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Nothing wins like success: Making meaningful client relationships.

Nothing wins like success: Making meaningful client relationships.

Work Winning Ways with Gary Williams.

The Questas Podcast: Episode Two

In conversation with Ed McCann. Nothing wins like success, making more meaningful client relationships and surviving the pandemic.



In this episode, Gary speaks to Ed McCann, a Director at Expedition Engineering and the current President (Elect) of the Institute of Civil Engineers.

Ed initially joined Expedition Engineering in 2002 where he has been the Project Director for many projects including the multi award winning Infinity Bridge and the Olympic 2012 Velodrome. Ed was instrumental in the growth and development of Expedition from a “back bedroom start-up” to Building Magazine’s Engineering Consultant of the Year in 2012.

In 2009, Ed co-founded the Useful Simple Trust and gifted his shareholding in Expedition to the Trust for the benefit of the employees. In this episode, Gary and Ed discuss Ed’s take on client management, the impact of lockdowns (not all negative!) and his view of the industry.


  • The pandemic has created many challenges for many people and businesses alike. Ed and his company thankfully found it quite simple and easy to switch everything on the client management side online. In a lot of instances, it was easier to arrange ongoing client relationships. They could touch bases more frequently and more meaningfully.
  • Technology means that having a physical office for a business is optional. This has been the case for a few years but one the big impacts of the pandemic is that it has sped this process up a lot; many people are happy and comfortable working remotely now. Ed and his teams have been able to problem solve many of challenges with working remotely and are in no rush to get back to the office. There are certainly a lot of positives to working in this way!
  • Ed and his company focus on staying small. This is because they value the level of service they can give to clients as a small operation. They don’t want to lose any of this speciality by growing too big.
  • The industries that Ed is in can sometimes have a bit of a regressive view in terms of client management, especially in regards to how business is conducted outside of the office. This can have an impact on gender diversity for those working in the industries. However, Ed has found that the clients he works with couldn’t be further from this, they aren’t interested in ‘boozy nights’ etc and it’s this that allows a lot more gender diversity in his team; the women he works with feel respected and valued.


“90+% of your activities are about maintaining client relationships not about new relationships”

“The office is an option”

“Nothing wins like success”

“Sometimes it’s about chemistry not capability”


3 Essential business development tips for professional & engineering firms post-pandemic

Questas Guide to Client Account Planning


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Being human, the art of client relationship management

Being human, the art of client relationship management

Work Winning Ways with Gary Williams.

The Questas Podcast: Episode One

The new Questas podcast with Gary Williams and guests is for engineering and professional services organisations with the aim of providing strategies and tactics to unlock your people’s hidden ‘selling’ potential. Professional selling and client relationship management skills to win more of the right work from the right clients.

In this first episode, Gary is joined by Terence Ritchie, a Partner at EMW Law. Terence is a real estate lawyer who knows that relationships and delivering a great client experience are the keys to winning and keeping clients in a very busy market. Their conversation covers a number of areas including;

  • The impact of the pandemic on client relationships and business development
  • What it takes for (very) reluctant sellers to get motivated
  • How Terence sees the future of client selling

Listen here for a genuine episode where Gary and Terence talk openly about their unique perspectives, ideas and challenges.



  • The multiple lockdowns and restrictions the pandemic imposed created a unique set of challenges for each sector and each business. Terence found he and his company had to adapt how they dealt with clients and especially in regards to sales and communication. It resulted in them learning to support clients in new ways by building stronger client relationships. This was achieved through bespoke support and ultimately more value for their clients.
  • It can be such an eye opener to clients to see the people working for them, especially in a sector such as law, as someone other than what they ‘do’ for them formally. By creating a different dynamic with clients, Terence was able to gain trust and rapport in new ways. The feedback he and the company received from their clients was extremely positive because clients started to see them as individuals and people not just as their lawyers.
  • Lockdowns have suited some people, particularly those who enjoy working from home or have an introverted personality. However many extroverts will have struggled with energy levels as they haven’t been able to interact with people in the usual ways. Lockdowns have also meant you do not get the same ‘water cooler moments’ which are not just a way for employees to build relationships with clients but are also often a unique way problems get solved and ideas get created.
  • Mental health in the workplace is still a difficult thing to get right. The important thing is often looking out for signs that someone might need a bit of help, support or simply just a chat. One of the overlooked challenges with the pandemic is not having the opportunity to see and notice when others are struggling.


“When you are in a client facing role, you assume you are going to have the ability to see clients”

“That’s humanised a lot of what we do and that’s a good thing”

“You almost have to manufacture a reason to talk to a colleague”


Client Relationship Management: Find out what the most effective attributes are to being a Key Client Manager


Terence Ritchie – Partner EMW Law


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3 Essential business development tips for professional & engineering firms post-pandemic

3 Essential business development tips for professional & engineering firms post-pandemic

3 Essential business development tips for professional & engineering firms post-pandemic

How can professional services firms best transition from survival to growth mode?

The past 18 months has seen many professional and engineering services firms batten down the hatches as the pandemic took a grip on our lives and the economy. Thankfully, many of these organisations are now moving from survival mode into growth mode. And, while this is hugely encouraging, there are a few essential things to consider to ensure you maximise opportunities so that the growth is as effective as possible.

So, how can professional and engineering services firms maximise business development opportunities in this post-pandemic era?

A recent McKinsey article tells us that growth comes from both short and long-term initiatives – quick wins and strategic transformation. It also asserts that execution triumphs over analysing and that measurement is a source of competitive advantage. Working with professional services and engineering firms since 2004, I have seen the economy rollercoaster in action and the impact that upturns and downturns have on organisations.

Put people first – nurture client-facing staff

Professional service based businesses have two fundamental assets: people and time. Sure, the people are providing expertise, and it’s true that more companies are now offering technology-based innovations, but at their core these businesses measure their income in terms of the numbers of hours their people invoice. What this means is that in strong markets the biggest problem is resourcing, and when times are tough the biggest problem is too much overhead. The response? Reduce the overhead. But the first to go are usually those who are lower down on the utilisation spreadsheet. Unfortunately this can (and in my experience often does) include work winners.

I have been in the world of business development and client relationship management for my entire career so inevitably I see this through a particular lens. I accept that when market conditions dictate that the flow of work is reduced to a trickle, clients are in their own ‘lockdown’ and it is difficult to keep paying expensive salaries because the return on that investment can’t be realised any time soon. However, we have now reached an economic turning point. This means it is time to put the foot down on the accelerator. And I’ve seen first-hand that the best way to move from survival mode to growth mode is to nurture client facing people and actively engage them in a three-part strategy:

Client-facing people are often the work winners and connectors in engineering firms

  1. Get focussed on where the opportunities are
  2. Have more face to face BD meetings
  3. Measure the effectiveness

Lets have a look at each of these steps:


Get focussed


Whilst we don’t want to be struck down with ‘analysis paralysis’ we also don’t want to waste useful time, effort and energy. This is not the time to be going after the wrong type of work. Here three quick questions to help get you focussed:

  • Is the market strong for this kind of work?
  • What is our reputation like for this type of work?
  • Do we already have relationships with decision makers?

If you can answer a solid YES to each of these it is probably worth putting a business development plan together. These plans needn’t be overly complicated but should focus on getting in front of target clients through referral, or valuable content marketing.


Face to face BD meetings


Even when selling into the public sector – who almost always buy through a tender process – nothing beats getting in front of clients, both existing and new. People (still) buy from people and so your people need to be better than the people from other organisations. And by ‘better’ I don’t mean better technically, I mean better at motivating clients to buy!

These meetings provide fantastic opportunities, if not immediately then often at some point in the future. For more information on how to ensure these meetings will maximise the opportunity please see our Effective BD Meetings guide.


Measure the effectiveness of business development activity


It has been said that it is difficult to measure selling activity. Certainly it’s challenging to look at the numbers and work out what income was due to what particular marketing/BD activity, as well as considering if it was simply down to market conditions. However, that approach is trying to measure the output. I have found that it is much easier and more effective to measure the inputs. For example count:

  • Number of meetings with decision makers
  • Introductions made to colleagues with other expertise (see our valuable Cross Selling post here)
  • Referrals from clients to others in their network
  • Opportunities identified at meetings
  • Follow up meetings with other stakeholders
As firms lift the shutters and head back out into the market, professional service based businesses need to identify and maximise every business development opportunity. Those who are ready, willing and able to spread the BD load to many (if not all) client-facing people will certainly reap the rewards.

Want to maximise opportunities for your business to grow, and your team to thrive? Please get in touch, email us at hello@questas.co.uk. Or if you’d like to see more growth ideas for professional & engineering firms we’d recommend ‘Selling to the public sector’ here, and definitely look into our 30 minute trainings on ‘Getting to the client’s table’ here.


Espresso Shot Learning Webinars

Espresso Shot Learning Webinars

Espresso Shot Learning Webinar

questas steaming coffee cupOur Espresso Shot Learning sessions are punchy and effective 30 minute webinars, specifically designed to deliver your team the key points and latest thinking in Business Development and Client Relationship Management.

These bite sized learning sessions are delivered on a virtual platform to suit you, and are good for all teams. You can also register as many participants to the session as you need.

Book now, and let’s get everyone contributing to business growth.

Cost: £500

Turning up the listening to 11!

Active listening has long been spoken about as a key skill for anyone involved in sales.

There is a case to say that now we are selling online AND that it is getting more competitive, we need to be even better at listening than ever. It is often extremely difficult to come up with strong USPs and differentiators, but those who listen best will understand more and are more likely to find that little ‘nugget’ they can use to motivate the client to choose them.

To arrange your training, you can email hello@questas.co.uk or click the button below to get in touch.

Turning the Listening Up to 11 - Questas Espresso Shot Webinars

In this session we cover:

  • Listening as a differentiator
  • Active listening and how to do it online
  • Types of listening
  • PhD listening
  • Building rapport
Getting to the Table of Target Clients - Questas Espresso Shot Webinars

In this session we cover:

  • Targeting the right kind of clients
  • Building an action-driven BD plan
  • Understanding why clients will want to meet
  • Creating a compelling ‘meeting proposition’
  • Developing a ‘BD Habit’

Getting to the ‘table’ of target clients

Whether the ‘table’ you’re trying to get to is real or virtual, we must generate new business with clients and potential clients. If we are not regularly speaking to these people our competitors (who are speaking to them) will increase their market share at the expense of ours. Whatever you call it, all successful firms see this activity at least as important if not more important than fee earning work.

To arrange your training, you can email hello@questas.co.uk or click the button below to get in touch.

Structuring online
BD conversations

Technical experts need to be able to sell but many people in this area would consider selling to be, at best, unnatural. At worst, something they feel they simply can’t do! In our experience, part of the challenge is knowing how to structure a BD (‘sales’ if you prefer) call. Our definition of this conversation is ‘building the client’s motivation to buy’.

To arrange your training, you can email hello@questas.co.uk or click the button below to get in touch.

Structuring Online BD Conversations - Questas Espresso Shot Webinars

In this session we cover:

  • Preparing for the call
  • Tech check – ensuring your set up won’t let you down
  • First impressions – you can’t win a new client in the first 100 seconds but you can lose one! Make sure you set off on the right foot
  • Inform/Investigate/Inspire – Use our 3i© model to help you
    structure the optimum call/meeting
  • Gain the client’s commitment to the next step

Free consultation

Have questions for us? Get your team started today and gain a new competitive advantage.


Webinar: Managing and maintaining client relationships in a virtual world

Webinar: Managing and maintaining client relationships in a virtual world

Webinar: Managing and maintaining client relationships in a virtual world

FREE Live Webinar

Managing and maintaining client relationships in a virtual world

Friday 24th April 2020 – 12:00 until 13:00


Who is it for?

A practical and engaging free live webinar aimed at professionals that work in the natural and built environment.

This is for YOU if you are tasked with maintaining client relationships during the lockdown period and beyond.

REGISTRATION EXPIRED. Please get in touch if you would like to organise your own training. 

What will we cover?

  1. Everything has changed… or has it?
  • The principles or client management
  • Being a Trusted Advisor
  • Understanding your clients ‘new normal’
  • How can you add value
  1. Sharing views from clients, consultants and each other.
  2. How to strengthen relationships at this time.
    Practical advice on how to use empathy and structure the conversation.

Register here for live webinar on managing client relationships


Our training is bespoke to each client – see our approach and how we can help your business grow.

Two experts engineers in protective helmets and fluorescent vests showing the construction site and building activities after the successful project phase.

Cross-Selling e-learning

Our free e-Learning module for Cross-Selling (no selling required) is an interactive introduction to best practice.

This informative and well-presented 30-minute course is certified for Continuous Professional Development (CPD).

Start now

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Cross Selling: how to achieve growth by cross selling in professional services

Cross Selling: how to achieve growth by cross selling in professional services

Cross Selling: how to achieve growth by cross selling in professional services

‘Cross-Selling’ is the key to smart business growth but why is it so difficult? Questas CEO & Founder, Gary Williams reveals how to overcome the barriers and generate significant opportunities from existing clients.

What is cross selling?

Cross-selling is best described as ‘collaborating with other specialists within your company, working in partnership on behalf of the client’s best interest.’ It is a proactive, ongoing process designed to provide your existing customers with a range of your company’s services that will help them achieve their objectives.

Having worked with many professional services firms operating in the built and natural environment, we see many companies who are not optimising their cross-selling opportunities, missing obvious areas of growth in their organisation. Many of them have key client management programmes, with one of the measures of success being the number of services their clients buy from them. On average, supplier firms provide only 20% of their services to clients. There’s nothing worse than a client who tells you, “I didn’t know you provided that service, if I had I wouldn’t have given the project to your biggest competitor…”

On average supplier firms provide just 20% of their services to clients.

A client who buys multiple services is harder to lose to a competitor.

Cross selling from the supplier’s perspective

Existing customers are easier to sell to, by a long shot. You’re 60-70% likely to sell to an existing customer, compared to the 5-20% likelihood of selling to a new prospect (according to book of Marketing Metrics). So concentrating efforts on cross-selling makes sense. A client who buys multiple services is harder to lose to a competitor than a single service client.

A professional services company can also forge better relationships, moving up the ‘Trusted Advisor’ curve and ultimately being seen as a partner organisation who helps the client achieve their long-term objectives as opposed to a provider of commodity services who can be substituted at very short notice.

Cross selling from the client’s perspective

Managing the supply chain can be an onerous task. Keeping on top of providers, ensuring deliverables are met, not to mention procurement and tendering, this can be extremely time consuming and costly.

Our clients are human beings (in the main!) and one thing I know to be universal is that we live in ever more complicated, busy and often challenging worlds. We all strive for an easy life and if a client can trust a supplier to deliver more than one service, confident that “they know how we work and what our expectations are…” that is one less thing to worry about.

There are potential economic benefits as well. Clients can achieve their objectives in the most economic way. They can potentially reduce the cost of managing multiple suppliers and, hopefully, they can speed up projects by having fewer ‘players’ in the supply chain.

Clients can achieve their objectives in the most economic way.

Introducing our contacts to our colleagues creates strong, collaborative networks.

Cross selling from the individual’s perspective

Today’s consultant has to be the ‘rounded professional’, seen to be creating opportunities for other areas of the firm beyond their own. Our personal brand and value grows when we are able to refer a client to a colleague who’s expertise would benefit them. So being generous with our time and sharing our contacts should be something we feel compelled and motivated to do.

So if Cross-Selling is seen as one of the Keys to Growth, why is it so hard for professional services firms to be successful at it?

These are the most common reasons

  • A lack of understanding of everything the firm can offer
  • Inability to explore the client’s world broadly enough to uncover opportunities outside of technical disciplines
  • Poor internal communication
  • An unwillingness to introduce colleagues to our clients or share valuable relationships
  • Poor leadership
  • Measuring things that disincentivize cross-selling and drive the wrong behaviours

Even the most ‘non-sales’ people are able to learn how to explore clients’ worlds.

Five ways to encourage a cross selling culture

The good news is that there is plenty that can be done to counter these barriers. Here are some steps that we have found to be valuable to businesses.


Encourage internal marketing programmes and things like:


  • Lunch and learn sessions delivered by different departments
  • Attend different service line client and BD meetings
  • Use your Key Client Management programme to bring representatives of all relevant parties to the table (including those who are not currently working with the client).


Even the most ‘non-sales’ minded people are able to learn how to explore clients worlds.
They can:


Train all client-facing people in the art of exploring cross selling opportunities.

  • Increase the number of ‘non-project’ client meetings.
  • Encourage people to understand how to look for opportunities for ‘adjacent’ services.


Many firms suffer poor internal communication


  • The first thing to understand is that the mindset of people is the key to better internal comms – one that is open and sharing for the benefit of the client.
  • Systems and software – too many firms are still relying on spreadsheets. Investing in CRM (client relationship management) systems is a critical success factor. There is a health warning here… if the first step above is not in place, CRM systems become nothing more than an expensive address book!
  • Internal education, on a continuous basis, that shows not just what services a firm has to offer but how to spot opportunities for them, including what questions to ask to uncover those opportunities.


Building internal relationships is equally as important as it is with external clients and co-professionals


  • Encourage internal networking and social events.
  • Mix internal BD meetings with different disciplines coming together. This often works well in a sector strategy.
  • Use the concept of ‘roadshows’ to take the message out to the business.


Many firms expect people to focus on clients and cross-selling without offering any incentive


  • This is a leadership issue. Work on motivation, a sense of ‘doing it for the team’, rewarding through recognition and praise.
  • Hold an annual awards event – reward the behaviours and activities as much as the outputs.
  • Lead from the front. Set an example to your team.

How to Cross-Sell without Selling!

e-learning course on laptop on desk with workerOur e-Learning Cross Selling Module is an interactive introduction to best practice.

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  • So it’s obvious that not developing a cross-selling program in your organisation really is wasting a serious opportunity for growth.
  • Remember, it’s critically important that everyone in the organisation buys into the philosophy in order to collaboratively support the efforts of all. That includes leaders and senior managers too!
  • Companies that fail to implement an effective cross-selling programme do a disservice to their customers and leave the backdoor open to their competitors. Not being proactive about encouraging a culture of cross-selling is a missed opportunity for smart business growth. Check out our Cross-Selling Skills Training here, or individuals can:


Start here with our online training