This blog supports my presentation to CSMPS Vancouver at the Stand Out To Win workshop.
The objective of this blog is to encourage consulting engineers and other professionals to stop letting the client set the agenda and move the discussions to reducing the fee. You’ll never lead a client to understand your value if you continue “to dance to their music”. The first step to move beyond low fees is to define your value and worth. From there you can intelligently, confidently and even boldly move the discussion to highlight your value proposition and focus on the benefits and solutions you offer to counter the low fee argument.
Another option is you can simply end the discussions and leave. This may sound radical but it does work when you are in a no-win, low fee only discussion which is typical with RFP’s. It is also a powerful strategy if you don’t want to weaken or undermine your brand and reputation or get drawn into the client’s game that sets you firmly on the race to the bottom.
Knowing which category you are in will help you set up the pursuit and job-winning process and put you in a stronger position from which to negotiate and win the project. Client’s also take their cues from you and follow your lead if you they know you can support your claims and prove your worth.
To help you define your place, select the best position for your services based on these three categories – Competitive, Unique and Distinct.
This is where you and or your firm are chasing everything that moves within a spectrum or range of work. This type of work can often be performed by junior staff members such as EIT’s or interns that are working to get experience. If the work is reviewed or signed by a senior person this can be a source of revenue and cash flow but it doesn’t make for building a sustainable and profitable company.
This type of work is generally more profitable because it may involve providing services that can only be performed by a smaller and select group of individuals. These people often have advanced or specialized training and experience in areas, sectors or disciplines that positions them and their value at a higher level. The outcome or solution they provide may also require innovative thinking or application of unique resources or technology such as BIM or REVIT. Work secured in this category is generally more fulfilling and has more long-term impact and positive the outcomes that benefit the client.
This work relates to providing highly specialized, or unique and unusual solutions. This may focus on providing proprietary on patented solutions or systems, or the ability to successfully work in very challenging or high risk environments. It’s similar to the difference between seeing a GP for medication to treat headaches versus being treated by a brain surgeon for a tumor that is causing excruciating pain and may be life threatening. Both offer solutions however only the surgeon has a distinct, and perhaps even rare skill set and ability to provide highly specialized treatment that is based on education, training, experience or even innovation that has resulted in the development of unique techniques or treatment procedures.
Once you know where you reside, or should be positioned, it is up to you to make the decision to stop playing the “race to the bottom” game. I find it particularly intriguing when engineers tell me they don’t want to engage in business development and sales activities because the behaviours and actions they perceive that are associated with selling are too emotional and not “logical”. I like to ask them if reducing fees to the point where they are not making money, absorbing costs or constantly trying to increase scope is a more “logical” thing to do.
If you don’t believe you offer value; if you can’t communicate it passionately and effectively; if you can’t support your claims with results and client testimonials, then what are you providing? A tough question that needs some serious thought on your part if you believe you offer real value and want to get paid fairly for it.