While the construction industry may expand and contract, it is never dormant. This week we focus on some of the common traits of those who win more projects, and how you too, can enhance your business development/ sales strategy to make 2019 a great year.
For anyone who has ever worked in business development or sales, they will be familiar with the Bob Hooey quote, “If you are not taking care of your customer, your competitor will,” and while that may ring true, this article will focus on the prelude of how to successfully approach and engage a client as a way of making you stand out from the crowd, particularly in this highly competitive market.
Valued globally at $12.9tn, construction is indisputably one of the world’s largest industries in terms of fiscal value with the Middle East and Africa tipped as the fastest growing region with an average annual growth rate of 6.4% from 2018 – 2022. While figures vary, a conservative estimate of the GCC construction market value is probably around $2.6tn, meaning for those in regional business development and sales there is and will continue to be a clear demand for almost anything construction related in the short to mid-term. So how do you successfully approach this massive ecosystem and furthermore maximise your opportunity by becoming a consistent and dependable player? What if you are not based in the region, but are still interested in the opportunity that lies here?
It is probably best to start with the most obvious requirement, which permeates all business, but particularly construction; trust. Forging the convergence of competence, honesty, integrity, reliability, loyalty and accountability, being able to demonstrate trustworthiness is one of the most important factors in the construction sector, particularly as the consequences of incompetence or failure can often have a dire knock-on effect to others. Trust is typically developed over time, however if you are new to the market, ensuring you have a transparent and verifiable record of delivery, along with testimonials from credible organisations and news articles from credible media will at least help to give you the benefit of the doubt. Other outbound platforms to keep track of include keeping your website and social media information current and well presented. When it comes to meeting with your potential client, ensure you’ve done your homework. Illustrating that you understand a business and its history can be equally valuable as a competitive price.
As an additional method of building trust make sure to attend sectorial events – socialising and networking amongst your industry peers is an excellent way to put both you and your company name into circulation. Even if you don’t meet anyone who you can work with directly, the industry is in fact small and sometimes introductions can come from unlikely sources.
KNOW THE INDUSTRY
Once you reach the stage of a face-to-face meeting, it is not uncommon for a client to test your industry knowledge so it is essential that you go to these meetings prepared. That could mean be ready to demonstrate technical knowledge, or market knowledge such as which projects are currently under construction, or who is engaged on which project. Few of the significant research tools include news portals, business and trade publications, project intelligence tools such as ProTenders and the like. Ultimately, regardless of whether the client asks questions, showcasing your knowledge can reinforce trust in you as the sales rep, and can significantly help to seal the deal.
Whether you’re seeking to gain a meeting or following up post-proposal, the overarching rule is to be proactive. While sending a proposal and expecting some feedback may be standard in some parts of the world, following up is an essential ingredient of successful sales and or business development in the Middle East. This being said, be structured in how you forge your approach. Typically one off emails don’t work and phone calls can often be found to be intrusive. From experience, the best approach involves a strategy of a personalised email, followed by a follow up call. If you’ve already sent a proposal or information about yourself, it represents a good opportunity to talk them through your attachments and describe in greater detail either what you provide or what you’re offering.
In many cases clients anticipate hearing from certain stakeholders as and when key milestones of a project have been delivered, so make sure to keep track of the development of a project and make sure to communicate this when you know you can offer value. In this context, ProTenders provides you with the significant tools to identify key projects that companies may be interested to participate in, with up-to-date information on the project’s timeline.
While follow-ups are a part of the course for sales, people often underestimate to what extent that is true in the Middle East. It can sometimes take up to 20 sales interactions before a deal is closed, so be patient and be prepared to dig in for the long haul.
PICK YOUR CLIENTS AND PROJECTS CAREFULLY
While much of the advice shared so far falls on the presentation and professionalism of you, the sales representative, you would also need to equally conduct the same due diligence on your potential clients and customers. It is important that you understand your potential partner’s work history and project portfolio. Working with the wrong partner can have serious repercussions.
On the flip side, companies that have a strong reputation in the market can squeeze your margins to a great extent. The construction industry has typically conducted itself on finer margins than many other major industries and certainly the last few years have demonstrated that. In short, choose your potential clients and projects carefully using various tools available, and ensure you’ve done your homework so it is easy to say at what point the proposal becomes unviable.
KNOW THE CULTURAL ENVIRONMENT
As with working in any part of the world, understanding the cultural traditions and mannerisms can go a long way in helping smooth your path to future business. While in western culture familiarity can be introduced from a relatively early stage, in the Middle East respectful formality prevails during initial communications and sometimes even after the project has been delivered. This of course depends on who your point of contact is, but in general a formal and respectful approach is the best policy.
At ProTenders, our aim to is provide the most accurate and comprehensive level of information on projects, companies and the market at large. It is also our aim through our tendering platform to offer stakeholders a solution to reducing risk and mitigating costs for any given project. From the list of suggestions above, ProTenders can help build trust, offer insights on the entire construction landscape, and identify your clients, partners and projects.
With over 100,000 unique visitors per month, ProTenders has become a credible source for reviewing not only businesses but projects, meaning it is easy to see who is working on what and the status of any given project. Thanks to our profiling features, it’s easy for you to establish a presence, which the market at large can verify. In terms of being proactive, ProTenders maintains updates on more than 57,000 projects ensuring you can stay up to date on the latest developments on these projects, therefore allowing you to time your communications with any potential clients accurately. This of course allows you to conduct a certain amount of due diligence on potential clients and projects, meaning you can stay informed. One must know how to leverage these tools to win business. Creating smart conversations and targeting the correct opportunities can make the difference between increased business versus and remaining stagnant.
While many of these points seem like common sense, having the discipline to follow a consistent and methodical structure can be a lot more difficult that it may first appear and certainly as a sales representative or business developer you will often be up against competition. Remember, knowing your client, trust, proactivity, and cultural understanding are key to winning projects.