Tips for Selling Architectural Services
A successful architect not only needs to be good at what they do and deliver projects on time and on budget, but also needs to master the art of marketing. Selling is not a skill that comes naturally to everyone, but like many other skills, it can be learned.
Creative people are often averse to actively selling their services, perhaps feeling that their art should speak for itself. However, if you want to stay competitive in a world where there are many others trying to win the same contracts, it is important to learn the art of persuasion. The most successful architects are not always those with the most innovative designs or the most efficient work process, but rather those who have learned to market themselves effectively.
Luckily, if the idea of cold calling or selling door to door makes you break out into a cold sweat, there’s no need to resort to these aggressive techniques to sell your architectural services. You can employ many different techniques to create an effective marketing campaign that ultimately leads to more business.
Learning Basic Sales Techniques
The basics of selling are the same, whatever industry you are in. Just because you’re not selling a physical product doesn’t mean that you can ignore the marketing side of your business. Architects, like any professional, are well advised to ensure that they are up to speed on how to sell as soon as possible in their career. The same rules apply whether you are trying to sell your services in person, over the phone, or via your website.
Whatever marketing techniques you choose to focus on, it makes good sense to study the psychology of sales and learn the format of a successful sales interaction. This will form the basis of every marketing activity that you take part in.
There are some excellent books available which describe the elements of making a successful sale – try Brian Tracy’s The Psychology of Selling: The Art of Closing Sales or How to Master the Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins.
While not every marketing technique involves talking directly with prospective customers, making the sale often comes down to a conversation in person. Effective techniques for improving your technique in personal and telephone sales include practicing in the form of role play and having a script that you can read from when you’re making telephone calls.
These skills will eventually become second nature, but when you’re just starting out, the more effort you put into improving your selling skills, the better. Remember – practice makes perfect!
Be Helpful, Not “Salesy”
Salespeople have somewhat of a bad reputation for being aggressive and pushy and that is what puts many people off learning sales techniques in the first place. When most people hear the word “sales,” they immediately think of being put under pressure by car salespeople and door to door sellers refusing to leave.
However, these outdated techniques are very much discouraged in modern sales training. The best way to become a successful sales person is actually to be as helpful to your prospective customer as possible.
Successful sales interactions don’t come from being pushy and talking about yourself as much as possible. Rather, a more effective strategy is to ask questions that help the client to voice their issues and then discuss potential solutions together.
A good rule of thumb is to spend 20% of the time asking questions and offering solutions and letting the client talk for 80% of the time. The sales interaction should be about them, not you.
The same rule applies to online marketing – if you focus all of your online materials around selling your skills and services, you’ll be missing out. A better method is to provide helpful information in the first instance and begin to subtly sell your services once you’ve gained the trust and respect of potential customers.
Tips for Using LinkedIn
When it comes to making your mark online, LinkedIn is an excellent place to start. It can be a great marketing tool both for finding new clients and staying in touch with people you have worked with in the past. It’s also handy for networking, staying up to date with industry news and communicating with colleagues.
For maximum success with LinkedIn, it’s important to complete your profile as thoroughly as possible. Make sure to add in all your skills and ask your contacts to endorse them. Add links to your professional website and blog and make sure you are connected to firms you have worked with in the past.
When it comes to finding contacts, use both your professional and personal email addresses – you never know how work may find itself to you via an old friend or classmate. The real power of LinkedIn lies in the potential of connection. As you can see others connections, it is easy to ask for an introduction and be one step closer to landing that dream client.
As well as using LinkedIn for connecting with clients, it’s a good idea to join some professionally related groups and take part in discussions. This helps to build your authority and strengthen your brand.
Tips for Email Marketing
Email marketing is the modern equivalent of traditional direct mail, with the added advantages that it is cheaper and often more effective than old-style mail outs. You can start building a mailing list by putting a signup form on your website and blog and inviting previous and current clients to sign up.
The main point to remember if you want to be successful with email marketing is not to be too aggressive with your sales technique. You should be offering something of value to your readers, not putting them off with constant sales messages so that they get annoyed and unsubscribe.
You could send out newsletters with interesting industry news, links to articles and white papers you’ve published recently and information about your current projects. The aim of email marketing is to stay in contact with your clients, build awareness of your brand and encourage sharing of useful information.
Blogging is a very effective marketing technique that is also very easy and cheap. A blog hosted on your website can feed your site with a constant stream of fresh content, which search engines love and will help to bring you more targeted traffic.
Writing a regular blog and encouraging commenting is also a great way to engage with past and prospective clients and allow them to find out more about your work process and design aesthetic.
You can blog about industry news, current projects, inspirational design, your day-to-day life and work and anything that people will find interesting to read. As with email marketing, the main aim shouldn’t be to sell your services (at least not in an obvious way) but rather to provide excellent content that is of value to your readers.
As well as writing for your own blog, you can publish guest posts on other blogs that link back to your own website. This is a great way to expand your audience, build your brand and connect with new prospective clients.
Twitter can be a handy tool for finding new customers, networking, establishing your brand and keeping up to date with industry news. You can use twitter as a kind of search engine to find people who are either looking for an architect or may be in the near future and then either contacting them directly or following them to make them aware of your existence. You can also follow other architects and their followers, which is an easy way to build your audience.
You can use twitter as a micro-blogging platform to keep your followers up to date with projects you are working on and for posting interesting links to your subscribers. It’s also a handy quick communication tool if you find emails and telephone calls are going ignored (anyone has time to type a 140-character response to a quick question).
Tips for Using Pinterest
Pinterest is a relative newcomer to the world of online marketing but it is a technique that can be highly effective for architects in particular. Alongside the crafts and recipes, you’ll find inspiring pictures of interiors, unique buildings and creative architectural design.
Getting pictures of your projects pinned can drive traffic to your site and build awareness of your brand. As a highly visual network, it has huge potential for architects and other creative professionals.
Pinterest is becoming a viable alternative to Google and other search engines as many people prefer the visual interface when they are hunting for inspiration. Potential clients may be searching Pinterest for ideas for their office redevelopment or their dream home. If your style fits what they are looking for, you may just snag yourself a new customer.
To use Pinterest effectively, you should set up your own account and pin images from other websites as well as photographs from your own website. The more pins and boards you have, the more followers you will attract, which will increase exposure for your own site.
Diversify Your Marketing Efforts and Maximize Your Results
For best results you should use a combination of both online and offline marketing techniques and always keep the basics of successful sales techniques and customer service at the forefront of your mind. Remember, you could be the most talented architect ever, but if nobody knows about you, your talents will go unnoticed.
“Selling” is not a dirty word, but rather a necessary and integral part of your business plan, which is important to get right. Spend a little time on marketing every day and your efforts will soon add up to make a big difference to your business.