Carefully Designed Key Messages
Help Architectural Firm Land Major Contracts


The architectural firm, which employs more than 240 individuals, maintains a diverse client portfolio, focusing on corporate,institutional, manufacturing and research, retail, and government projects.


A struggle to present effectively

For most architectural firms, growing the business depends on formal, face-to-face contacts with existing and potential clients. "Usually the decision as to which firm to commission for a major project comes down to some type of presentation," explains Mark Westman, Director of Marketing at RSP Architects.

When it came to making a convincing presentation, the leadership at RSP Architects knew that the company had a less-than-ideal track record. According to Westman, many professional services firms use two criteria to evaluate their success in netting new business. The first is the rate at which the company lands on the short list of candidates, based on the written proposals they submit. In that category, RSP performed better than average. The second benchmark gauges how often companies progress from short list to formal presentation to signed contract. RSP's win rate was below the average.


Fifteen minutes to make a compelling case

These less-than-desirable outcomes led the firm to take a hard look at the content and delivery of their presentations.

A couple years earlier, RSP Architects had enlisted the services of Spoken Impact to conduct a series of presentation skills workshops for approximately 36 individuals, mainly principals and senior associates. Company management decided it was time to bring back the Spoken Impact team to assist with presentations to potential clients.

The timing couldn't have been better. Looming on the horizon were extraordinary opportunities: two major projects on the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus. The first project involved a renovation of Kolthoff Hall, primarily centering on the design of new teaching laboratories. The second project entailed the design of a new classroom building for the Carlson School of Management.

RSP Architects was one of three firms to make the short list for both projects. With combined total construction costs estimated to be $47 million, the projects would generate substantial revenues for RSP. In preparing for presentations to a state designer selection board, there was one overriding objective: Develop and effectively communicate key messages that would differentiate RSP Architects from its competitors - in an allotted time of 15 minutes.


Bringing in objective expertise

Spoken Impact played two crucial roles in the preparation process, according to Westman.

"The first thing they did was to sit down with us to talk about the opportunity, what we thought were important issues to the client and how we might go about selling ourselves in terms of those key issues," he explains. "At times," he continues, "Joan questioned the assumptions we had made, leading us to think that maybe we didn’t know as much as we thought when we began the process."

Next, Spoken Impact provided guidance in the development of the actual presentations, addressing both content and delivery. Moser advised the team to focus on the company's points of difference. In strategy sessions, team members first identified the positions their competitors were likely to take. Then they developed a position which conveyed RSP's unique attributes and expertise - building a compelling case for those who would make the final selection.

"We knew it was going to be a big challenge to say everything we felt was important to communicate in our allotted 15 minutes," says Westman. "Through our rehearsals, we discovered that it was taking twice as long as we thought to cover all the key points."


A persuasive case...and human connections

With Spoken Impact's help, RSP Architects rose to the challenge, delivering persuasive cases in very short spans of time. The foresight and hard work paid off: RSP won both University of Minnesota projects.

Moser encouraged the RSP team to establish strong personal connections by being:

  • Passionate - Conveying with their words and expressions how excited they were about winning the projects.

  • Personal- Reaching out to board members through conversational, heartfelt language...avoiding any appearance of a scripted presentation.

  • Authentic - Being perceived as real people, augmented through anecdotes about their days as students or instructors at the university.

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