As many of you know all too well, competition among A/E/C and environmental consulting firms has become extremely intense. In addition to key pre-positioning and business development strategies I’ve addressed in previous issues of The Friedman File, the shortlist presentation is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. It’s your last shot at winning the business. Yet with all that at stake, one of the biggest problems I observe is the lack of a well-conceived, crisp message. Often, the content ends up rambling, running long, or otherwise failing to influence.

One of my consulting partners, Terri Langhans, CSP, (Certified Speaking Professional), is out to change that. I first heard Terri present her “Maverick Marketing” program at a Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) national conference a few years back. She has cleverly named her company “Blah, Blah, Blah.” (Not surprisingly, her URL is, and her “blahg” site is I think you get the idea.

Terri has a program, “Get to the Point,” for A/E/C firms who want their people to be clear, confident and convincing in presentations, and I thought The Friedman File readers would benefit from a few observations and pointers from Terri. So, here goes:

Too much stuff. We know our stuff, and we want to share it. We figure the more stuff we share, the more credible we’ll be and the more likely we are to get hired. Wrong! This approach bores people into a stupor or frustrates them into belligerence. Terri recently worked with a client who had more than 100 slides for a 30-minute interview. They whittled it down to 23, but the rule of thumb is about two minutes per slide. So yes, they were still rushed. Whether you have 30 minutes or an hour or more, picture your audience extending you a thimble’s worth of interest. Don’t fill it with a fire hose.

No one cares about you. Even though they put you on the short list, invite you to present, and ask you to talk about your firm, prospects still don’t care about you. They care about themselves, their project, and what you’ll do for them.

So here’s how you convert your credentials and capabilities into something more relevant:

  • Describe your firm, the team, and your qualifications or experience. As part of the exercise; not in front of the prospect. Not yet, anyway.
  • Given all you’ve said, isolate 3 or 4 key attributes that you think are most important to the decision-makers for this project. (Experience, innovation, specialists, local.)
  • Those are your features. Now, we’re looking for benefits — the need or the want that is satisfied by those features. So, what’s the client’s need or want that is satisfied by hiring a local firm? An experienced firm? An innovative firm?
  • Better yet, drill down even further. Look at those features and benefits and fill in the blank: “Why is [experience] important personally to this decision maker?”

Look at your answer and ask it again. “Why is that personally important to this decision maker?” Or, “What is it about your answer that is important, personally, to this decision maker?” And again, “Why is whatever you just answered important personally to the decision maker? ”

Keep going and you’ll have a list of want or need words and phrases that are all about the client. Save money, maximize budget, higher trust, no surprises, more flexibility, more confidence, less stress, better communication. These are the words that not only help you connect to what clients care about, they help convince clients to hire you.

Get to the point. Instead of thinking about the stuff you want to say, that you hope you get time to say, think about what will happen when it’s all said and done. When you leave the room, what’s the single most important thing you want remembered and repeated by the client? What do you want them to say when someone asks, “So, what do think about Acme Engineering? ”

A: “Well, they talked about this, and they showed us that, and they’re located there, and they were pretty easy to talk to…”

— or —

B: “They’ve got the experience and can hit the ground running.”

I hope it’s obvious that you want B, or something like it. That’s the point of your presentation, and everything you say, do, or show needs to support, defend, prove, demonstrate, or bring to life that point. What facts, features, and benefits will prove that point? Which case studies or examples will make it clear? Remember the thimble and choose wisely. Note: Your point is NOT “hire us.” That’s your call to action. It’s what you want them to do as a result of being convinced of your point.

Terri and I hope that these pointers help your firm rise above the fray in this noisy, competitive marketplace. Keep in mind that Terri’s advice applies to any marketing or new business development message, spoken or written, proposal or presentation, short-list or not. Let us know if we can help by calling (508-276- 1101) or e-mailing (