Transcript- Know your value: Empowering Seller-Doers, Driving Profitability, and Having Tough Conversations

Katie Cash: [00:00:00] Hi everyone. Today, we are talking with Bill Hinsley, a notable speaker and consultant with PSMJ. Bill has deep pocket expertise in areas around business development, strategic planning, even, project management and succession planning and actually Bill you and I, and Judy, we all share some passion points that I hope we’re going to get to talk about today as we dive into tips for driving revenue. And so Bill, I just wanted to thank you for taking time out of your schedule and join us on the show today.

[00:00:32] Bill Hinsley: [00:00:32] Thank you so much. Very excited to be here. 

[00:00:35] Katie Cash: [00:00:35] For any of our listeners out there, Bill, maybe if you could give us. A few highlights of what you do at PSMJ and maybe a little bit behind the organization itself and how they are helping firms planned for the future and , building revenue drivers within their organization.

[00:00:53]Bill Hinsley: [00:00:53] Absolutely. Well PSMJ has been around for a bit more than 40 years and it focuses solely on helping to educate and consult the architectural  the engineering and the construction industry. So that is our passion. That’s our background. We do surveys, we do conferences, we publish books and we do consulting. I’m fortunate enough, as you said to, to be able to do strategic planning to teach our seller-doer program as well to teach our principals and our leadership boot camps. And then I’m one of the instructors as well. You mentioned Katie that teaches the project management bootcamp. That’s kind of the flagship we’d like to, to empower the project managers. Those are the folks with the  boots on the ground there at that intersection between clients, between projects, between staff, between the principals. So our real objective is to motivate and to encourage all those different stakeholders that are responsible for delivering success on the project and giving them the right knowledge and information to do.

[00:02:02] So I have the opportunity to work in a training environment and work in a consulting environment. It’s a ton of fun. And, and to be honest, I get to share the knowledge and experience from PSMJ, but I learn every time I sit down with,  clients and work on things, big deal, it’s a big deal.

[00:02:20]Judy Sparks: [00:02:20] Bill. I’m sure you could relate to this, but I’m always so surprised that while we, we serve one industry, the AEC industry no two firms are alike.  They have common pain points, but the solutions can be widely different for each firm, depending on what they’re trying to achieve. So talk to us a little bit about, , how do you first engage with a company that, really is thinking about growing their firms, scaling their firm, or maybe even their exit strategy. Tell us a little bit about, how does a firm start with someone like you.

[00:02:51]Bill Hinsley: [00:02:51] Great question. And the funny thing, the answer is will be similar to the advice that I give to my clients when they’re trying to grow their business and to get to know how to, how to win more work.

[00:03:06]The biggest thing I start by doing is really listening trying to get to know the client’s issues. One of the. kind of focal points in our seller-doer program is,  me talking about issues, features, benefits, proof. What I’ve found, getting to know any client is I’ve really got to understand what their issues are. And I put issues into two different buckets, if you will. I like to know what their technical issues are. And then I like to know what their interpersonal or their kind of emotional issues are. And it’s funny. One of the things that I talk about in my classes is just asking clients what keeps you up at night or what’s your biggest ambition?

[00:03:48] I find that people are either motivated by fear or they’re motivated by that desire to seek pleasure. So that’s one of the first questions I ask is, Hey, what, what are we here for? What, what keeps you up at night? What are you afraid of? Or what’s your big ambition? And this sounds maybe overly simplistic, but whatever they say, I write it down.

[00:04:09] I, I pay mindful attention, but then I always ask the question. Why is that? Tell me more. And I’ve found, I’ve got to say, why, tell me more. Why telling me more? Why telling me more maybe three or four or five times. And after the fifth time, then we really get to the heart of the issue.  It’s like people almost have this tape recorder that plays for the first two or three,  what are you focusing on? But then if you drill deep enough and then we really figure out what’s going on. So it, I don’t know. Does that sound too simple, Judy?

[00:04:42] Judy Sparks: [00:04:42] No, I think I, Katie and I just had Dan Oblinger who is a hostage negotiator on the podcast and there’s a huge emphasis in that recording about being a good listener,  because if you can allow your potential customer target to, to speak and really get down to what’s keeping them up at night and you can be helpful in solving their problems, then you  Kind of transfer from vendor to consultant, to trusted advisor. And I think that’s where all of our customers want to be, whether they’re an engineer or they’re an architect or a contractor , at the end of the day, they’re selling their expertise. Right. They want, they want that trust factor with our customers. So that makes total sense. So just curious the question, what keeps you up at night? How the answers change pre COVID versus post COVID.

[00:05:36] Bill Hinsley: [00:05:36] Wow. That’s a great question. When I prepare for a strategic planning with a client, one of the things that we do is a senior management assessment and by the way,  that assessment is something that I do if working on a strategic planning with a 20 person firm or an 800 person firm. Same thing. The interesting thing is before COVID the number one item that I was hearing was we can’t find enough good people during COVID, as, as we went through the big V if you will. And in 2020, that stayed as a top five item. Never kind of left the top five, but now it’s back to number one.

[00:06:22] So I think the war for talent is going to continue for quite some time. And when we’re talking about driving revenue into a business That helps me do to kind of at least compartmentalize my thinking because selling the work is one part of it doing is another part of it. When I look at driving revenue overall in our business, I think sometimes we simply think if I want more revenue, I’d just have to sell more work to more people. And then if I’m going to do that work I’ve got to hire more people to do it. I’ve done a few strategic plannings recently where we’ve talked about driving revenue. But we’ve talked about driving revenue in a way that decouples that from maybe having to have more people to do that work. So I’ll give you an example for for instance one firm that I’m working with, instead of saying, we’ve got to sell more work to a lot of different people and then have more people do it. They’re looking at what happens if we  raise our prices. All right. Let’s, let’s work with some of those same clients that we’ve been working with perennially. You use the word trusted advisor, right? The consultant of choice. Part of the question there is, is our pricing appropriate. 

[00:07:40] Judy Sparks: [00:07:40] Well, , supply and demand and, and so, , let’s face it, most of our customers especially, , I love my architectural clients and engineering clients, but typically, they are always threatened to be commoditized and fee-based. And so how does one raise their price? In an industry that there’s so many that do  the same thing, I call it the sea of sameness. And there’s plenty of qualified providers. However, with the shortage of labor our owners understanding that supply and demand, the prices have to go up. I find people to do it and there’s fewer and fewer providers.

[00:08:23][00:08:23] Bill Hinsley: [00:08:23] Exactly. I think it’s all a question of value. One of the things that, that I like to talk about is, and some of your folks may appreciate this. I’ll give everybody an equation here. I’ve got the thought, is it diff it depends on how we, how we define our value proposition. the equation I’ve got is that value equals the benefits that we provide our client minus the costs. And, and for me, when we’re talking about value benefits, Can be things that we, we like to talk about. Great design, expert advice, industry knowledge, all of these things that we maybe pride ourselves on the features of our firm.

[00:09:06] When we’re talking about costs, I think there’s both visible costs to the clients, but there’s also hidden costs to the client. a visible cost would be what are our fees? But hidden costs are things like lack of responsiveness from other consultants, right? The hassles that, that some of our owners or clients might have to deal with inconsistent quality. Does another provider do all kinds of change orders and things like that? To me, the reality is when, when a client is buying niche services or, or some of your listeners think, okay, we provide niche services play there. I think the customer focuses more on the benefits and less on the costs. So we’re in our own heads, worried about costs. , the clients are really looking at what are the benefits and that’s how value is derived.

[00:09:53]Judy Sparks: [00:09:53] So Bill it’s interesting, basic supply and demand says, , when there’s  fewer supply, there’s more demand and , the shortage of qualified experts in our industry and, and those who are choosing our industry as their profession and the younger generations it’s , it’s declining. And so one could say, , there’s fewer supply of great consultants out there. And there’s high demand right now, especially in sectors like industrial and healthcare and others.

[00:10:23] How does it from good to an existing client and say, Hey, it’s costing us more. And there’s not a lot of us doing this, so we are making an adjustment in our fees or, or how do they convince an existing client to give them more work, knowing , there is a shortage of, of labor.

[00:10:43] I think you called it a personnel war. What did you call? Yeah.

[00:10:49] Bill Hinsley: [00:10:49] Yeah, the personnel war, right? That’s that’s real well, I’ve got a good friend and I heard this quote from him. I don’t, I don’t know, maybe he’s stolen it, so I’m not sure where to, to attribute it to. But the quote is the quality of our life is in direct relationship to the number of difficult conversations that we’re willing to have.

[00:11:13] Judy Sparks: [00:11:13] Wonderful, wonderful advice. Right.

[00:11:17] Bill Hinsley: [00:11:17] It’s it’s a good one. And sometimes we want to shy away from those difficult conversations. But what I’ve learned is if we’re willing to have them, sometimes that takes the fear or the power of that difficulty away from, from , the fear goes away because we actually had it. So I’ll talk about four different. Maybe perspectives on that and then what to do. I mean, first that I do is, is kind of look at my clients that I’ve got. And it’s kind of categorizing our clients. I’ve talked about this and strategic planning and also in our seller-doers program, but is look at our clients and some of our clients are strategic. Some of them are quality. Some are non-quality and some are what we kind of call base level clients. So I’ve got to know who I’m talking to. What does that relationship look like? I’ve got to know how much competition that I have when talking to any one of those types of clients or tier of clients.

[00:12:18]I’ve gotta know how much pricing pressure is involved in that relationship. Maybe a, a transportation might be able to really put the screws on you in terms of negotiating very, very hard in a sophisticated negotiation, whereas a single residential home purchaser, it’s going to be a very different conversation.

[00:12:40]And then I, I looked sometimes even beyond price, there’s other elements like terms and conditions that we might negotiate. Let’s say the speed of cash coming in. I might accept some different rates if I can have a very large. Upfront retainer so that it can speed up the cash in my business.

[00:13:00] So knowing those four things what I like to do is kind of come in with the fifth thing, is get to understand what that client thinks about me anyways. One of the things that I’m, I’m actually astounded to see many times is, is few consultants have actually done client feedback for client surveys to know what our clients think.

[00:13:20]I did  a strategic planning, not so long ago. The client feedback for this, this firm was off the charts positive. Right? It was really, really good. So what I said to them was, Hey, I really liked that your clients really love you. Maybe they love you because you’ve given your work away. , what happens if you raised your prices a little bit, instead of your clients really, really loving you, maybe they would just really, really like it.

[00:13:48] And being really, really liked is pretty darn good. do we have to be really, really love because maybe we’re giving away if you will. Some of that work, what happened from that is they raised their prices and, and several of their clients, they didn’t even, bat an eye. Right. Th there was all this fear around.

[00:14:07] If we have the conversation to raise the prices that, the client didn’t even bat an eye. I asked the question to hundreds, if not thousands of people every year who has raised their prices lately, Judy, almost everybody in the room or on the zoom nowadays raises our hand. When I say who’s raised prices.

[00:14:26] The next question I ask. Yeah, but this is the telling part. The next question I ask is who regrets raising their prices, nobody raises their hand. So that’s a big deal. Like when people say, yeah, we’ve raised, raised the prices, I see kind of the smirks or some of the discomfort, but then I say, , who regrets it, nobody raises their hand.

[00:14:47] Katie Cash: [00:14:47] Bill. I’m curious, , when we’re sitting here talking about raising prices, are you talking about. , say a 2% increase in hourly rates, 10%. Is there any kind of average that you’re seeing firms look at or is it kind of on a case by case basis?

[00:15:04] Bill Hinsley: [00:15:04] This is a fun one to me, it’s on a case by case basis. One of the things that we talked about in our principles bootcamp is we’ve got a little bit of a model.  That I sit down with folks and begin to run them through their pricing and how much price sensitivity do their clients have. And it’s always astounding. , when I have folks run through that model, and basically what we do is we say, , maybe from a multiplier perspective, let’s say that they’re, they’re averaging about a three multiplier for the work.

[00:15:34] I asked them if we raise our rates so that we’re now charging a 3.1. How much work would we lose? So everybody says, , a number 5%, 10%, whatever it’s going to be. And I say, let’s raise our rate another point once. So we’re going from 3.1 to 3.2, how much work would we lose? People, give a number and people give a number.

[00:15:55]And then I say, well, let’s go on the other side of this. What if we lowered our rates? Would we get more work? , maybe, maybe we’re already too, too expensive and we really need to decrease our rates. , how much more work will we get? The little model that we have begins to look at, not only revenue, but also profitability.

[00:16:14] And oftentimes what we see is if we raise our rates, right, and we only lose a little bit of our clientele our revenues might go down just to shade. But what I tend to see is profitability. And that’s a big deal and there needs to be a little bit of strength from your principals or your owner, or at that, that level, because what we see is we get this fear basis.

[00:16:38] Oh my gosh, I’ve got to always drive more, work, more, work, more work. Every, I did this exercise a little while ago. They saw if they raise their rates. And I can’t remember, it was either 0.2 or 0.3 on the multiplier side, they would lose a little bit of work, but their profit would go up. So it might sound counterintuitive, but revenues actually stayed the same and then went down a little bit for profitability, went up market.

[00:17:04] Katie Cash: [00:17:04] Is there also a correlation to maybe staff retention there too, because they’re, they’re servicing maybe less clients, , building deeper relationships and partnerships with those clients that, that the staff doesn’t feel as burned out.

[00:17:18]Bill Hinsley: [00:17:18] Look at how fast you’re connecting the dots, took everybody in the room a little bit, but I mean, hopefully your listeners are laughing right now because we go back to what we talked about earlier.

[00:17:27] If finding staff is one of the most difficult things to do. And, and we, we have this connection between more revenue requires more staff. That’s just a painful spot to be. So what if more revenue, more profitability could actually mean the same or maybe even a few, , a few less staff you’re spot on it.

[00:17:47] The burnout isn’t there. I, this story is about eight years old, but it was in a, in a class that we were talking about, they did an analysis and I don’t remember the numbers. Exactly. But it was the top 10 or the top 15 clients that they had in their organization drove more than 100% profitability for the firm.

[00:18:06] I think the number was like about 105 or 110% profitability with the firm was the top 15 clients. So what does that mean? Every other client that they were working for, they were losing. So, what they ended up doing was increasing their rates. Some of those clients went away. Some of those clients simply said, sure, we’ll pay profitability, went up, but for all the clients that left what you just said,  that meant the staff wasn’t spending their time working for clients, losing.

[00:18:40] So the net effect was happier employees and more profitability.

[00:18:44]Judy Sparks: [00:18:44] So Bill, that leads me to think about, , that bottom tier of customer that you were talking about, your base clients. I mean, at some point firms have to be thinking about opportunity cost, right? Like if they have limited.

[00:18:57] Resources. They want to go after , the projects that they would most likely want to do, and that  are going to be the most profitable. And it make sense for the firm on, , a lot of different metrics, but at what point do firms really need to be okay with, Hey, here’s this bottom 5% of clients that, , we’re not really.

[00:19:18] It’s not making a material effect on our bottom line, whether they stay or they go at what point do firms really have to make hard decisions to, , in order to scale, you have to sort of drop some of the things that are tying up resources, maybe impede your growth. So  can you give us a little insight on, , the topic of firing clients and why sometimes that’s a good thing.

[00:19:42] It

[00:19:42] Bill Hinsley: [00:19:42] is good, good time. And, and that’s a tough word, even I could hear you. No, I’m like

[00:19:47] Judy Sparks: [00:19:47] whispering it, right? The F word, firing, firing clients.

[00:19:53] Bill Hinsley: [00:19:53] You just use the F word on the podcast now firing clients, but, but that’s a big deal. And,  I use that same word. Sometimes we have to fire clients. I, I don’t use it with a capital F cause what I like to do it is in a different way, , sometimes we allow the clients to fire themselves.

[00:20:12] So the conversation around the price is a great one. Sometimes if we’re, if we’re really second guessing that client, we don’t want. Raise your rates because all of a sudden the price may make it worth working with them. Or if they choose to say, we’re going somewhere else, you can say. No, we wish you the best of luck.

[00:20:34] Right? And then you can go. That was great. Terms and conditions is a great way to do it. Or what I like to say is, well, we don’t always have to fire them. Sometimes we can rehabilitate them and rehabilitate them. Well, that’s having the hard conversations I had a client. Honestly, Judy, I wanted to fire them because I felt like they were abusive to my staff.

[00:20:55] Right. They, it was these little snide time comments that made my staff frustrated working for them. It was nitpicky comments that I didn’t think were really professional. So it was me sitting down with the principals. ,  working with you is very hard sometimes. No, because, and I laid out in a very professional manner, some of what was going on and then this leader was, , was open and he said, in confidence, Bill, we’re having some of the same problems with this person.

[00:21:25] Right. We’re dealing with some personnel things here. And I said, well, I think it’s important that I, , that I share this feedback and. And the responses, we really appreciate that, , this is another data point for us to do some things that we need to do. So changes were made on their end and you know what? That client became a fun client to work for it yet. So that’s a big deal.

[00:21:46] Judy Sparks: [00:21:46] So we’ve spent a lot of time talking about. Are our clients or in our case, our client’s clients. Right. Let’s talk about, are our clients the seller doers are, like I say, say all the time, they’re, , majority of seller doers are actually do are sellers.

[00:22:01] Cause they’ll choose doing over selling any day, every day. So so, but what we have seen really even pre COVID And especially now post COVID, that there’s a real emphasis on training seller doers, because I think firms are understanding that , it takes a village to sell a jobs.

[00:22:24]And typically when you. Talking about millions of dollars in fees, owners want to buy from the experts. So even if you have a business development there’s structure in place to help nurture and generate and cultivate and nurture leads at some point in that sales cycle, they need to bring the subject matter expert to the table.

[00:22:45] Right? So I think that more and more firms are looking at, , w can these subject matter experts Do more proactively on the selling side, rather than just reacting to, , a sales initiated, ask, , a business developer or. , a colleague in the firm hears of a project, and then they grabbed the seller doer.

[00:23:07] He was perfectly happy in his cubicle with his head down drawing the most, , fascinating, challenging drainage pipe he’s ever drawn. And, and now he’s got to stop and go talk to a client and, and that’s, it’s a very reactive kind of, , scenario where they’re doing their day job, they’re being billable.

[00:23:25] And then. Torpedoed into a sales conversation where they have to contribute. And I think a lot of our customers are saying, how can we make our, our billable team, our SMEs, our subject matter experts, , want to go sell and truly become seller-doers rather than doers, fellers.  How do you change that mindset?

[00:23:51] Bill Hinsley: [00:23:51] I really appreciate that conversation. I don’t know if everybody heard, we said the same thing every day of the week. I really liked the term seller-doer like you said, the propensity may be to be a doer seller, but without the seller, there’s no doing right. Frank Stasiowski, the founder of PSM, Jay has a quote, great power comes to those who bring in work.

[00:24:12]So that’s the reality is we’ve got to bring in the work as hard as it is to find people to, to do the work these days. And maybe this will start an argument, but I think it’s easier to find employees to do the work than it is to find the employees that will go out there and sell the work. So if I can say anything, oh, go ahead.

[00:24:33] Katie Cash: [00:24:33] I was just going to say on that topic. I mean, just this morning I was looking at, I think it was AIA even some of the SNPs and over half the job postings are for business development professionals. I feel like everybody’s trying to hire that person. And I know we hear all the time, , the frustration that firms have with it. Staff internally , trying to figure out how, how they perform and how to get them up to speed on how to sell. You mentioned you came from water resources, , how do you make them who typically are not trained technically in that area, know how to sell it. And so, , I’m really interested in hearing some more Bill about your, your seller do or training and empowering that type of call.

[00:25:14] Bill Hinsley: [00:25:14] Well, I think, I think for me, it starts with a bit of a philosophy and in this industry we can make things I think, overly complicated sometimes at PSMJ we kind of see the, the topic of business development as a umbrella that kind of overarches both marketing and sales. And at least for us, we talk when I go deep into this.

[00:25:37] The seller doer program. But for me, marketing is, is creating that brand awareness sharing information to me. The metric or the measurement in the marketing discussion is information. It’s the giving and the receiving of information. And the cool thing is that it can be done at conferences that could be done in kind of networking, but that is also done as we give work products and deliverables to our clients.

[00:26:05]To me, one of the, maybe I don’t know why it’s a secret. Of this businesses. Marketing can be done in a, in a billable fashion, like when we’re doing our work and we’re providing drawings or reports or renderings, how we have that conversation with the client and educating them is building the rapport and the relationships.

[00:26:24] So that client goes, you know what? I appreciate it. And not only getting that technical deliverable, but how it was presented. Maya Angelou said, if people don’t remember what you say, they remember how you make them feel. So if we’re giving them these deliverables in a, in a method that, that builds the rapport and the relationship, our technical staff can help the marketing cause marketing to me creates the phone call one day that says, Hey, I’ve got another problem.

[00:26:53] Can you help me out? And when clients do that, they pull you right into the work. So that to me is the marketing side of it. Sales is. Response to an RFP sales is having a conversation with a client about a change order. The metric for me on the sales side is dollars, right? Are we, are we creating the backlog?

[00:27:12] Are we creating the revenue? And, and sales is a bit more of a push orientation. , we have to push a, a proposal out the door. In response to an RFP, we’ve got to push the, the change order cost proposal out to them. So I think everybody has to be a part of either marketing or sales or both marketing and sales.

[00:27:32] And it, it starts from the top down as principals begin to define not only how they do it themselves, but what those expectations are. And I think if we take a little of the stigma away, From this conversation. It’s not that we’re like a used car sales person. It’s Hey, how we deliver our technical deliverables can help us create the next job.

[00:27:54] I mean, I’ve seen data over and over and over that shows the majority of the revenues year in and year out from AE companies. Come from repeat clients. Well, why do repeat clients come back? Well, because we did the right technical deliverable, but we also built the interpersonal group. So to me, yeah, that’s a big deal.

[00:28:15] And, and it’s amazing, like  , I’ll go to our project management at boot camp and the project management boot camp. We talk about how to develop a project management plan. And that sounds like I’m more on the doer side of it things, but I  asked my PMs. Both long tenured PM’s and brand new PMs.

[00:28:34] Hey, what happens if you sat down with a client and said, Hey, I’m putting together a project management plan for that job. That’s coming up in two months. You want to sit down and, and work through some of the risks that we’ve identified. I’m curious to share our perspective on it. What are your perspectives on how you’re going to manage that risk?

[00:28:52] That’s a conversation a technical person wants to have. But don’t tell them that we’re actually kind of promoting ourselves. Right. And we’re selling ourselves at the same time. We, we share some of that technical expertise. So I like to, we were talking about work-life balance. I think before, before the podcast, I like to say, I like to blend the selling and the doing into one seamless effort.

[00:29:18], I think the better we do some technical selling, the better we’re prepared to actually do the work. Once we.

[00:29:25] Judy Sparks: [00:29:25] Well, and if you’re always thinking about your clients interests, aren’t you always selling, I mean, really everyone should always be on. I mean, every time you have any type of client facing situation, you want your, your seller doers to understand that it’s really, , once the project is sold, the selling doesn’t stop.

[00:29:44] I mean, that’s, it doesn’t stop. You’re always on. So build this has been really great, but I have. I have one final question to ask you. And I think that this is one that I’ve never asked before, and I’ve always wanted to ask this question, but never really had someone I felt like I could ask. So are you ready?

[00:30:05]So, , early. He said that Frank refers to the power associated with the ability to bring in revenue, to affirm. And at Smartegies we say, , it’s really the pathway to principle. If you look at who becomes principals in firms, there’s two kinds of what, you know, your  most technical, , competent Designer or, , just somebody that would be really hard to replace.

[00:30:27] It’s very, very much valued by your client base. And then the others are typically ones that are associated with being able to bring in revenue. So it’s amazing that this aha moment pathway to principal often happens. After someone becomes a principal, , they’ve become a principal, they’ve become the head of a studio.

[00:30:50] And then all of a sudden they’re told, okay, now you gotta go feed yourself. You go sell. Why do firms not tell their people early? Like maybe in the co-op program? Listen, if you ever want to be president or CEO of this company, you better learn how to. Why isn’t that conversation happening at the onset of someone’s career, where they can take 30 years to learn how to do that rather than, okay.

[00:31:13] I’ve arrived. Now, I got to learn how to do that. Other thing that I had no idea how, how we got work. I just did the work. So what would you say to firms about having that open conversation? With their employees when, , earlier in their careers or as they’re rising to the top, that, , the speed to principle the path defensible happens a whole lot faster.

[00:31:37] If you can do this thing called selling better than your peers.

[00:31:43] Bill Hinsley: [00:31:43] That’s a great question. I don’t know that I have the exact answer, but I’ll go back to that, that item of. Maybe the, the quality of our life is in direct proportion to the number of difficult conversations that we’re willing to have. And I mean, I’m, I’m laughing too a little bit because some of us may be, feel like in life ambushed is maybe too strong of a word, but it’s almost as if we were ambushed with some of these conversations, right.

[00:32:15] It’s like, Hey, now you’re here. This is the way you’ve got to do it. What I do. As a young manager and project manager on the path to being a principal myself was I kind of saw exactly what you’re talking about. Those who can bring in the work tend to be the people that everybody else listens to or in the room.

[00:32:36] They tend to be a little bit more powerful. I think I took a project management class or I took a program with PSMJ in my training and I was fortunate enough. That Frank, the founder of PSMJ was actually on the board of directors at the company that I’d been working for. And, and I saw some of these quotes.

[00:32:54] So what I did was in my team, I made every single person have a business development goal to include both marketing and sales. And, , I didn’t know what I was doing, but I just kind of experimented. I said, let’s see if we make people do this. I had one individual straight out of school. This, this person probably wouldn’t even talk to clients for another year or two.

[00:33:19] Right. They were in the office, they were getting trained and things like that. But I said, let me kind of try this thing out. I gave this individual a $5,000 sales role and that might see. Counterintuitive. Like how can you give somebody a $5,000 sales goal? And they’re never going to talk to a client. And that’s what the person said to me.

[00:33:38] He goes, how, why, why do you expect me to sell something? I’m not even talking to somebody and this is advice I gave him. I figured it out. Right. , you’ve got to sell $5,000 worth of work. If you can’t talk to the client, maybe you could do something like this next time we give you a and we were, he was helping with a lot of reports.

[00:33:57] I said, next time you’re doing a report and reading a report or working through it. If you see something that you don’t like that maybe you think you can six, tell me, Hey Bill, I could fix this. Sure enough, two or three months later, he’s reading a report. And he said, Bill, I don’t like this section. I could rewrite this section and be. I said, okay. That’s not even in our scope of work. Next time I talked to the client, I’ll let them know, Hey, I’ve got an intern, I’ve got a new employee. He thinks he can write this better than you. I kind of said that to the client. I think I said it almost like that.

[00:34:28] I’ve got a junior employee. He can write this section better than you. You folks can write it.  What my employee said, I would love it if he did it, you know, I don’t like that either. , I said, it’s not in our scope of work.  , we’ll have to put a change order in for it. He said, I’d be happy to pay for a change order.

[00:34:43] I think the change order was about $6,000. So I went back to the office. I said, Hey,  what, be careful what you wish for. You’ve got to rewrite this. Section of the report you said, are we getting paid? I said, absolutely. And this is the best part. He goes, how much? I said, we’re getting paid $6,000.

[00:35:00] She goes, boom. I got my sales goal for them.

[00:35:05] Judy Sparks: [00:35:05] That’s great.

[00:35:06] Bill Hinsley: [00:35:06] I was like, be careful. Your sales goal is 10,000. He was like, wait, what are you talking about? It, it was five. I go, hello. The goalpost just moved. That was, that was easy. You knocked that one out of the park. I liked what you did. So

[00:35:17] Judy Sparks: [00:35:17] he probably never even thought of that as, yeah. Even contributing to sales until you gave him that idea.

[00:35:25] And hence the, , the last thing I would say is principals of firms need to understand that just like you train your, your billable team on technology and on, , they have to get their continuing to education credits. Let’s make sure that, , If you’re going to expect them to be part of the sales solution that they get training.

[00:35:45] Right. Hence your seller training. I mean, I don’t know why you would you would train in every other area and not in the area that they’re least comfortable with. Right.

[00:35:55] Bill Hinsley: [00:35:55] That’s it. I mean, we’ve made it. Right, right. To me, we made it fun. She was growing technically as a person, all the mentoring, there was technically, but I wouldn’t have noticed that section was off and he could have rewritten it.

[00:36:09] She brought that up. So that was a purely technical conversation. And that was the mentoring from a principal to, , a newer staff member. But it was fun because the look on his face, like he was like, Hey, I got my sales goal for the year. I was like, ah, that was too easy. Let’s do 10,  what? He was like, let’s. Right. Rather than being punitive, it was like a little bit of a technical slash sales challenge. And I don’t know if we could have differentiated the two, but it was like, now we’re, , now we’re having fun. Now we’re doing work together. And , I think life can be short. Sometimes let’s have a little bit of fun with the sales, with the doing.

[00:36:50] I mean, we put them hand in hand. It’s a good time.

[00:36:55] Judy Sparks: [00:36:55] Speaking of fun, we are looking forward to attending the thrive conference. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

[00:37:01] Bill Hinsley: [00:37:01] Absolutely. I’m excited for it because we didn’t get to do it. Huh?

[00:37:05] Judy Sparks: [00:37:05] Wow. I know for all like itching to be together.

[00:37:11] Bill Hinsley: [00:37:11] Oh. And it’s going to be in Scottsdale.

[00:37:13] So it’s going to be in a great venue. The thrive conference is when there’s not a pandemic, it’s an annual get together put on by PSMJ and it’s a great opportunity to showcase what’s happening in the AEC world. To be honest, one of the best things I like about it is there are some PSMJ presenters there, but we also really have an opportunity to listen from you all from everybody in the AEC world.

[00:37:39] So there’s expertise from colleagues and peers, we bring in folks from outside of the industry. And I would say it’s an opportunity not only to sit in conference rooms and listen and learn, but more importantly to kind of engage and to network with. Senior peers from around the country. Yeah.

[00:37:57] Every time I come back in and talk to somebody, they just talked about all the value from thrive. So yeah, it’s going to be opportunities to get, get together in person, right. At a great venue and, and to listen to people inside the industry and outside. Can’t wait for the September. That’d be fun.

[00:38:15] Judy Sparks: [00:38:15] I’m excited about speaking and I’m excited about seeing everybody again and just being able to network and, , what’s most exciting is we send a lot of our, , a lot of our clients send their people to trade shows and conferences, but it’s really focused on,  Professional development in the sense of, , the market that they serve, whether it’s higher education, healthcare, industrial and it’s also business development, , cause those owners are there, but your conference is really the one time a year that firms can focus on themselves and it’s all about themselves and their business and how to grow their business.

[00:38:51] And I tell my customers, you deserve that you spend every day serving others. Why not invest a little bit in serving yourself so your company can become stronger and better. And so. It is the event of the year for me. I can not wait to go. I don’t like my early morning speaking spot, but , we’ll, we’ll talk about that offline

[00:39:12] Bill Hinsley: [00:39:12] to that 0.2 years ago, we were in new Orleans and I have a program that focuses on physical fitness.

[00:39:20] It’s called earned my shower. So the joke is when you wake up in the morning, do you take your shower or do you go out there and earn it first? But our hotel was on bourbon street and we got together and I had more than a dozen people there each morning at five in the morning that went and worked out.

[00:39:38] And that’s ridiculous. I mean, to see a bunch of people that early in the morning on bourbon street, working out that meant people were fired up this year. I think one of the most fun things is just going to be able to see people in person again uh, to cover things. And I was talking to a firm about two weeks ago.

[00:39:59] And you’ll like this for the last three years, their principals have all been going to thrive. I said, are you coming this year? And they said, Nope, we’re not coming. I said, what, what are you doing? They go, we’re sending our next generation of folks. They’re doing leadership. That’s it. Right. The principals, they went the last three years.

[00:40:16] They’re actively working on on ownership and leadership transition. So they said, we’re sending our next generation this year. They said, not that we’ve learned at all, but we feel it’s more important for the next generation. So this is kind of their senior principals that are going to go. And that was awesome to see that, , that, that the different generations of folks are going through that conference.

[00:40:38] So I really liked that.

[00:40:40]Katie Cash: [00:40:40] This has been great bill, so thank you for sharing all of your knowledge and, and Judy for really carrying the conversation. But to give some, some smart notes for our listeners today, I think.

[00:40:51] All can remember the importance of listening when you have the opportunity to have those client facing moments and to take good notes. There’s, there’s no stronger power than being able to refer back to what your client has said and review your notes and then make sure you’re asking the questions like bill said, ask why, tell me more.

[00:41:12] Ask why tell me more over and over again, until you really understand what it is that your client is trying to achieve and how you might be able to get there. And then I thought something that was really, really helpful today was making sure that you understand your value equation and that , that going into some of those difficult conversations, maybe you can justify.

[00:41:34], increasing a fee with a particular client, maybe there’s opportunity to have a change order and added scope or, , the dreaded F-word like we mentioned earlier, maybe there’s a reason to, to fire a client, but knowing your value at that moment, which as bill pointed out is your benefits that you provide to your clients minus the costs.

[00:41:54] And then also just a final little plug for all of our listeners out there. If you have not checked out PSMJ and if you have not been to the thrive conference, it is taking place in September, there is still time to register. So we would encourage you to look into that and start thinking through how you can embrace a seller, doer culture and find ways to train them the next group.

[00:42:16] But after all of that, I mean, lots of tidbits. Hopefully you can apply today’s knowledge and we will see you next time. Thanks so much.

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