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Excerp 1

Stage 1: Selecting the clients you
want to work for
1.1 Your client portfolio
Many books on selling professional services only concentrate on
targeting new opportunities. This would ignore the easiest work to
win, which is from existing and past clients. Assuming you have
provided a good service and your current and past clients still have
work to commission, then this should be your main priority.
Obviously you still need to, at the same time, target new opportunities
so that you are gradually building up your portfolio and
replenishing where current clients have come to the end of their
commissioning period.
Examine current portfolio
Before deciding a campaign of action to secure more work, it will be
useful to examine your current and past work so that you can get an
indication of the following:
❑ Who were your best and worst clients, and why?
❑ What kind of work was most profitable?
❑ What sectors gave you the most work?
❑ What skills were being commissioned?
It makes sense to focus most marketing and sales efforts towards
those clients who are going to continue to give you profitable work.
There is little point in spending a lot of time and effort trying to ‘win’
work from clientswho do not value your work, pay below the market
rate and have no interest in a long-term relationship.
So the first task is to divide your current and past clients into three
categories, which we will refer to as gold, silver and bronze. Fig 1.1
Stage 1: Selecting the clients you want to work for 3
Top 20%
Middle 60%
Bottom 20%
• Provide large proportion of your profit
• They are very satisfied with your service
• They are loyal, profitable and pay on time
• Will usually negotiate new contracts
• Not fully satisfied with your service
• Open to competitor poaching
• You give them discounts
• You don’t win all their business
• Try to convert to Gold
• Large proportion of your effort on clients you
wish you never had
• They steal your time and energy
• They give no real profit
• Will always go out to tender for new project
• Avoid these clients or try to convert to Silver
Figure 1.1 Gold, silver, and bronze client criteria for a typical client portfolio.
shows the criteria for each category. If you are a large organisation
then this can be carried out for each office, each department or each
major skill set. You may find this quite revealing because you just
might find that
❑ the clients who give you the most turnover might not be gold
clients but could turn out to be bronze;
❑ the same clients may appear as gold in one office or department
and a bronze or silver in another office or department;
❑ large blue chip clientsmight bemore demanding and less profitable
than smaller not so well-known clients.
Take this analysis one step further andwork out what the total amount
of fee income is for each category and the proportion of clients falling
within each category.
Table 1.1 shows the top clients, by fee income, for 1 year for a
fictitious firm of architects calledWren & Barry. The table shows that
nearly 80% of the fee income is generated by just six clients. These
six clients account for almost 20% of the total number of clients that
the firm is currently working for and three are classified as gold
If you were to repeat this exercise every year, you would see
how different clients may feature in different years. This emphasises
that you need a good spread of clients to give a continuous stream
of income and not be reliant on just a few good clients. This also
underlines the need to add to your client portfolio, which we will be
looking at later.
Also in Table 1.1 we can examine the mix of gold, silver and
bronze clients within the portfolio and how much fee each client type
contributes, again using our fictitious firm Wren & Barry. Fig 1.2
shows the analysis of client and fee income for the firm.
From experience, you may find that your results might follow the
Pareto rule, which states that for many events 80% of the results
come from 20% of the outcomes. The rule was named after an Italian
economist Vilfredo Pareto, who discovered that 80% of the income in
Italy went to 20% of the population. The rule has now found a home
within business and it is often said that
❑ of your sales, 80% comes from 20% of your clients, and
❑ the least profitable 20% of your clients will probably take up 80%
of your spare management time as they will be more troublesome
and demanding. These will also be typically bronze clients.

Therefore, in an ideal world, you want to increase your share of
gold clients. This can be achieved by converting the bronze to silver
and the silver to gold. You will probably find that many of the bronze
clients have approached you, perhaps having previously employed
your competitors and fallen out with them. There is a good chance
that your gold clientswere clients you had previously targeted orwho
came to you through recommendation. Gold and silver clients tend
to value quality of service where bronze clients tend to be focused
mainly on the cost of delivering that service.
In our Wren & Barry example, we can see the following from
Table 1.1 and Fig 1.2:
❑ Of the fee income, 49% comes from the gold clients who account
for only 16% of the client portfolio.
❑ Over 80% of the fee income comes from seven clients (just over
20% of the total number of clients).
❑ From the top 12 clients, who account for over 90% of the fees, we
see that the commercial sector brings in 48.5% of the total fees, and
industry 25.3%, leisure 12% and health 4.3%. This is useful to know
because, in this example, Wren & Barry have been spending more
time pursuing, say, health in recent years, yet the results were not
reflecting this. Obviously, we need to be aware that there is a time
lag between the marketing and sales activity and the work being
secured from that effort.
It is fundamental that you know how your current portfolio is made
up. Going through the same investigation as carried out by the Wren
& Barry example will give you the knowledge to allow you to move
forward withmore confidence in deciding how to pursue morework.
Saying goodbye to clients
The phrase ‘the customer is always right’ does not hold within the
world of the professional services firm if the client is
❑ awkward and too difficult;
❑ unduly complaining;
❑ taking up far too much time to manage relative to the fee.
Stage 1: Selecting the clients you want to work for 7
Then be brave enough to make the decision to part with these clients,
rather than take on new projects for them. For these clients are,
according to our criteria, ‘bronze’ clients.
Having carried out this analysis, for your own business, you have
been able to categorise those clients that are a drain on your resources.
You do not want bronze clients within your portfolio unless they pay
for the privilege. Therefore, the following are the outcomes of this
❑ Invest time and effort to convert bronze to silver and in time to
gold by making them appreciate the service delivery rather than
just the cost of that delivery. You can do this by building strong
relationships. This is discussed in more detail in Stage 6.
❑ If you know that the bronze clients are not convertible, then
raise your fees to service them. Let them pay more for taking up
a disproportionate percentage of your management time. If by
doing this they don’t come back to you, then that’s fine because
hopefully they will clog up your competitor’s portfolio and take
up their time and effort.
Number of clients
The breadth and mix of your client portfolio is as important as the
quality of each client. Ideally, you need to have a variety of client size
contributing to your turnover. It would not be good business sense to
be reliant on just one or two key clients because they may suddenly
stop giving you work for a whole number of reasons, thereby leaving
you very vulnerable.
Ideally, your client portfolio should have a spread where
❑ no client contributes more than 25% of your turnover, preferably
no more than 15%;
❑ perhaps one or two clients would each contribute approximately
15% of your turnover;
❑ then the next band of say four or five clients contribute between
7.5 and 12.5%;
❑ the remaining clients contribute the rest.
8 Marketing & Selling Professional Services
You may decide a different mix more suitable to your needs
depending on your organisation size and potential number of clients
in the market place that may need your services. Also, you need to
bear in mind that during the life of the client relationship, a client may
appear as one of your key clients in one year and in another year as
a minor client.What is important is that you are aware of the lifetime
value of your client (see Section 1.4) and keep in touch to receive all
their future work.
Sector exposure
Just as it’s leaving yourself vulnerable working for one client, you
would also be exposing yourself to risk by just working in one sector.
Some organisations, for example, will only work in the residential
sector. In this situation, there only needs to be an economic downturn
and the sector slows right down. If possible, it would be better to have
work from the following:
❑ A mix of public and private sectors (perhaps education and health
as well as industrial and commercial).
❑ Sectors that are perhaps more resistant to economic downturns.
❑ Some sectors that are more profitable than others, especially if
you have specialist skills. Working for the pharmaceutical sector,
for example, might be more demanding and profitable than the
warehousing sector.
Looking at diversification, it would be preferable to look at sectors
that you are not currently working for, but which would require
the same skill set. Perhaps an organisation specialising in the health
sector, which is highly serviced and complex, could capture work
in the pharmaceutical sector. Equally, perhaps, those serving the
housing sector could move into residential care homes where the type
of building is usually of domestic scale and construction.
Who are your competitors and who do they work for?
When putting together a strategy for obtaining more work, you
may get some insight into what to pursue by looking at your
competitors. Take a look at your competitors and consider the
❑ In what sectors do they compete?
❑ What size of contract do they undertake?
❑ Are they more successful than you are and if so why?
❑ What client portfolio do they have? Can you learn anything from
how they operate to secure work?
Table 1.2 shows a competitor analysis forWren & Barry. From this
example, you can see that
❑ most of the competitors have local and regional coveragewith only
a few with national coverage;
❑ some only work in one or two sectors;
❑ some competitors from outside the area are focusing locally.
From your research into your competitors, you may uncover that
one or two are going through a bad patch with high staff turnover
and losing clients. If this is the case, you might decide to target some
of their remaining clients in the hope that they might be right for a
switch to other professional service providers.
When examining your competitors, ask a colleague (outside your
firm) to telephone the competitor and ask for a brochure. Ask your
colleague to report back on the following:
❑ How was the request handled? Was your colleague put through to
the right person?
❑ What questions were they asked? Were they just asked for their
name and address or were they also asked if they had a project in
❑ Did they receive the brochures promptly? Were they what had
been requested?
❑ Was there an accompanying letter or any additional information?
❑ Did the competitor follow up with a telephone call to enquire if
they could be of any further assistance?
When I have carried out this exercise in the past, I have always been
amazed that professional firms do not follow up. It appears that there
is no link between themarketing department (sending brochures out)
and the business development/sales team to chase the possible lead.
Needless to say that your own business would need to look at how
it handles requests of a similar nature. This is discussed further in
Stage 7.
1.2 A strategy
Many professionals are quite happy to receive enquiries from any
potential client. A client might just telephone out of the blue and
request a meeting and a proposal for a particular project. This might
seem fine, and on occasion this will be, especially if a previous client
has sung your praises and you have a potential client who is in
buying mode.
However, there are some potential dangers in taking on an enquiry
without some initial investigation. Unless the potential client has
approached you because of your reputation, the likely selection
criteria will be based mainly on price. Price is fine if all those being
considered for the project are of similar skill, size etc. In which case,
other factors may come into the selection process.
There are potential problems in taking on board an enquiry from
a client who is not known to you. Because you haven’t gone through
the targeting and relationship-building process, explained later in this
book, you don’t know if
❑ the client is serious in appointing you or is just fishing for ideas;
❑ the client might have retained consultants and might be looking
for a comparative check price;
❑ the person contacting you has the relevant authority to appoint you;
❑ there is finance in place for the project;
12 Marketing & Selling Professional Services
❑ the client decision process has properly commenced and at what
stage the enquiry is.
This doesn’t mean that you should turn down the enquiries that
come in out of the blue. They may well turn out to be worthwhile
jobs and you could go on to have a long profitable relationship with
the client undertaking numerous assignments. It is, however, worth
having an initial checklist of questions ready so that you can quickly
get an overview of the status of the potential project. Table 1.3 is
a sample checklist which you may find useful as a starting point.
You could ask some of the questions during the first discussion and
others during the briefing stage. The most important thing is that
you undertake the enquiry knowing where you stand and are able to
roughly evaluate the probability of success.
It is not good business sense to rely totally on enquiries coming in
and being just reactive. Itmakes sense to have a plan and be proactive
in winning work. You should decide on whom you want to work for
and the type of work you are going to undertake.
Having looked at
❑ your current client mix,
❑ your potential vulnerability in respect of sector or client dominance,
❑ what your competitors are doing,
you can begin to put together a strategy to determine what kind of
client you want to secure work from.
Prioritise your effort
Unless you are just starting out with no track record, and no clients,
you need to prioritise your efforts in securing additional work. You
need to maximise every hour you spend.
Therefore the following would be a good starting point to prioritise
your efforts (see also Fig 1.3).
Priority one: existing clients
Good existing clients are the best starting point for additional marketing.
Obviously, this would not apply to clients where the relationship
Stage 1: Selecting the clients you want to work for 13
Table 1.3 An initial checklist to evaluate enquiries
Target the best opportunities
A checklist to evaluate enquiries
Client information
Who is the ultimate client?
Are we working subcontract?
Who will pay our fee?
Has the client any consultant advisors? Who are they?
Is the client knowledgeable about construction?
Is the client known to us?
Have we worked with this client before?
Does the client contact have authority to appoint us?
Does the client have previous construction experience or working with
The competition
Are we in competition?
How many others?
Are we competing against similar organisations?
Is any speculative work required to win the project?
What will be the cost of speculation work including expenses?
Is there a deadline?
Funding and fee
Is funding for the project and fees in place?
What is the estimated contract value?
Who prepared the estimate?
Is it realistic?
Is cash flow linked to financial year etc.?
What fee do we expect?
Is a fee agreement in place?
Is the programme feasible?
Are appropriate resources available?
Does the project carry any particular risk?
What is the percentage chance of securing the project?
Given the answers to the above what chance do we have?
Probability increases if:
❑ The project is for an existing client
❑ The project is in an existing sector of expertise
❑ We are liaising direct with the client
Probability decreases if:
❑ We are responding to an advert
❑ The client hasn’t worked with us before
❑ We are subcontracted to someone else
14 Marketing & Selling Professional Services
Priority One
Existing Clients
Priority Two
Past Clients
Priority Three
New Clients
• Less marketing required to secure additional work
• Knowledge of clients current working methods
• Client team knows delivery team
• Potential for continuity of work
• More economical for existing team to absorb additional work
• Client already aware of your ability
• Knowledge of client’s working methods, unless modified since last
• Less learning curve if previous delivery team available for next
• Possibility that key client team members still in place
• More economical if extending or refurbishing previous project
• More sales and marketing effort required
• Client more likely to tender than negotiate
• Client an unknown quantity
Figure 1.3 Strategy for pursuing additional work.
is not good. Hopefully, you have already established a good working
relationship so a great part of the marketing effort has been done.
Therefore, you need to quickly establish the following:
❑ Does your client contact have any more work to hand out?
❑ Can your client contact introduce you to any other people in the
client organisation that may be giving out work?
❑ Can your client contact introduce you to other organisations that
may be giving out work?
Once you have established that there is potential work from one of
these three areas, then maintain contact or build relationships so that
when there is work being commissioned you are the natural choice
or at least put on the short list. Stage 6 covers in more detail how to
secure work from existing clients.
Priority two: past clients
How often have you seen people do a good job and then years later,
someone else comes along at the right time and grabs the next job? This
Stage 1: Selecting the clients you want to work for 15
happens all too often, especially when the initial people have moved
on to seek pastures new and not kept in touch. Thismight also happen
if the initial client contact has moved on to another organisation or
your own internal key account manager has left your employment.
Their new employer might be now working for your past client!
With past clients it should be relatively easy to make contact again
and arrange a meeting and restart building up a relationship. Never
lose contact with past clients. Even if they have come to the end of
their building programme, they can still be useful. They can
❑ give you referrals and references;
❑ allow your potential clients to visit their site to see your work;
❑ move on and you could follow them and get into a brand new
client and even a new sector.
Priority three: new clients
Many people who are looking to attractmorework will usually target
new clients. Developing new clients should be considered alongside
obtaining work from past or existing clients. It’s good to have a
healthy mix of repeat work and new work. Repeat work will usually
be more profitable because of the following:
❑ There is no or little marketing expenditure required.
❑ You know how the client operates and his systems.
❑ Usually, it will not be for a low fee because the client values
your ability. However, a past or current client might wish to, or
be obliged to, still go out to tender. In this case, hopefully the
client will pick similar organisations; so experience, skill set and
service delivery will be taken into account as part of the selection
Securingwork from new clients is the hardest of the three priorities,
but can be very rewarding. Most large professional firms will have
their business development managers or directors targeting new
clients, leaving the delivery teams to secure the repeatwork. Although
this seems, on the face of it, a sensible use of resources, they do not
ignore, or short change, the ongoing building of relationships (and
maintaining them) with existing and past clients.

Selecting your targets
Unless you are providing a very specialistic service for a very limited
pool of clients, there is a need to take some time in selecting your
target list. The following are points to consider:
❑ Location: Are you able to provide a service economically from a
distance, especially if you are based in one location? Unless your
service is highly specialistic and sought after, it might be better
first to restrict and then to select your targets from a local area.
❑ Sectors: Are you providing a service within a specific sector, e.g.,
commercial, retail, industrial?Will you have sufficient track record
to get the target client’s interest within their sector? Of course, you
might be able to transfer skills from one sector to another.
❑ Size of client: A large client will probably give large projects to
other large organisations. The client will want to be sure that there
will not be a resource problem. However, large client organisations
will also have small projects to hand out. So, if you are
a relatively small business, there is no need to exclude large
From this, you can create selection criteria and then use that to
create a target list of potential clients. On the basis of these criteria
you can create a list of targets by doing the following:
❑ Purchasing a mailing list that is already available. The more
specific your requirements are the better the quality of the list.
❑ Researching your own list. You can buy various sources of data
(e.g. Kompass), which allows you to search on the basis of your
location, sector, and turnover criteria.
❑ Commissioning your own target list. Organisations such as the
local Chamber of Commerce may have a service that can provide
you with a target list based on your criteria. The list can break
down the contacts depending on whatever criteria you want. A
good starting point, once the geographical spread isdecided,would
be the size of target client based on the number of its employees.
Stage 1: Selecting the clients you want to work for 17
A selection criteria based on turnover might be a consideration,
but within the building industry it is usually the head count
that gives a better indication on the spend on buildings. The added
benefit of buying a list, which is in an electronic format, is that it will
probably lend itself to populate your database or client relationship
management (CRM) programme, thereby saving many hours of
input time.
The need to comply with the Data Protection Act
You will need to take expert legal advice to make sure that the way
you handle data about current, past and potential clients complies
with the current legislation such as the Data Protection Act (DPA),
regulations and codes of practice. Generally you will need to ensure
the following:
❑ Your data is secure and does not fall into the wrong hands.
❑ Data should not be stored longer than is necessary.
❑ The data is up to date. If a potential client wants his data removed
you must do so.
❑ Keep contacts up to date on how you use their data and give them
an option to be excluded.
❑ When buying lists you need to check with the suppliers that the
data has been compiled in a proper and legal way.
Sector penetration
When you prepare your target list you may decide that there is scope
for work from a particular sector. This might be because
❑ you have just completed several projectswithin a sector and believe
you have established an expertise;
❑ you are aware that due to the current economic climate the sector
will be growing while other sectors in which you are currently
active will be diminishing;
18 Marketing & Selling Professional Services
❑ you have developed experience in one sector and you believe that
this experience and skill set can be transferred to other sectors.
When going through the process of securing new clients (priority
three), it is easier to prepare on a sector by sector basis. This has the
benefit of getting into the mindset of your target clients and their
business needs. When you contact a potential client, the feedback you
obtain about the sector can be used straight away in your discussions
with the next one.
In preparation, you will need to establish your track record and
be able to quote facts and figures when talking or communicating to
target clients. If your sector is large and there are subsets to the sector,
then experience in one area might not be appropriate in another; for
❑ experience in pre-prep schools might not be seen as experience for
university work (both education sectors);
❑ experience in private fitness centres might not be appropriatewhen
pursuing local authority leisure centreswith large swimming pools
(both leisure sectors).
❑ sports halls for local authority leisure centres would be good
experience for sports halls on a university campus;
❑ laboratory experience within the pharmaceutical sector might be
seen as good experience for laboratories in hospitals or universities.
When considering sector penetration, take time to consider your
current position. In Fig 1.4 the current sector penetration, based on
fee value within 1 year for Wren & Barry, has been identified. Also,
within this example, the target growth has been highlighted, with a
target growth in the education sector seen as the main priority (+15%
of total current annual income coming from education). This example
also shows thatWren & Barry want to increase turnover by 43% over
a set period of time, say 3 years. This gives a projected growth in the
order of 15% per year. In this example, it can be seen that no growth

is targeted for the commercial sector. This is because it is appreciated
that they have been very strong in this sector and holding onto their
share of the sector would still require much proactive work.
There are several points to consider when looking at new sector
penetration. These are outlined in Fig 1.5.
1.3 Effort versus reward
It can take several years to build up a relationship with a new client.
This is very time-consuming and costly. You need to consider the
lifetime income from the client. Therefore, client types are of interest
Public sector
More than 25% of the UK workforce is employed by the public
sector. This requires a huge annual spend on new facilities and the
refurbishing of existing accommodation.Nomatter howlarge or small
your business, there are always opportunities to secure work from
the public sector. The perception seems to be that only large firms can
afford to go through the public sector procurement processes. This
is not so. In 2004/2005, small and medium-sized business secured
22% of central government contracts and the majority (59%) of the
20 Marketing & Selling Professional Services
Identify sectors that
you might be able to
work in
Within each sector
put together potential
clients that may have
similar needs into
Approach potential
clients. Do the clients
in the same group,
within a sector, have
similar needs?
Survey potential
clients groups. Are
there any common
themes developing
form clients within
the same groups from
the same sector?
Identify client
characteristics and
any common sector
needs and trends.
Become aware of
current sector
environment and key
Do you have
• Skill set?
• Experience?
• Transferable skills?
Examine cost of sector entry
Consider the following:
• Cost of winning new client
• Are rewards high or low?
• Life time value of clients
• Prestige of winning client
and will this open other
doors within the same group
or sector?
Figure 1.5 Initial considerations for new sector penetration.
Stage 1: Selecting the clients you want to work for 21
total value of the local authority projects. Looking across the whole
European Union, 16% of all businesses that were awarded public
sector contracts employed 10 or less employees.
If you prioritise your efforts and target projects that you are able
to deliver then you may find the public sector a fruitful market place.
The public sector consists of the following:
❑ Central government and agencies
❑ The Scottish Executive, National Assembly for Wales and the
Northern Ireland Assembly
❑ Ministry of Defence
❑ Local authorities
❑ The National Health Service and the numerous local trusts
❑ Universities and colleges
Compared to some private sector clients there are distinct advantages
in working for the public sector. These include the following:
❑ The ‘client’ is usually longstanding, stable and pays within 30 days
or any other agreed period.
❑ The selection procedure is open and usually based on experience,
ability to deliver the project and value for money.
❑ Funding, or a budget, is usually in place so there is less chance of
the project being aborted.
The main downside is that most projects are advertised and there
are many professional services firms chasing each project. Therefore,
as discussed earlier, it is important to target the specific areas you
want to work for and make yourself known to the client before projects
are advertised. On many projects there are professional services firms
already ‘attached’ to a project, having carried out feasibility studies,
etc. and so have a distinct advantage to secure the follow-on work.
In these cases it is important to try to win small assignments, which
may fall below the threshold, requiring the project to be advertised.
22 Marketing & Selling Professional Services
It might make business sense to undertake small assignments at a
reduced fee (as a marketing exercise) in the hope of standing a better
chance of winning the implementation project.
Many public sector organisations, especially local authorities, have
approved supplier lists for certain types of work. These approved
lists are usually used for the lower value contracts below the value
set in the EU procurement directives.
These EU directives require all public sector contracts for buying
goods and services within the EU above certain thresholds to
be advertised. The contracts are awarded according to principles
that ensure non-discrimination, equal treatment and openness. These
projects are advertised in the following:
❑ Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU, previously called
OJEC). This publishes most contracts, on a daily basis, that are
above the value set in the current European Directive. You can
receive this on line through TED (Tenders Electronic Daily) or
throughmany alert services that filter opportunities based on your
interests. These include, Business Link or through
many private commercial organisations that service the market.
The stationary office can provide you with OJEU on CD-ROM
through subscription and also has a service whereby scanned
extracts can be sent to you electronically.
❑ Advertisements in trade journals or regional newspapers.
❑ internet site that can help you search for lower
value contracts.
You can also obtain information from Euro Info centres (EIC) that
have been set up thoughout the United Kingdom.
Many of the larger high-value government contracts will be won
by large companies. This still provides opportunities for the smaller
professional services firm or smaller contractors securing work as
subcontractors. Many projects come out into the market place on a
design and build procurement basis. Designers should therefore forge
links with contractors to secure work, which they could not hope to
win on their own account. Some projects that come out as public
private partnerships (PPP), private finance initiatives (PFI) or as part
Stage 1: Selecting the clients you want to work for 23
of initiatives such as building schools for the future (BSF) can be very
large and therefore prohibitatively expensive for smaller businesses
to take part in the tendering process.
Private sector
The private sector is very different from the public sector. Clients have
more flexibility on how they decide to procure projects. They might
decide to negotiate direct with one professional services provider or
ask several firms to submit proposals or tenders. Also, because public
money is not being used, the private sector client can use whatever
selection criteria they wish (subject, of course, to certain laws
concerning age or race discrimination, etc.). Unlike the public sector,
where the criteria has to be declared and feedback given to unsuccessful
bidders, no such requirements are placed on the private client,
although it is good practice and provided by enlightened clients.
When considering whom to target within the private sector, it is
worth considering the long-term potential and lifetime value of target
clients. Therefore, some research into their building portfolio and
long medium to long-term plans would be beneficial.
Single-property clients
These are probably the ones of least priority. It is fine if you become
aware that work is going to be commissioned on the single property,
but rewards might be less related to effort when considering other
opportunities. Obviously, if the project you have identified is a sizable
one and is sufficient reward in itself to chase, then there is nothing
wrong in pursuing it. If, however, the project ismuch smaller than you
usually tackle and does not seem profitable on its own, then you may
think twice about taking it on or spending too much time pursuing it.
Single-site, multi-property clients
The single-site client who has a campusmade up ofmany buildings is
one of the best opportunities to chase; this is because of the following:
❑ All projects will be within your geographical catchment.
❑ Once appointed and working on campus, then you could become
the local expert as you get to know more about the site. You will
24 Marketing & Selling Professional Services
get to know about its services, planning restrictions and other
constraints. As long as you continue to deliver a good service, you
are in a strong position to continue on-site dealing with projects as
they arise.
❑ You will have a better opportunity to keep the client relationships
warm by undertaking the smaller projects in between the larger
Multi-site organisations
These are obviously of significant interest and by their very nature
will be the ones that your competitors will also be chasing. Clients
such as supermarket chains or other multi-site businesses would fall
into this category. These clients suit multi-office professional firms
who can offer to service all their sites with local teams. However,
many of these clients do not want to restrict themselves to the larger
firms providing professional services and so may split the country
into regions and have firms competing against each other in one or
more regions.
There could be some problems in servicingmulti-site organisations,
such as the following:
❑ There might be different commissioning people within the client
organisation for each site or region, which increases the selling
effort and building relationships on various fronts.
❑ If you are a single office firm, then you might find it difficult to
service all the sites economically.
Contractors and developers
These organisations would have their own business development
teams keeping track of new activity within the construction arena. So
by courting these clients (first tier), you could become a second tier, or
subcontractor. This would reduce yourmarketing effort.Many clients
are now looking for a total turnkey solution, so being part of a large
team can still give you additional workload.
Other consultants
Some consultants are useful in that they are happy to make introductions
to their clients. Networking with these consultants is discussed
Stage 1: Selecting the clients you want to work for 25
in Stage 4. Some consultants become commissioning agents on behalf
of clients and so can be targeted as potential clients in their own right.
Project management companies fall within this category.
1.4 Lifetime value of clients
The lifetime value of a client is an important consideration. If the
client is able to give you many projects on a regular basis then the
benefits are as follows:
❑ Initial marketing costs spread over many projects so there is less
spend on a project by project basis.
❑ You have a learning curve initially, but thereafter, you know how
the client wants to work and you get to know his business.
❑ You are able to retain a team that is dedicated to that client. This
saves on the cost and management of recruitment.
❑ It gives more stability to your business, and with several clients
giving regular work it boosts the value of your business and brand.
❑ It helps to recruit better people who are looking for stability and
progress in their careers.
In return, many clients who have multiple projects know their
value to the service providers and in return can
❑ negotiate lower fees and rates for volume work;
❑ insist that they have dedicated teams to service their projects;
❑ create framework agreements to enable them to have choice and
not be restricted to one supplier.
Given this situation, it is also difficult to win these clients. These
clients are sophisticated and know that there is a need to consider
new service providers. By doing your research, you can find out who
the current providers (your competitors) are, what the arrangement
for the provision of services is and when the renewal time is. Many
26 Marketing & Selling Professional Services
of these framework deals last for 3, 5 or more years. So you don’t
start making your pitch in the year of the change or retendering.
You need to plan ahead, perhaps making inroads some 2–3 years
earlier. This might sound a long courtship and that’s why many
service providers don’t make the necessary early commitment. There
is always the temptation of something else around the corner that
could give immediate results. Ideally, you need amix in your portfolio
of target clients so that you have some long-, medium- and short-term
When looking at the reward versus effort relationship, you will be
able to make some quick calculations on potential lifetime earning
capacity for potential clients. Don’t worry about being extremely
accurate; what you need initially is some indication of key facts. The
example in Table 1.4 shows a simple format for the lifetime values of
clients for Wren & Barry. From this table you can see the following:
❑ The current best client (Brown & Jones) has no more future work
or fees due.
❑ The design and build contractors or developer clients (City Builders
and Heathlands Developments Ltd.) are the best current lifetime
value clients. On the basis of past performance, it can be assumed
that regular work would be forthcoming from these clients for
many years to come.
❑ It is always good to have some regular smaller projects (from Crow
Machines Ltd. in the example) as this provides good cash flow and
can be introduced to a team currently engaged on large projects as
workload diminishes.
To assist in your calculations do some initial research, perhaps call
the buying department within the target client organisation and ask
some of the following questions:
❑ What is the current procurement method?
❑ When is the renewal time?
❑ What will be the format of reselection?Will it be tender on rates, a
specific project?

❑ What will be the selection criteria?
❑ How long have current suppliers been providing services?
❑ When was the last time a new supplierwas introduced to the team?
❑ What are the future spending plans?
Some clients, especially in the private sector, might not be so
forthcoming with this information, in which case, some research on
the internet and a look at the annual company report to shareholders
could be informative.
Obviously you need to stay clear of clients who are in the decay
stage of their construction lifecycle, as initial costs of winning the
work might not be recovered in profit for just the remaining project
The other point to consider is the match between supplier and
the work being commissioned. Perhaps during the early years, there
may be a large investment on big projects, which will only be suited
to the larger service providers. There might be a point when all the
big projects are complete and what remains are the smaller projects
and extensions. These may not be of interest to the initial larger
providers but would be ideal for the medium-to-small professional
service firms.
Also, look at your competitor websites and see how much work
they are doing for your target clients. If there are several of your
competitors serving that client, then see if they are on a framework
scheme and if the framework is grouped according to project value
or regions.
The key message here is research, as much as time and resource
permits, and is realistic on what may be winnable. Once you have
established the target list, then make time and take the effort to service
that list so that you can develop a pipeline of potential business.
When doing the research make sure that you try to target the
most profitable and, if possible, long-term clients. You will need to
investigate potential clients from the following view points:
❑ Which is doing well or who might be doing well? This could be
influenced by market conditions, change in the law or the client
Stage 1: Selecting the clients you want to work for 29
suddenly having a product that is doing well and expansion looks
❑ Their sector or markets. An upturn in the economy might see
tourist-related business doing well and a downturn could see
residential clients or those serving that market doing badly.
Your existing client base and selling efforts might be satisfactory
for the next 3–5 years, but you need to replenish the existing customer
base continuously. This is especially the case if you have been totally
reactive and have not had a proper sales campaign in place. Take
some time and review the average life of your customers. Is it just
one project? Have you been ignoring existing clients and have failed
to pick up their next project?
1.5 Picking your moment
Having established selection criteria to create a long list of potential
targets, you need to start making some enquiries to see if they are in
buying mode.
Apart from large organisations, such as the large retail outlets,
most potential clientsmight be in between projects. This period could
be months or several years, so there needs to be some methodology
to determine when they will be entering a buying mode. The change
from not being in the market to needing assistance is marked by a
switch point. The good sales peoplewill recognisewhat switch points
will apply to their potential clients and even better sales people will be
tracking potential clients on their target list, just waiting for a switch
point to occur.
Switch points are points in time when the client switches from ‘off’
(not buying) to ‘on’ (buying). These switch points can be activated by
the following:
❑ New incoming high-ranking person. A new operations director or
chief executive might want to make changes. These usually occur
after they have had sufficient time to evaluate the business and
prepare an internal strategy for change.
30 Marketing & Selling Professional Services
❑ A point in time after exceedingly good business results when the
company needs to expand to continue growth, or after a period
of decline and a need to downsize and possibly sell assets, which
could be buildings and land.
❑ The incumbent service provider fails and needs to be replaced.
❑ A term contract or framework agreement comes to an end.
❑ An acquisition by another business or the target client is in acquisition
mode. During acquisitions there is usually a rationalisation
of facilities, which often creates some sort of building work.
❑ A change in technology. Look at what happened to the newspaper
industry with the introduction of new technology.
The bestway to determine the onset of a switch point is to talk to the
target clients. Talk to the purchasing, property, estates departments.
Start to build up a rapport and find out facts. A typical telephone
conversation could be as follows:
Mr Barry: Hello, I wonder if you could help me? Could you confirm
that Mr Phillips is in charge of appointing consultants such as
Receptionist: Mr Phillips is our operations director, I am not sure if
he appoints architects. Do you want me to put you through to Mr
Mr Barry: Yes please, does he have a PA?
Receptionist: Yes he does, a Mrs Jones, I will put you through.
Mr Phillips: Hello, Mr Phillips here.
Mr Barry: Hello Mr Phillips, I wonder if you could help me? I am
Mr Barry from Wren & Barry architects. We are based only a few
miles from your site and I am calling to enquire if there is any work
coming up in the near future we could perhaps help you with?
Stage 1: Selecting the clients you want to work for 31
Mr Phillips: Well, we have just finished a new warehouse about a year
Mr Barry: Oh that’s a shame. Who were your architects on that
Mr Phillips: Industrial Architects Ltd, a local firm.
Mr Barry: Yes I know them. Is there anything else coming up?
Mr Phillips: Yes there is, but it’s all confidential at this stage.
Mr Barry: I totally appreciate that. We work for many clients in a
similar sector to yours and fully understand the need for commercial
confidentiality. I wonder if you could let me know how far off the
project is?
Mr Phillips: It all depends on the main board in Paris, but perhaps in
about a year’s time.
Mr Barry: I will make a note of that. Would it be OK with you to call
again in say 6 months and see how that project is progressing?
Mr Phillips: Yes you can.
Mr Barry: Thank you. To help me when I call again can you
give me a project name or something to describe the project
so that when I call in 6 months time I can enquire how it is
Mr Phillips: We refer to it as Project Green Park.
Mr Barry: Excellent. One final question if that’s OK with you. How
do you go about selecting consultants such as architects?
Mr Phillips: That’s all done by our procurement team who are
based here. I suggest that you contact the head of that team, a
Mr Andrews.
Mr Barry: Thanks very much for your time. I will speak to Mr
Andrews and give you a call in, say, 6 months.
32 Marketing & Selling Professional Services
From the above conversation, Mr Barry was able to establish the
❑ Mr Phillips is the operations director and has a PA calledMrs Jones
(the ‘gatekeeper’). When Mrs Jones is not about, he does pick up
the phone himself.
❑ They just completed awarehouse and used a local firm of architects.
❑ Mr Phillips does know what work is coming up and has identified
a project, which can be put on the leads list.
❑ Mr Phillips might be an influencer in consultant selection, but
it appears that the procurement department is in charge of the
process and the key contact appears to be Mr Andrews.
❑ The board, based in Paris, has the final say.
As a follow up to this call, Mr Barry, the architect, should do the
❑ Contact Mr Andrews of the procurement team and establish any
requirements for being considered for work. A good idea would
be to arrange a meetingwithMr Andrews as a fact-finding mission
and with a follow up with any information that is required. Also,
establish with Mr Andrews what Mr Phillips’ role will be in the
selection process and establish who else might be involved in the
decision process.
❑ At themeetingwithMrAndrews, establish how previous contracts
were secured, who the competitors are.
❑ Contact Mr Phillips in 6 months and pick the right moment to
visit him and build relationships with all the people who may be
involved in the consultant selection process.
If the target clients are not as forthcoming as the example above,
then consider the following:
❑ The internet. Visit the company web page and find out from the
director’s report (often found on downloadable annual report) if
there are plans for growth or change.
Stage 1: Selecting the clients you want to work for 33
❑ If you are very much a regional player, then the local press will
tell you what’s happening in the local business. New recruits,
especially at the high level, are often featured. This could generate
a ‘switch’ from ‘not buying’ to ‘buying’ mode.
❑ If you are in a specific sector then get the appropriate trade
magazine or paper. Track the movements of senior people; not just
the incoming, but where the outgoing people are going?
❑ The local Chambers of Commerce may also have information
valuable to you. Youmight, subject to funds, be able to commission
them to do some research on your behalf.
❑ Carry out a survey. More of this is discussed in Stage 6.
The key point is to recognise that switch points occur, even in your
existing and past clients. The important point is that you need to
dedicate time to keep in touch with existing, past and potential new
clients. You need to be able to see a potential switch point occurring.
If you want to negotiate an opportunity to pitch for work, you need
to gauge the right time to court the target clients.
For these clients, where you have identified a project, you may
wish to create a client capture plan. This is no more than a report
containing all the information obtained from your contact with the
client or additional research. A good CRM package may be sufficient
to capture all the information required.
The capture plan will assist you with valuable information, which
may be of use later. Information to capture would be related to key
people, their roles, business information and updates on any leads.
1.6 Creating a pipeline
A good business development programme will have a ‘pipeline’ or a
record of leads and enquiries.
A lead (sometimes referred to as a prospect) is project specific. It
is where an actual project is identified. It is not a client. Clients can
generate many leads. A lead is the first stage in the pipeline. The client
might not be aware of you at this stage, or if he is, he has not asked
you to do anything.
An enquiry is again project specific when the client has asked you
(or enquired) to produce a proposal, price, initial ideas etc.
With time, you will build up your pipeline and you will be able to
work out its
❑ current value;
❑ conversion rate from lead to enquiry;
❑ conversion rate from enquiry to job;
❑ trends such as success rateswithin sectors and success rates dependant
on strength of relationship.
Points to consider when inputting data are as follows:
Probability of leads being converted to jobs:
❑ If it’s an OJEU notice, the probability starts off at only 2%
unless you are known to the client and already know about the
❑ In respect of other potential clients who don’t know you (and not
an OJEU notice) the probability should not be more than, say, 10%.
❑ If you are known to the client, then maximum probability should
still be, say, 20%.
Probability of an enquiry being converted to a job:
❑ If you are in a tender situation, and you know the number of people
tendering, then you are able to arrive at a probability of success.
If there are four tendering then your probability of success would
be 25%, unless you believe you have a better or worse chance of
winning than the others tendering.
❑ If nobody else is being asked for a proposal then it’s purely the
probability of the job going ahead. Start off low and raise the
probability every time you review the project, and it seems to be
progressing well. Or, lower the probability if the project is not
progressing or is likely to be cancelled.
Stage 1: Selecting the clients you want to work for 35
Take also into account relationship values when considering the
probability of success in converting leads to enquiries and enquiries
to projects. You might look at simple criteria such as
❑ hot (good relationship)
❑ warm (developing relationship)
❑ cold (little or no relationship).
Alternatively, use a one-to-ten classification as shown in Table 1.5.
Using an enquiry pipeline
Table 1.6 is an enquiry pipeline for our fictitious architects practice
Wren & Barry Architects Ltd. The table lists all the current enquiries
being processed by the firm and 21 opportunities are listed.
The very process of putting together a list makes the firm address
the knowledge it has. Many firms do not commit this to paper. All too
often, each partner or director carries the knowledge in their head and
is not shared as business intelligence. By creating your own enquiry
pipeline, you will have a better understanding of likely workload
coming in and where to direct your efforts to convert to projects. An
enquiry pipeline, as shown in Table 1.6 can tell you many things.
Table 1.5 Potential client relationship classification
Potential client relationship classification
1 Client does not know you
2 You have communicated to the potential client (sent a letter)
3 You have spoken to the potential client
4 You have met the potential client
5 You have met the potential client several times
6 You have presented to the potential client about your business
7 You have presented to the potential client about this project
8 You have been asked to submit a proposal, bid or tender
9 You are in dialogue with the potential client after the bid or
proposal has been submitted
10 You have secured the project and this is an existing client

From Table 1.6 you can see the following:
❑ The total fee value predicted if all the jobs came in would be £718k.
This seems a good pipeline for a practice that hopes to have an
annual turnover of £750k. Or does it?
❑ The average probability of all the jobs being converted to job wins
is 51.9%, with just over a 50 : 50 success rate.
❑ If youmultiply each enquiry by its estimated probability of success
and then add all these ‘discounted’ fee values, then the table gives
us a reduced total value of £334.7k; perhaps not so healthy for a
turnover target of £750k.
❑ The table also shows which jobs have already been decided. We
have 5 wins out of 21, giving a current conversion rate of 23.8%.
At the same time, we are reporting three losses that give a current
loss rate of 14.3%.
❑ The average job value of the whole list is £34.2k and the average
job value of the five jobs won is £36.6K.
❑ The value of fees lost is £92k, with an average fee per job lost being
❑ If we now take away from the list the job wins and losses, then
we have a revised total value of remaining fees of £443k, a revised
average probability of 43.5%, giving a total discounted fee of
So apart from being a set of statistics, let us now see how we can
use these figures to give us a feel for the health of the pipeline as it
currently stands. We can now work that out:
❑ If we need an annual turnover of £750k, with a current discounted
total of £192.7k, we have a shortfall of £557.3k.
❑ Another way to look at it is that if we always want a pipeline
that could give us a £750k fee, the discounted total value always
needs to be around £3.15m, allowing for a conversion rate of 23.8%.
Suddenly we have a wakeup call forWren & Barry!
38 Marketing & Selling Professional Services
❑ If all the enquiries were to follow the same profile as these first
21 enquiries, then our enquiry list would need to have around 92
enquiries (this being £3.15m divided by the average job value of
Of course, these figures do not account for some jobs coming
straight in without going through the lead and enquiry stage. With
well-established firms that look after their clients and their clients
having a constant stream of work, this process is slightly watered
down. However, if you do know your clients well then you will
probably know what jobs are coming up and these would start to
appear on the lead lists.
The process we went through above for Wren & Barry was just a
snapshot in time. These figures really do come into their own, if you
do the same exercise every month for several years. Doing this over a
long period helps as follows:
❑ You will be able to show trends.
❑ You may be able to predict that you need to have a certain amount
already secured by a certain time each year to feel comfortable to
end the year on target.
❑ This also helps the sales team to report to management. Senior
management will have more comfort from a process-driven report
than just a ‘feel’ about how it’s going.
❑ Also I have found this kind of exercise useful for firms who are
looking to sell or merge. It is a good way in ‘evaluating’ goodwill
and likely future revenue.
Having introduced many firms to this process I have seen a
dramatic change of focus and purpose in sales and marketing effort.
Many people get concerned about probability ratings – are they too
optimistic or pessimistic, or how can they overcome different sales
people’s views on probability. The key point here is that each person
should ‘guess’ as accurately as possible, given all the influences on
success. Also, the important point is that they should be consistent.
If they are naturally optimistic then that’s fine; the statistics show
averages and that is then balanced out.
Stage 1: Selecting the clients you want to work for 39
The other point that the enquiry list tells you is the spread of your
enquiry portfolio. Taking the Wren & Barry list as an example we can
see the following:
❑ Bright & Jones account for three enquiries and for two of the five
❑ Baker & Conlan account for a further three enquiries and also two
of the five wins.
It might also be useful to put alongside each enquiry the client
account person within the firm handling the enquiry, so you can see
who is bringing in the work. I once worked for a firm where the
senior partner always seemed to bring in the ‘flagship’ projects, but
on closer inspection his partner was bringing in more fee income, be
it through medium and small projects.
Also, it might be useful to look at market sectors, both from the
point of view of the project and the client. This might confirm what
you already know, that is, which sectors are featuring in your enquiry
list and which are beingmore successful. This could be a reflection on
how the market perceives your firm. Are you, for example, seen as a
commercial sector firm and is that why you are not breaking into the
leisure and health sectors?
Using a leads pipeline
In the same way as the enquiry pipeline is useful, so is the leads
pipeline. The format for the lead pipeline would be the same as for
the enquiry. The key points to consider when creating a lead pipeline
are as follows:
❑ List all the opportunities that you become aware of, which you
believe, at the time, fit your skill set and are worth pursuing.
❑ A lead is a project opportunity which you have identified but have
not been asked by the client to do anything about. Once you have
been asked by the client to provide a sketch, fee bid or some input,
then it becomes an enquiry. A lead does not have to be for an
existing client.
40 Marketing & Selling Professional Services
❑ The probability of success will be much less than for an enquiry.
There is not only the probability of the project progressing to
fruition but also the probability of you winning the work. Also for
non-existing clients they might not know you and so will have a
low relationship value rating.
To demonstrate the value of the lead enquiry list in conjunction
with the enquiry pipeline, let us assume the following for our Wren
& Barry architects example:
❑ There is a conversion rate of 10% from lead to enquiry status.
❑ Some enquiries come straight in as enquiries and never feature in
the lead pipeline. Let’s assume that 60% of all enquiries fall into
this category.
❑ Wren & Barry need a £750k fee turnover.
Fig 1.6 shows the complete pipeline summary and shows that to
feed the required turnover, 350 leads need to be generated, leading to
88 enquiries resulting in 22 jobs, with an average fee value of £34.09k.
Having gone through this process, it gives some focus on the effort
required to generate the turnover required. Of course, the figures will
regularly change and in time might reflect a different portfolio. There
might be a shift to tender for more public workswhich might have less
probability of success. But, on the other hand, the public works could
be for higher value projects, therefore increasing the average job
value. Alternatively, the business might become more consultancy
driven instead of project driven so that smaller assignments, but
perhaps more of them, are generated. Either way, the pipeline will
give a rough idea on how many opportunities need to be identified
and pursued to arrive at a given pipeline. I say a rough idea because
this system can only give an indication and reveal trends in potential
workload. Even so, it is a good way tomonitor the health of the future
workload potential.
The marketing and sales effort needs to be continuous because of
the usual long lead in periods. Some firms tend to concentrate on
‘selling’ when there is a downturn of work. Perhaps the best time to
pursue work is during the busy periods so that leads and enquiries
can be converted in time for a downturn in workload. Fig 1.7 indicates
the sequence of events resulting in different lead in times for each
project. This emphasises the time lag between marketing and sales
effort and the projects being identified and secured. The more leads
and enquiries you can generate to feed the pipeline, the better your
chance of converting a greater number to projects.
42 Marketing & Selling Professional Services
In large organisations, there may be many people with the ability
and opportunity to generate leads and enquiries. In such situations, it
is useful to have someone, perhaps a business development manager
or director, tasked with helping others with their individual pipeline
Managing effort for pipeline development
In many organisations, there is never enough time to devote to
creating enquiries to feed the pipeline. Many senior people within an
organisation are well connected to current and past clients or other
consultants who may have important market intelligence, but never
have sufficient time to make the calls. If this is the case within your
organisation, then you need to do the following:
❑ Put someone in charge in managing the process. This person should
have reasonable internal authority to make things happen.
❑ Prepare a strategy for re-engagingwith contacts thatmay be useful
to you.
❑ Share out the tasks and make the tasks manageable. Start small
and work up.
❑ Get a proper CRM system in place.
Irrespective of the systems you wish to employ, you need to
manage each target client. Table 1.7 shows the client relationship
summary for one of Wren & Barry’s clients. The table lists all the
existing relationships and the quality of that relationship. There is
also an action section for developing the relationship further.
Table 1.8 extracts some of the information from Table 1.7 and gives
an overall feel (value) for the client relationship. In this example, it
is coming out as ‘good’. Again there is an action for continuing the
relationship building.
These tables, or similar reports on client relationship, should be
reviewed regularly to make sure that relationships are not getting

Summary checklist
By the end of Stage 1 youwill have examined your current client
portfolio and found
❑ the client mix by client quality (gold, silver, or bronze);
❑ work intake by market sector;
❑ the spread of income through client portfolio and examined
potential vulnerability.
You will have worked out a strategy with
❑ priority one being existing clients;
❑ priority two being past clients;
❑ priority three being new clients.
You will start selecting target clients based on the criteria of
❑ location;
❑ market sector;
❑ size of client.
You will look at the type of client you want to pursue to
give a balanced client mix. Your selection process will take into
account effort versus reward and take a look at potential lifetime
income from clients. You may wish to pursue
❑ public sector;
❑ private sector.
When contacting potential clients you will be aware to pick
the right moment to increase sales activity to particular target
clients. You will become aware of the following:
46 Marketing & Selling Professional Services
❑ Switch points when the client might switch from not buying
(’Off’) mode to buying (’On’) mode.
You will be conscious of the need to build relationships and
to start recording
❑ a pipeline that includes leads and enquiries;
❑ probability of success based on relationship with target client
and amount of competition.
You will also regularly review each existing and past client
contact so that you can
❑ maintain current relationships;
❑ identify who needs to be contacted;
❑ have a campaign of activities and events to maintain contacts
and continue to build relationships

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