Break Down Barriers in Client Communication to Accelerate Deal FlowJuly 06, 2021 | By Wayne O'Neill
If your pursuit of project scope continues to get stuck at the same point or for the same reasons, then perhaps it’s time to review how you’re communicating with target clients.
So many construction and design firms take the poker player approach. They sit around the table holding their cards close to the vest waiting for owners to tip their hand on what they’re thinking trying to gain some sort of leverage in the deal. Stop. Don’t get caught up in trying to find secret information that only your team knows. That’s the path to stunted growth.
Instead, pursue collaboration. Look for ways to connect with owners, not one-up owners. Sounds strange, right? After all, you may feel like owners have all the power in the relationship, and you’re just looking to find some competitive advantage so that you don’t have to undercut yourself on price again.
Let me reset your thinking that if you’re willing to break down barriers in client communication, you’ll be better positioned to accelerate deal flow so that you can win more accounts, win more work, and actually grow revenue. The key is to understand how to break down these barriers through more effective business communication skills.
How Can You Be More Effective in Client Communication?
I want to highlight three key ways you can be more effective in communicating with owners to win project scope.
- Develop soft skills.
- Get engaged.
- Develop multiple paths of connection.
1. Develop Soft Skills
Let me start with something very simple. If your sales pipeline is stuck, then you need to go back to the basics of just being able to have a productive conversation with owners. And, it’s not just what you say. It’s often what you don’t say because you should be actively listening for clues about the problems they’re facing.
So many construction and design firms are so jaded by past interactions with owners that you simply don’t want to talk to owners. I get it. If you’ve been running the old race where you’re just another firm hoping to win project scraps instead of larger project scope, you could easily be jaded.
But, this is a new race. It’s time to get collaborative, which means your team needs to develop soft skills around how to have more effective conversations with owners.
- Don’t talk about what your firm can do to solve Problem A.
- Stop talking and start listening to unlock Problems B, C, D, and E.
- Don’t try to impress owners with your resume or your connections.
- Stop talking and start listening for the larger, hidden problem your client is facing.
This list points back to the fundamental elements of soft skills — what is your attitude, behavior, and motivation during conversations with owners?
- Is your team just trying to end the conversation so that you can go solve Problem A?
- Are you jumping to conclusions before you understand the hidden problem?
- Are you asking questions about the competing priorities your client is working through?
- Do you even care about the larger issue your client is facing?
Care. Engage. Collaborate. Develop those soft skills to have more productive conversations with owners so that you can get started on the right foot pursuing project scope.
2. Get Engaged
Once you start to care, you can start to engage. But, many firms don’t want to dive too deep into the problems that owners are trying to solve. It’s easier to just hover around the surface-level problem, schmooze the client, deliver a surface-level solution, and move on. But, again, that’s the pathway to plateaued growth.
You have to want to dive beneath the surface, have some uncomfortable conversations, and find key clues about the hidden problems your client is facing. It requires time, effort, and work. Fortunately, there is an efficient way to get engaged without spending an inordinate amount of time on client engagement.
Here’s the answer: Find the business and political issues that matter to your target client.
Dig into these issues. Ask questions about these issues. Research these issues. Understand what is happening inside your target client’s organization and inside their industry. What issues are short-term in nature versus long-term that could have a long-lasting impact on their ability to stay competitive, increase profitability, and engage their evolving stakeholder?
Gather up this evidence, bat it around internally, and ask your target client important questions. Don’t be afraid to have a difficult conversation with an owner about what’s happening in their industry. Even if it’s clumsy and a bit awkward at first, the owner will ultimately appreciate that you cared enough to gather more information about the situation. It’s a sign that you’re engaged, ready to collaborate, and willing to listen.
Showing genuine care makes you more of a business partner with your client. Your client’s problems become your problems. You’re sharing, pursuing solutions together, and working toward the right solution to solve the overall problem your client is facing.
There is another key step to take as you look to break down barriers in client communication on the path to accelerating deal flow. It could be even more awkward for your team, yet it is highly effective.
3. Pursue Multiple Connections
I talk to firms all the time that are accustomed to talking to a few decision-makers in the client organization. Having conversations with influencers, gatekeepers, or third parties seems completely unnecessary to them. But, I’ll let you know that if you truly want to increase your standing with an owner on the path to winning project scope, then talk to these additional parties to gain a deeper understanding of what the owner is going through.
Other parties have tremendous insight that you cannot find just talking to one or two decision-makers in the client organization. They are often too close to one problem to actually understand the larger problem the organization is facing. Or, they are too focused on their responsibility solving Problem A that they can’t see Problems B, C, or D.
Talk to other people in the organization, talk to industry thought leaders, and talk to third parties (e.g. vendors, project/scope delivery partners, and customers) to understand what is really happening. You have to dig deeper. Then, when you present a solution to the client, you will have ample evidence to support the solution that your team crafted.
Arm your team with as much information as possible so that you can have more effective and productive conversations with the client. You still want to actively listen, not just pop off presenting all of the evidence you gathered trying to sound impressive. But, you’re better able to have two-way communication driving toward a solution to solve the problem.
Taking this approach will also position your firm to be leveraged for value and impact — not just get hired — because you have demonstrated a complete understanding of what is required to address the situation. Now you’re valuable. You’re no longer just another company trying to win project scope.
Receive Coaching to Improve Business Communication Skills
Every firm can benefit from coaching to improve their communication skills on the path to authentic connection with clients.
- Is it developing soft skills to pursue client engagement?
- Is it being able to listen for the problems your client is facing?
- Is it talking to different types of parties to gather client intelligence?
We can step in to provide coaching for your team to develop business communication skills that will help break down barriers with owners. When these barriers come down, then your firm will be best positioned to grow.
Through our proven methodology, The Connection Process, we can help your firm accelerate deal flow by understanding how to have productive and effective conversations with your connections. Through this collaborative approach, you will be able to grow revenue in a sustainable way.
If you’re tired of your sales pipeline getting stuck and tired of chasing down work, then talk to us about how to pursue a deeper level of connection with clients. Contact us today to get started on coaching for your team.