Beyond the Build

Customer Relationships

If You Want the Win, Practice and Prepare.

We recently made a presentation to a prospective customer who had an adaptive reuse project that seemed perfect for us. It involved revitalizing an area of the city, which is exactly the type of project we enjoy.

We confidently answered all the questions in the RFI, and the presentation seemed to go flawlessly. As we left the meeting, I told my two colleagues that we had nailed it. There was no way they would use anybody else. A few days later I received a call from the architect informing us that we were not selected for the project.

This disappointment was a great reminder for me. I realized that despite my optimism, I had not spent enough prep time on the presentation. Yes, I had answered the customer’s questions, but I hadn’t gone beyond that. I let an over-booked schedule get in the way of the dress rehearsal one of our project managers suggested. It might have cost us the project. I know better.

Over the years, these have been my tried and true rules for successful presentations:

Don’t oversell yourself. Owners don’t want to have to spend time weeding through contractors who make lofty promises.

Ask, then listen. A contractor who asks questions, carefully listens to the responses and then makes a reasoned proposal is more believable.

Work for your wins. No matter how many projects you have won in the past, you are not a shoe-in for the opportunities you persue. In the end, it’s good to know that you got the job not off only from past merits, but because you came prepared, then went above and beyond.

Think like an athlete. The pros don’t just practice before games. It’s a year round job. Every day is an opportunity to practice selling what you do and promoting your services. When the next opportunity comes up, how will you get ready?

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.