Commercial Construction Professionals: How Do You Answer the #1 Question – What Else You Got?

The following content has been reproduced with permission from the publisher and author of Inside Commercial Construction’s MVPs (Hunting House, Coty Fournier, copyright 2014).

July 7, 2015
Coty L. Fournier

Commercial construction professionals who are promoted from operations to business development learn one of the most sobering—yet empowering—truths about the industry. Unfortunately, very few people get that promotion, so they never learn this truth, or they learn it too late.It goes something like this:

You can take virtually any contractor’s sales materials and presentation content and swap it out with the same from their closest direct competitors, and no one will know the difference.

Really?

Yes.

Despite the sincere effort most companies spend on these important activities, the resulting pitches all sound pretty much identical to the listening ear. Everyone claims to have the same five qualifications floating amidst a sea of well-intended polish. But when you boil it all down, here’s what left:

We deliver (1) quality construction projects, (2) on time and (3) on budget, and here are some (4) client testimonials from projects similar to yours to prove it.  How do we do it?  We have the (5) best people.

For all intents and purposes, the only differences in the sales and marketing messages between one contractor and another are their logos and their PowerPoint skills.  Each company is essentially saying, “Pick us!  Pick us!  We’re the best!” while defending that claim in much the same manner as the next company.

Nobody likes to hear this.  It’s deflating.  Especially if you’ve worked in business development, and therefore know how hard it is to differentiate your company’s qualifications from your competitors in any believable fashion.  But if you accept this truth and work with it, you can capitalize on it.  The most valuable construction professionals (MVPs) use it to help the companies they work for—and fast-track their own careers at the same time.

DON’T BET THE MINIMUM ANTE

Let’s call those five qualifications the “basic” ones because they’ve become a common denominator among all legitimate contractors.  The very things that all contractors give their lives to achieve have been largely reduced to the minimum ante required to stay in the game. They’re expected to make the shortlist, and therefore no longer play much of a role in the decision-making process.

This expectation leaves project owners sifting through nearly every contractor’s RFQ binder wondering, “Yeah, yeah. What else you got?” When all companies are pushing the same basic qualifications, it gets repetitive. More to the point—it isn’t helpful.

A handful of companies are becoming increasingly successful at the differentiation game—but most companies fail to make their differentiators believable or articulate their actual value proposition.  Worse yet, some don’t have any real differentiators.

NOW LOOK IN THE MIRROR

This applies to you and your career because everything translates directly from companies to individuals. Commercial construction professionals are in competition with one another for positions, promotions, and opportunities in much the same way that construction companies compete with one another for clients and projects. The landscape is so competitive that a reflective truth has emerged:

You can take virtually any construction professional’s resume or listen to the way he describes his talents, strengths, and relevant experience in a job interview, and swap that out with the same from one of his legitimate competitors, and no one will know the difference.

Recruiters and hiring managers often struggle to discern meaningful differences in the value of Construction Professional X, Y, or Z—when those people are roughly apples-to-apples candidates. Virtually all legitimately qualified construction professionals applying for a certain project position will claim to have the same five basic qualifications as the next guy:

I have a strong track record for building (1) quality construction projects, (2) on time and (3) on budget, and here are my (4) references to prove it.  I am the (5) best person for the job.

You’ve probably begun to deduce the second key assumption. Everyone involved in making a decision about whether or not to hire or promote you already expects you to have that position’s basic qualifications in the bag; therefore, what they’re really doing is grasping for a definitive answer to their most pressing question: “What else you got?”       

The market forces that are driving Construction Companies A, B, and C into the meaningful differentiation game are also driving Construction Professionals X, Y, and Z into the same game. The only difference between the games is awareness. Most people are aware that the company game exists and therefore recognize that you have to play it wisely to win clients and projects. Conversely, few people realize that you have to play the same game to advance your own career. So they never step in front of the mirror and honestly ask themselves: “What else do I got?”

Meanwhile, the MVPs face the mirror, completely aware of the game that’s being played and what’s required to win.

BET YOUR BONUS QUALIFICATIONS

The MVPs have rock solid answers to the “What else you got?” question ready to go on every aspect of their entire career—strengthened by the ability to articulate each unique value proposition. They demonstrate valuable skills, talents, and relationships that stretch beyond the basics, into the bonus qualifications that seal the deal. They know how to sell themselves in all the ways that count and there’s nothing fake or underhanded about it. Companies buy what they’re selling because their bonus qualifications are real and valuable.

Your bonus qualifications can be any number of things in the commercial construction industry, like a rare talent, or positive relationships with clients and industry influencers. They can also be something more intangible, like a unique attitude or a willingness to handle things that others find difficult. You have to think outside the basic qualifications that everyone is traditionally focused on, and (1) identify your unique capabilities and (2) start showcasing the ones that can be turned into an asset for your company.

Refer to chapter one of Inside Commercial Construction’s MVPs for three examples that illustrate the wide spectrum of bonus qualifications in the marketplace and why our industry needs them. Be inspired to think broadly and aim high as you develop your own.

For more information on this topic and other strategic insights from highly successful construction professionals, refer to Amazon for the critically acclaimed book:  Inside Commercial Construction’s MVPs: 7 reasons why they get promoted faster, make more money, and enjoy a seemingly unfair advantage over everybody else.

Coty FournierCoty Fournier is a U.S. commercial construction executive, entrepreneur, author, and keynote speaker with sustained success in construction operations and business development, on both sides of the Owner-Contractor equation.  She is also the co-founder and former CEO of Jobsite123.com, acquired by The Blue Book Network in May 2013.  In addition to her leadership role as Vice President, Network Solutions for The Blue Book, she continues to serve the commercial construction industry as one of its most prominent thought leaders on industry relationships, executive talent development, and marketing platforms.  For more information, connect with Coty on LinkedIn, or email her directly at cfournier@mail.thebluebook.com.

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