61: AE Marketing & Sales with Scott Steiding, Productive Pursuits

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The Art of Selling in the Architecture and Engineering Industry

Welcome to this thought-provoking article on the art of selling in the architecture and engineering industry. In this piece, we will delve into the insights and experiences of Scott Steiding, former principal and head of marketing and sales at Morrison Hershfield, a 1000-person engineering firm with multiple locations across North America. Scott’s journey in the industry is fascinating, from his early days working on expanding cell networks to his role in growing Morrison Hershfield’s revenue by 11% during the 2008 recession. We will explore the unique challenges and opportunities in marketing and sales for architecture and engineering firms and how Scott’s expertise can shed light on these topics. So, let’s dive in!

The Unique Landscape of the Architecture and Engineering Industry

The architecture and engineering (AE) industry is a unique space characterized by a fragmented market and a seller-doer model. Unlike other industries, professionals in the AE field are not trained in sales and marketing. They are passionate problem solvers who excel in design and construction. As a result, sales and marketing can often take a backseat to project work, leading to challenges in generating new business and aligning the entire organization.

According to Scott Steiding, it is crucial to recognize this gap and prioritize sales and marketing within the industry. He emphasizes the value of being a lifelong learner and investing time and effort into understanding the nuances of sales and marketing in the AE industry. While some firms acknowledge the importance of these functions, not everyone is willing to put in the work to develop their skills in this area.

Scott Steiding: “And your comment about different cycles made me think about, know, things could be doing great in Toronto, and maybe things in Atlanta were slow or vice versa for some reason. So there was always kind of opportunity there. But we tried to create, everybody knew the approach, everybody knew the system, so they’d sort of be trained on that. We had templates that tried implementing automation, and I would take partial automation over full automation. Maybe you get 80% of the benefit, but getting that last 20% was going to be either really expensive or really painful. So fake as you go and know that technology is going to keep improving, and you can kind of move that along.”

The Value of Differentiation in the AE Industry

One of the key challenges in the AE industry is the difficulty in differentiating one firm from another. With similar qualifications and expertise, it can be challenging for clients to discern the unique value that each firm brings. Scott Steiding points out that clients in the AE industry are smart and sophisticated, and they know what they want. They are looking for partners who can help them achieve their goals and deliver enhanced value. While price is a consideration, it is not the sole determining factor. Clients are willing to pay more for a firm that can demonstrate the ability to deliver superior results and mitigate risks.

Scott Steiding: “Clients want to see evidence of successful projects and satisfied clients. This focus on qualifications-based selling sets the AE industry apart from other sectors, where marketing tactics like click-through rates and catchy slogans may not be as effective. The key is to build a reputation for excellence and establish trust with clients.”

The Seller-Doer Model and the Power of Relationships

The seller-doer model is a prevalent approach in the AE industry, where professionals are responsible for both project delivery and business development. Scott Steiding highlights the importance of building relationships with clients and being able to articulate the firm’s expertise and track record. Clients want to work with individuals who understand their needs and can provide valuable insights. The trust and rapport established through these relationships are crucial in winning and retaining clients.

Scott Steiding: “The success of the seller-doer model lies in the ability to demonstrate value to clients. It is not about being a polished salesperson but rather about being a trusted advisor who can help clients achieve their goals. The focus should be on problem-solving and providing solutions that align with the client’s objectives. By understanding the client’s needs and delivering exceptional results, seller-doers can build long-term relationships and secure repeat business.”

Aligning Marketing and Sales Efforts

In a large organization like Morrison Hershfield, aligning marketing and sales efforts can be a complex task. Scott Steiding outlines the three different sales methods employed by the firm: consultative offerings, strategic accounts, and long sales cycle projects. Each method requires a tailored approach and a combination of generalists and specialists to engage with clients effectively.

The marketing team at Morrison Hershfield plays a crucial role in supporting the sales efforts. They provide templates, automation tools, and data analysis to inform decision-making. The team focuses on training generalists who can handle various marketing tasks, ensuring a consistent approach across the organization. The goal is to empower individuals to sell in their own unique way while maintaining a unified brand message.

Scott Steiding: “Data should inform decision-making, but it should not replace the personal touch and understanding of client needs.”

The Future of Marketing and Sales in the AE Industry

As technology continues to evolve, the AE industry must adapt its marketing and sales strategies. Scott Steiding expresses his fascination with emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and their potential impact on the industry. While the AE industry has traditionally been slow to adopt new technologies, there is a growing recognition of their potential to streamline processes and enhance client experiences.

Scott Steiding: “The future of marketing and sales in the AE industry lies in finding the right balance between technology and human interaction.”

In conclusion, the architecture and engineering industry presents unique challenges and opportunities in marketing and sales. By understanding the needs of clients, differentiating themselves from competitors, and building strong relationships, firms can thrive in this competitive landscape. The seller-doer model, supported by effective marketing and sales strategies, can drive growth and success. As the industry continues to evolve, embracing new technologies and maintaining a personal touch will be key to staying ahead.

Scott Steiding: “Our industry doesn’t do a great job in general in the sales and marketing space. And there are certainly firms that do do a good job. But I think that there’s space for improvement. Any firm can identify the people that are taking part in business development activities or PM activities put training around that. Do you have processes? Can you improve those? How are you going to have those as you scale? And they don’t need to be so tight that nobody wants to follow and everyone’s looking for. They can just be guidelines. And then we’re in this neat spot right now where technology is really delivering some improvements.”

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