Before Walbridge can wow and amaze project owners with its construction prowess, it first has to win the work. That’s where sales professionals like Joey Smith, Director of Business Development for Walbridge Southeast, enter the picture.
Smith, who joined the company in 2012, begins pursuing some opportunities at least a year ahead of securing a project. Basic research comes first, he said, in order to learn about different industries and how economic cycles may affect them.
“This gives us a starting point of where to focus our efforts,” he said. “We want to target industries that are growing and investing capital. From there, we develop strategic plans to work our way into organizations and learn about the decision makers and why they make the decisions they make.”
Some of his reconnaissance involves networking. Joey taps into the personal business network he built throughout the southeastern U.S. over the past 15 years. He also uses the internet to expand his pool of connections.
“The amount of information available online is unbelievable,” he said. “Occasionally, I use LinkedIn to find a connection within a company as a starting point. Then I work from there to connect with decision makers. However, the most effective way to pursue customers will always be a personal connection and introduction.”
Communicating by phone is still the best way to connect directly with people, Smith said. “Sometimes it starts with a pure cold call over the phone,” he said. “Even if you network your way to a prospect, you still have to pick up the phone and make some form of cold call to establish dialogue.”
Once a connection is made, it takes perseverance to succeed.
“On one project that turned out to be a major success for us in Mexico, it took about a year to be awarded a pre-construction contract,” Joey said. “From there, we negotiated the design and construction of the facility. The client trusted us so much at that point that they kept adding work to our scope, including equipment installation. A large part of our company ended up touching the project in some way.”
Developing trust and nurturing relationships is very important. “I have personal relationships with our customers and enjoy spending time with them,” he said. “There has to be a personal aspect to what we do in order to build trust. If someone can’t trust you, they won’t do business with you.”
Walbridge’s Southeast team is focused on growing the business in the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee, mainly in the established markets of automotive and industrial. Expansion into higher education, airports and selective commercial opportunities is also on the radar screen. The company’s federal initiative pinpoints bases located in the Carolinas and Georgia. In addition to leading sales efforts, Smith also oversees estimating for Walbridge Southeast.
Once a successful bid turns into a signed contract and construction work begins, Smith said his job isn’t finished. He stays involved by continuing to meet with owners and acting as a “client relationship manager.” Since he has an operational background, he’s able to “understand the client and how they feel about our progress and relay that information to our field team, as needed.”
Maintaining the connection and seeing things through to the very end pays off, Smith said.
“We know our reputation depends more on the end of the project as opposed to the beginning,” he said. “How we finish a project is how we will be remembered.”