Instead of offering a product or repeatable service, AEC firms compete for future projects— each one with unique needs, specifications and nuanced details. Thus, companies invest significant time selling their past work, internal resources and skills, and their ability to meet deadlines.
It can be a lengthy sales process culminating in substantial cost and effort to generate a project-winning proposal. Combine that with an increasingly competitive landscape and razor-thin margins, and it’s clear that automated, dynamic sales processes are key. When you power those processes with the right, accelerated CRM solution, it can make all the difference.
Why Extendable CRM Solutions Matter
In the traditional request for proposal process, construction firms would estimate project costs by referring to past projects and drilling down into old spreadsheets and expense data. But that no longer works for today’s AEC organizations, where historical project data, employee credentials and predictive analytics all need to come together to drive an award-winning proposal.
Simply put, a flexible CRM solution can do that, with features that help business development managers oversee their sales pipeline effectively, generate proposals quickly and easily, automate follow-up tasks, track their performance, and forecast their sales revenue accurately.
Only 32 percent of AEC companies are using a construction-specific CRM solutionJBKnowledge-Construction-Technology-Report
AEC companies function best when their CRM software is designed specifically for their needs. Let’s drill down on that.
Digging into Project Details
For many proposals, you’ll want to leverage information from past proposals. With data available in one place and easily accessible, you can tap into that information quickly and deliver proposals to the client sooner—increasing your chance of closing business. Data analytics can also play a crucial role in developing a construction proposal by providing insights that help refine cost estimates, improve project planning, and increase the likelihood of winning the contract.
The CRM market is projected to reach $94 billion by 2027. The whopping growth can be attributed, in part, to the growing realization as to the exponential value of client data.Insights on the CRM Global Market to 2027, Businesswire
Nothing improves the decision-making process better than having the right data at your disposal when you need it. An AEC-focused CRM system like Hitachi Solutions Engage for Construction can integrate all your various business development and delivery data from both internal and any external third-party systems. This helps business development managers track how a given opportunity was won and executed.
When you’re struggling to find the data to build the perfect proposal, an extendable, integrated CRM system can:
- Aggregate historic sales analytics and reports on opportunities, contacts, projects, employees, and more.
- Analyze historical cost data from past projects of similar scope, size, and complexity to identifying cost patterns and potential cost overruns.
- Provide the integrating tools to surface market trends, demand for specific types of projects, and the competitive landscape.
- Benchmark against similar projects or competitors for valuable insights into best practices, pricing strategies, and performance metrics.
- Analyze local building codes, zoning regulations, and permitting requirements. This data can impact project timelines and costs, so it’s crucial to factor them into your proposal.
Finding the Right Resources and Skills
Complex construction projects rely on employee know-how to sell and win deals. In a professional services firm, employees are tied to every aspect of what is sold and executed. And their experience and skillsets— their certifications, degrees and past project work— all contribute tremendously to creating a winning proposal.
With that in mind, a CRM system should be able to integrate with your core human resource records, and that information should be easily retrievable (with appropriate security measures in place) for those who need credential and expertise information to build proposals. If the system allows for self-service updates, employees can continue to add to their resume, as they gain new skills, complete new and complex projects and achieve new certifications.
Internal employee promotion can be a key to selling your organization’s talent.
Automating Proposal Creation
Traditionally, proposal writing could be a huge time sink and prone to error— that’s partly because we rely on past proposals and continually copy and paste. Customizable proposal templates can solve that and be used to generate initial proposals with pre-populated essential information. They can also be built with automated workflows to drive the proposal all the way through to the go/no go decision.
Stakeholders can easily and transparently collaborate with other team members with simple integrations to Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Teams, ensuring that all necessary information is included in the proposals.
Your CRM solutions doesn’t have to be limited to managing just clients. Construction business owners do business with a wide range of stakeholders, such as partners, general contractors, subcontractors and other construction professionals. Many contractors and firms are taking their centralized, cloud-based CRM one step further, by connecting to external-facing websites (these can be generated easily using tools like Power pages) to allow subcontractors and external third parties the ability to publish needed proposal documents like government forms and photos.
How AI can help
AI can help provide the answers as to why previous sales efforts worked and why.
AI-powered analytics can identify potential opportunities based on a firm’s historical project performance. When you have the ability to pull in data from outside sources with open infrastructures like Microsoft’s Azure cloud, you can have a very rich set of data, opportunities to research publicly available information and get more data to inform your proposals.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re drafting a proposal for constructing an apartment complex. You could feed the zip code, parcel, lot and basic design into the AI tool, and it can automatically pull local building codes, compliance codes and density. The tool could also find localized costs and estimate new build or renovation costs per square foot, as well as price out large-sale projects. Admittedly, the true value of AI in the construction industry is in the early stages, but it stands to change the way we work. And it may come sooner than we think.
Always remember that while AI can automate processes and provide valuable insights, it’s crucial to have human experts involved in decision-making, validation and interpretation of AI-generated outputs. Human oversight helps catch errors, interpret context and consider ethical factors that AI may not account for.
Implementing an AEC-focused CRM
Everything we’ve discussed thus far— project profiling, employee profiling, reporting and proposal automation— are all part of a large dynamic sales-to-execution process and can feed into a streamlined project setup in your project management solution of choice. Complex engagements often require a flexible system setup that allows you full control and flexibility when mapping the sales process to the execution process.
Hitachi Solutions’ CRM accelerators for AEC companies may be the solution you need. From estimates and sales to forecasting and execution, we’ve created data connections and automated outputs that you can use to build award-winning proposals.
Our CRM solutions extend Dynamics 365 Sales and are one more tool you have to ensure that project opportunities don’t fall through the cracks, stakeholders have the visibility they need to make accurate, timely decisions, and your proposals meet the mark.
When you’re ready to start preparing to implement sales software, you’ll need to partner with a company who can understand your points of friction, identify how ready your team is, and help you through the implementation process. Hitachi Solutions’ goal is to assist you in evaluating your current needs and to work directly with your team to best determine how to foster the power of sales automation and take advantage of new innovations, like generative AI.
Why Hitachi Solutions
Our team of experts provides best-in-class service for integrating technology like D365 for Sales and Microsoft Power Platform into your current sales processes while helping you build a plan to harness the power of Microsoft innovations such as Microsoft Sales Copilot. Sales Copilot provides next-generation AI assistance so sellers and sales teams can more easily automate tasks, deliver personalized customer experiences and focus on the most valuable opportunities.
Contact us today to get started on the path toward innovative CRM strategies to stay ahead of the sales curve.