By Joe Schuller
In 30 years working in the A/E industry, I have learned that maintaining contacts and connections continues to be the name of the game. I have also learned that, despite the technology available to us these days, the best way to organize and maintain contacts established while working on many projects throughout the year is quite traditional — business cards.
I make it a priority to get a business card from everyone involved on a project. This could be client staff and other businesses, partners, and sub-consultants. I simply ask each person for their card and follow up or circle back around if need be, to ensure I have one from each individual. I sort the cards by project–not by company because our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software can do that for me. While the project is active, I keep the relevant business cards in my project folder. It is helpful when referring back for specific information in the event I need to reach a particular person involved on the project or when a colleague may need a contact’s information. The information is right at your fingertips—particularly as we don’t always have our CRM software with us! And as a project moves through its various phases, I move and rearrange the cards to follow.
“It’s tough to keep contacts straight when you meet so many people during the length of any given project.”
After a while, I start to see the same cards over and over. That’s fine. It just means that I have had continued contact with the same people and am becoming familiar with them—I’ve established a relationship with them. It is important to note these project contacts may or not be business development contacts. That is less important than staying in front of them regularly.
Identifying the movers and shakers,—the people with the power to award and/or advance opportunities for our firm–is critical to business development. Sometimes these key people and decision makers are intricately connected through past projects and project team members. That’s where relationships really serve our firm well. Based on who we know, and our experiences with them, I can decide strategically how, when, and where to spend my time and energy for business development. I have both project contacts and business development contacts, and they may very well overlap. Tracking when a project team member changes or when there is a new gate keeper is important to my market strategy. These are the paradigms I’ve used to remain both competitive and relevant. When it comes to being efficient in business, sometimes the best methods are a bit traditional.