The Power Pyramid

New Architects Marketing Academy member Stephan, who lives not far from me, calls me to say he just completed the Wellington Marathon.

Without hesitation, I ask him, ‘What time did you get?’

Without thinking, I want to gauge his marathon running performance.

Mike, my friend from cricket days, tells me he played golf yesterday – I ask what his handicap is. Unconsciously I need to position Mike’s ability as a golfer … so I can admire his skill or mock his waywardness.

You are about to learn a law of human nature that is easy to understand, but only a few ever apply.

Once you tap into this universal law you'll instantly attract high-value clients who expect to pay you a premium fee.

If you continue to be blind to this law then you are doomed to earn just a little more or a little less than the average architect. Limping your way from project to project and maybe never knowing why you're being overlooked for commissions.

We live on ladders

Dogs have a pecking order of power and status. There is always one top dog and a whole chain of command. In the wild, this is order determines who eats first, and who eats last.

Similar to our canine friends, we humans also have ladders of power – an unspoken hierarchy of status and power in any given community.

Survival of the fittest is built into our DNA.

There is always a pecking order. Those at the top of the pecking order get to eat first and enjoy bigger rewards. Those at the bottom fight for the scraps if there are any left.

The last thing you ever want to be seen as is “just another architect” – A commodity positioned at the bottom of the pecking order.

Selling is about power.

Traditionally and logically the buyer has all the power. However, to make winning projects less of a ‘contest' for your fees to become irrelevant, the power must be taken away from the client.

You need to be ‘special’.

Remember a past project where you had a weak position with the client? How did that feel? How well did the project go for you or them?

Not so good, right?

I would suggest that the more power YOU have, the better the project goes for both you and the client. When the expert is running the project the end result is better.

Ok, so where does POWER come from in a selling situation? Not many people ask this question!

One way you gain power is by being a scarce resource, where demand for your services exceeds supply.

There are a lot of boxers but only one Floyd Mayweather.

There are a lot of singers but only one Elvis Presley.

There are a lot of talk show hosts but only one Oprah Winfrey.

The boxer or singer or TV host at the top of the pyramid immediately enters a category of one. The top dogs earn exponentially more.

Now, you may not be the next Thom Mayne or a Norman Foster, but you can raise your status within your community.

In the caveman days, status and power was based on physical prowess. Who is the strongest? Nowadays the physical aspect is no longer relevant but the human need for hierarchy remains.

So how to do clients rank your status within your profession?

The Symbols Of Power

Know this: 90% of clients have no idea how to assess your power and status as an architect, but they secretly need to position you in relation to your peers and competitors.

Let me ask you a question… out of 10 how good of a job did your accountant do for you last financial year?

I'm going to guess nine out of ten people will answer, “I really don’t know.”

We aren't qualified to judge. The client is not usually qualified to judge your design work either, we (non-designers) have no idea. Our expertise is based on TV shows and magazines articles. So if 90% of clients will never know the difference between a powerful high-end architect and an average architect then how can you use this to your advantage?

We look for clues

Yes, we look for superficial symbols of power and status. It's not that we want to but rather we need to, it’s in our DNA.

We like to place everyone on a ladder. Here’s how …

We subconsciously notice if you ‘appear’ to be a generalist or a specialist.

We notice if you have written books/reports/articles and if so we assume you must have status and power.

We notice if you have been interviewed, give speeches/presentations and if so we will value you higher.

We notice if you have any certification or have won awards.

We notice if you command higher prices and if so assume you must be a better designer than the cheaper options.

We notice if you are talked about in magazines/newspapers/radio/TV and if so assume you are sought after and, therefore, are positioned higher than other architects.

Superficial? Oh yes! But accurate.

A friend of mine, David, remarked to me that his architect was “outrageously expensive.”He was not complaining, he was proud and reminding me of his status because he hires a high-status, expensive architect.

Powerful clients want to hire powerful architects. Weak clients will settle for architects lower down the pecking order. That’s human nature.

Moving Up The Pyramid

Celebrities are constantly playing the symbols of power game. Posh will marry Becks and move to Beverly Hills (a real power status suburb in L.A), they will make friends with other powerful people like Tom Cruise. Angelina Jolie will marry an equally high-status actor called Brad Pitt and start a charity to save the world and stay in the limelight.

Obama will travel around in a huge car with an entourage that reflects his status. The Oval Office is dripping with status symbols. Donald Trump will threaten to run for President to become linked with the highest status office in the U.S.

Most perceptions of power are based on assumptions. The symbols of power that surround you are the clues buyers use to rank your value and status.

If you want to improve your projects then surround yourself with the symbols of power. You will attract those who want the high-profile architects.

If you are an Academy member this will be easy because we'll be tailoring pre-built symbols for you to use. If you aren't a member you need to start writing, building and being seen in the right places.

You can learn more about how to apply these strategies in your practice by attending our next free online training. Click here to register.

Here's to your upward status, power and better projects.

Richard Petrie

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