look at each part!")
Divide your sales action into 5-10 major parts that seem sensible entities. These could be parts such as
1. Finding the prospect
2. Stabilizing the contact (so he won't run away!)
3. Getting information from the prospect (to qualify him, find out more about the project)
4. Educating him on the benefits of using an Architect (so he won't bypass you and go directly to building contractors)
5. Creating a personal rapport with the prospect (so he will pick YOU as his Architect and not your competitor)
6. Enlightening and helping your prospect to see and achieve certainty on the feasibility and worthwhileness of his project (so he will GO AHEAD with it)
7. Offering and selling a PRELIMINARY service (something small and easy to commit to)
8. Delivering that service (thus proving you deliver what you promise)
9. Creating a proposal for the actual project for the prospect. (Done right, this usually means that requests for proposals are NOT sent out to other Architects. But even if it happens, you usually end up getting your proposal accepted â€“ you're "in there" already.)
10. Closing the client â€“ signing the contract.
These major parts are then analyzed EACH and broken into SMALLER actions of that one major part. If we take the example of # 1 above for instance, it could look something like this:
1A. Research the target audience to find out WHAT it is that they think, fear, need and want from Architects â€“ and what they don't understand, what preconceptions they have, etc.
2A. Create a set of direct mailing letters that offer that which they WANT (using their own words and concepts of it) so that it communicates in a split second to those that are planning to have a building constructed and creates an instant strong interest.
3A. Create an interview to follow up your letters to ensure you find all those businesses that have plans and means to build. (There are an amazingly big percentage of these, by the way!) Make sure you get almost ALL of those interested so they agree to continue with you on your part 2 of your marketing actions.
All right â€“ as the above already reveals, there are even SMALLER parts to consider in some of these... and so it goes.
Admittedly, it takes quite some doing. But look at it this way â€“ once you HAVE it, it will be immensely valuable to you... it will bring PREDICTION and CERTAINTY into your marketing and sales. In other words, you will KNOW that you CAN GET CLIENTS WHEN YOU WANT THEM.
Now, that's a new thought, I know... goes straight against what is generally believed. And there's a very good reason for this "general consent" and "accepted reality" too. You've just read through it, in a sense. If you DON'T have a preplanned system of marketing and sales developed then your chances of affecting the outcome are very limited.
It isn't "all or nothing." You don't need a perfect system to get results. It works with the same principle of gradients. Any planning is better than no planning. The more you plan, the more you get to affect the outcome, in other words.
So even "dabbling" can be very worthwhile. As an Architect, you are on top of the creativity â€“ the "creme de la creme" of creative powers on this planet â€“ and you definitely have the ability to come up with absolutely HUGE innovations. So, it's like digging for gold - worth your while to try even if you don't find it immediately!