Process: Selling your System

I love this story.  It's a David versus Goliath story.  My small firm was presenting to a large financial service company whose national market was exploding and they needed to find an Architect to take them to the next level.  As I walked in, representatives from a large national design firm walked out.  My interview might be a daunting experience.  My pitch centered on how I intended to take the client from point A to point B and except for a few selected design images the entire focus was engaging the client in my process, virtually leading them by the hand from start up  to occupancy.

I got the nod immediately upon completing my presentation.  I was stunned. Pleased but stunned. So I asked the obvious - what did I say or do that won the day?  Their answer was surprising as my victory.  The competition focused on their design portfolio with little emphasis on process, even to the point of handing over a thick book of similar national financial institutions their national firm had designed in the last 18 - 24 months.  My new client felt the firm spoke over their head and gave them the impression that if they didn't like the design work they presented the client probably didn't understand good design.  

Funny thing was that, because of what I heard from that client, 100% of my presentations were process driven.  One rather painful loss where the client only wanted to see design caused me to slightly modify my pitch to include very large color images of design that I used to illustrate process results.  From that point on, my success ratio ran close to 90% when we competed against competition large and small.  

Design, even exceptional design, is not really a mystery to most clients. The client expects good design.  To the client, the mystery is how to solve complex issues of programming, planning, density, flexibility, managing and controlling construction, and meeting schedules and the ever present budget.  Most clients have a genuine concern with the quality of the process.  This is where our core values and humanity come into play - and it can be a differentiator.

Believe in your process.  Write it.  Diagram it.  Chart it.  Sell it.  Then watch as your clients become engaged in your story. It is compelling.  If a visit with someone who has experience selling "the process" would add focus to your next presentation connect with me.

William M. Burwell is a retired Architect and Interior Designer whose career focused on corporate interior architecture in sole proprietorships, and partnerships from 9 to 120 staff.  Bill retired in 2014 and began Burwell Consulting a Firm Marketing and Management Consulting firm, to share the wisdom and experience of those 45 years.   Bill writes articles sharing his experience in four keystone practice areas:  Marketing, Design, Project Management and Practice Management.  He graduated from the University of Houston College of Architecture in 1971 and now serves the College on the Dean's Committee on Excellence. Check him out at