Playing by the A/E/C Rules

I listened to a teleseminar last week, How Buyers Buy A/E/C Services, hosted by RAIN Group. What stuck out for me was the underlying theme of “Know the rules, play by the rules,” which was a reminder that the A/E/C world operates slightly different than other professional services industries.  For A/E/C services, everything is centered on RFPs and it’s important to pay attention to the specifics.

The panel included: Craig Simon – Moderator, John Doerr – Co-president of RAIN Group and co-author of Rainmaking Conversations, and Bill Chamberlin – Director of Facilities Planning and Support Services Northern Virginia Community College.

Mr. Doerr led the conversation with a bold statement, “I hire consultants to make my life easier, and if you don’t, I will get rid of you.” His point was that consultants are hired to take on projects that either his staff doesn’t have the skillset to handle, or can be done much more efficiently by outsourcing the work. There are a lot of consultant options, so you better know the A/E/C industry very well and be able to hit the ground running.

The panel went on to discuss a few simple tips for responding to RFPs:

  • Listen to what the hiring company needs, and then deliver. Don’t try and tell them what they need or alter the proposal specs to what you think it should address.
  • Develop relationships with the hiring company beforehand, so that if you have questions about the RFP, the company is more likely to take the time to talk with you.
  • Do your research and utilize the information that’s already available. What is the hiring company’s image, culture and initiative? Know their people.
  • Include relevant case studies and references. Mr. Chamberlin pointed out that successes are great, but only if they are relatable to the proposed project.  In his industry, he’s looking for direct higher education experience. If you don’t have direct experience, don’t try and spin an unrelated project to make it seem similar.
  • Submit on time. The panel commented that they were amazed at how many consultants would submit proposals after the deadline, and be confused or downright angry that they were immediately disqualified.

The panelists noted that while consultants get frustrated with the strict RFP parameters, the hiring companies also feel that, if you can’t follow basic rules, why should you get a million dollar contract?

– By Berbay Senior Account Manager Beth Miller

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