The Nontechnical Reasons Engineers Are Hired
Engineering is a technical discipline. In promoting their services, engineering firms naturally stress their capabilities in performing various types of technical work and their understanding of specific technologies.Technical competence is important, but is it the key factor in landing projects? Numerous competing firms can show that they are equally technically qualified.
By CHARLES RATHMANN Rathmann Communications, Union Grove, Wis.
Engineering is a technical discipline. In promoting their services, engineering firms naturally stress their capabilities in performing various types of technical work and their understanding of specific technologies.
Technical competence is important, but is it the key factor in landing projects? Numerous competing firms can show that they are equally technically qualified. Moreover, once a firm wins a contract, technical qualifications may play only third fiddle in determining whether a firm can maintain a successful relationship with a client.
"Every marketing staff worth its salt can, at the drop of a hat, produce the necessary documentation to prove why they are uniquely qualified for ... virtually any project that comes along," says Steven Godfrey, P.E., regional marketer for the engineering firm Baxter & Woodman, Burlington, Wis. "So, if we all are capable, qualified and have impeccable references, what is it that leads a client to choose our firm for this project, and more importantly, their next project?
"The answer oftentimes is chemistry between people. People have personalities, feelings, needs, concerns, egos and families. How we relate to these people-and affect their lives-may be the reason they prefer to work with us rather than with another equally qualified firm."
Godfrey points out several of the nontechnical factors that affect whether an engineering firm is hired:
Do the consultant representative and the client like each other? Every individual has a unique personality, and personalities need to be considered when assigning personnel to pitch and serve clients. Certain individuals are more comfortable and successful dealing with people. Extroverts feel stress when they are isolated from people, while introverts are more comfortable handling detailed work by themselves.
Is the engineering firm genuinely interested in the client organization? Regular contact and telephone continuity with a prospective client organization not only keeps one in the loop as project opportunities arise, but also convinces prospects that their business is valued. Participation in their professional associations tells clients and prospects that a design professional cares about and has a real interest in them and others like them
How does one make the client look to his superiors? There are many ways to make a client look good-and probably more to make him look bad, such as calling a client's credibility into question by contradicting his position on project-related issues, or issuing invoices that are confusing and contain charges apart from those agreed to. One should learn as much as possible about the client's situation.