Proclaiming business development isn't about sales and marketing may appear to be a little brash, but they are virtually opposites. Business Development is about the client while sales and marketing are about the company doing the selling. Do you really think prospects are concerned about the contractor? This situation is especially true in the low bid arena, which is a typical transactional environment. In this environment, I constantly hear contractors complain about prospects attempting to get the work at below cost. Unfortunately, some buyers don't care if the contractor survives, their only concern is getting the best deal. What is sad is this approach typically does not work for the customer or the contractor, but that's a story for another day.

by Ted Garrison

Ted Garrison is the president of Garrison Associates, is a catalyst for change. As a consultant, author and speaker; delivers his Construction 3.0 Strategies that offer breakthrough solutions for the construction industry by focusing on critical issues in leadership, project management, strategic thinking, strategic alliances and marketing. Contact Ted at 800-861-0874 or [email protected]. Further information can be found at www.TedGarrison.com.

Attempting to get added to bid lists is not business development, because the bid environment is a transactional environment. While transactions do create a customer, they do not create clients that generate repeat business or quality referrals. During sales transaction, the salesperson merely takes the order and then attempts to find a way to deliver that order at the lowest cost in order to win the bid. In contrast, business development professionals focus on developing business relationships with clients that are based on performance, experience, and knowledge – not just low price.

Business development professions understand that to be build repeat business they must compete based on the value their company bring to the process. The greatest value a contractor can bring to the project is using its expertise and knowledge to maximize the value of the project for the client by guiding the client through the process. It's important to understand the definition of client as "someone under the protection of." In other words, as an expert, contractors need to protect their clients from project risks and problems and often the client is its own biggest risk. Typically, clients are not experts on construction and when they attempt to make decisions about construction issues they tend to get themselves into trouble. Therefore, the business development professional needs to act like a trusted consultant and advise the client what is in its best interest throughout the entire life-cycle of the project.

I often tease contractors that they should throw away their sales and marketing materials. The reason is they are focused on the company. Of course, that material has some value, but do you think someone will make a commitment to spend millions of dollars based on a sales literature. Sales literature does not create trust, in fact; it is usually reviewed with some skepticism. Gaining commitment based upon trust takes hard work by the business development professional. It is fine to leave a simple sales kit with prospects so that they have your contact information, and they are aware of the types of services you provide. In other words, provide the basic information, but do not expect your sales material to close the deal.

To develop a relationship built upon trust takes hard work. The business development professional must spend a great deal of time talking to potential clients in order to learn about their business. Today, being an expert on construction methods is a given. What differentiates contractors is their ability to grasp their client's specific and often unique needs. This means the business development professionals must do their research and ask questions so that they understand the client's priorities and challenges. Solving the client's challenges is where the contractor add superior value. While price is always important, it is essential for the contractor to focus on the big picture. In other words, it is not about producing the cheapest solution, but the identifying and delivering the best solution which typically costs less in the long run.

The best solution considers not only the initial capital cost, but it takes into account future energy and maintenance costs as well as the operating costs of the facility. Because the best business development professionals realize they can add the greatest value before construction starts, they work hard to become a trusted advisor. Remember, clients are not interested in constructing a building, they want what the building will do for them. Therefore, great business development professionals focus on what is important to their clients.