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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Cold calling architects?

The original poster on this thread posts a useful question. The response from another contractor surprised me.

Folks, I've been struggling to get things going for 2-3 years now. My past experience has shown the contractors I've worked for had work coming in from architects and designers. I have hung on to S.M. (Service Magic) lead service for the 1 or 2 real jobs I land and the dozen or so tire-kickers and bad leads I process monthly.

While I approach all of them honestly, I can smell the bad leads for the 1st sentence of the e-mail. My feeling is simple: There has to be a better way!

I have mailed flyers and cards to 150 architects listed within 20 miles of my area. Now if you allow for 15 per cent bad addresses, 25 per cent for commercial and maybe 15 per cent for firms that aren't looking for additional contractors to work with, that still leaves 45 per cent that I should have some chance to look at their work.

Anyone with thoughts or suggestions on methods to get these firms attention? I'm
looking for jobs that are in the $25k to $250k arena. Yeah, its a crowded field but until we get a little more foundation (ehm), I don't feel too comfortable (yet) with the liabilities involved in $ 1mil+. work.

Here is the response that surprised me:

Lumpy, the answer to your question is cold call.

I am a road warrior for a commercial builder and my job is to cold call on architects, door to door. It seems to be the only way I've been successful with getting an appointment with architects, and I'll tell you, it works.

It's all in the approach. I walk in the door and ask the receptionist or whoever is there if I could drop off some info about my company for so and so architect. They always say yes. Then I ask if so and so architect is in the office. If they say no, I tell them thanks, drop off the info and tell them I'll follow up by email or phone sometime soon. If the architect is there, I extend my hand out to give a shake and introduce myself and just be honest about why I'm there. I'm trying to build our business and add new architects to our network, could we schedule a short meeting to discuss our services.

I've been able to book several meeting this way. Persistence is key. Some may be hesitant to invite a stranger to do business with since they are probably happy with who they currently have. I have never been thrown out of a firm, or been yelled at EVER, for stopping by and dropping of a brochure about my company. You never know when you may come across that one architect who had a run in with his contractor and is out there looking for new ones.

Mailings virtually never work in the architectural market. Even if you have one hell of a crazy creative high quality piece you're mailing, you can expect to get little if any response. I've tried.

I wish you luck and if you want business, you HAVE to get out there face to face. It's scary, but keep telling yourself, it's going to happen and just be yourself. People remember a face and will also remember that you were the guy that was out there during the worst economy trying to shake up your business while everyone else was sitting on there ass complaining, or milking public bids just to stay alive (not that that's a bad thing, I'm sure we've all been there.)

Remember, you're not selling a widget or something, you're selling yourself and your services which can help them. Don't forget that. Hope this helps.

OK, maybe cold calling and canvassing at architects' offices is effective but I think most of us would have real problems stomaching that type of approach. I prefer this response from another poster.

Most of my contacts have come from trade show networking, not mailing, if you have local builders organization, join it, we have a few in Long Island, New York.
But, then again, if few are doing it, and you can handle the discomfort, the canvassing approach may make sense -- at least until you build a file sufficiently solid based on healthy relationships and networking through enhanced word-of-mouth approaches.


MYLS1 said...

The thought of cold calling is definately not easy on the stomach, but neither is the thought of your business suffering from lack of business. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do. I wanted to share what I have found to be successful with others so that maybe it'll help them. I was obviously having a good day cold calling! Best success in '09!

Anonymous said...

I have been cold calling architects for several years. You can anticipate some rejection, though none harsh, but you can also anticipate a few great leads. It may take a few visits to establish a comfort zone with a contact, but that is why you are there.