Business development
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Turning buildings into clients - why social selling is perfect for architects

Architects have a head start in sales and building relationships with prospective clients.

In his pre-eminent work ‘Influence. The psychology of persuasion’, Professor Robert Cialdini lists one of the six primary principles of influence as liking - people prefer to say yes to someone they know and like. Most people like architects.

However, would it be fair to say that the majority of architects are not natural sales ‘animals’? They are by their nature innovative people who by and large would rather concentrate on the creative process than on driving sales leads. If architects are in essence reluctant business developers, the internet has ridden to the rescue with a sales methodology that is entirely suited to the way in which architects work.

The advent of social selling through social media has opened up a wealth of opportunities for architects to showcase their expertise and research with precision those prospects who would be interested in the thought provoking solutions they can provide. Those who do not take advantage of the enormous potential of social selling, risk being left behind in the increasingly digital market place.

Why is social selling so suited to architects? Here are some reasons.

Segment and specialise

In common with all professional services businesses, architects need to carefully segment their chosen client audience and demonstrate areas of specialisation. Social media channels are excellent environments for precision research of prospects, referrers and influencers thereby allowing for the creation of the types of content that would resonate with those audiences.

The power of the story

In networking and presentation skills workshops, we often highlight the value of telling a memorable and compelling story in order to build rapport. By the very nature of many of the projects that architects conceive, there is a story crying out to be told, from initial instructions to the final design. The demonstrative way in which unique (and often exciting) building projects can be turned into highly engaging online ‘stories’ targeted at potential clients, is a powerful sales weapon for architects not open to other professions. For architects, there is a danger of simply putting pictures of completed designs on their websites. Surely, that is only half the story, and potential clients would be equally as interested (in a visual way) of seeing how problems were anticipated and solved.

Make it visual

Research has suggested that as much as 50% of our brains are wired to receive visual input. Evidence also suggests that it takes about one tenth of a second to understand a visual scene. Just think of that statistic in the context of how long you have to grab a user’s attention online – especially when there is a growing malaise over the streams of irrelevant text content. The use of video in particular is important as research has shown that the brain processes video 60,000 times faster than text. This places architects in the driving seat when it comes to the types of posts that should form the basis of a social selling campaign within their industry. Being naturally creative people, architects are perfectly positioned to craft compelling visual content utilising infographics and videos. The customer journey can be visually demonstrated from initial instruction to the finished design. As a potential client, that is what I would want to see. In sales training there is often reference to the power of visualisation. For architects this is not just the literal imagery, but placing the resultant, thoughts, ideas and concepts into the minds of potential clients.

Making complex messages simple

One of the great advantages of videos and infographics is that they can make the often complex information within the design process simple to present and manageable to digest. For the ‘time poor’ online user, this is essential.

Take risks

Architects can take risks with creative content in a way that lawyers and accountants are often unable to do. Design can excite and stimulate in ways that cautious opinion pieces on legislation or finance cannot.

There has never been a better time for architects to start their social selling journey. Potential clients, referrers and influencers are queueing up to be wooed by bold and creative design presented in innovative and eye catching ways.

Am I suggesting that architects should turn themselves into graphic designers and video directors? Well, yes to a degree. Most architects have a library of compelling case studies from previous projects to call upon and these should form the bedrock upon which their social selling campaigns are built.

And I for one, am looking forward to seeing the results.

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