Thanks for the comments, Lucky and Stefan.
Stefan: In response to your question, I think, in competition for work, the virtual company relies heavily upon the business development skills, personal network, and professional reputation of its leadership. If clients trust your design sense and judgement, and you can show a track record of successful completion of projects, the virtual firm may be an easier sell.
In terms of gaining exposure and finding new clients, I have a feeling that leaders of virtual companies will spend a majority of their time on the road, meeting lots and lots of people at conferences and smaller industry gatherings.
For kickoff meetings, design reviews, and the like, I’ve found that it’s not too difficult to make your virtual team a “real” one for a few days, assembling on site at a client location. Going to the client, rather than making them come to you, is often seen as a value-added service.
You’re right in that the sales cycle is complicated for the virtual company, and that some people will not be comfortable hiring a firm with no physical headquarters. But, I have a feeling that, over time, this fear of the virtual will abate, as business decision makers get used to the idea of the long hallway.
Does anyone else have insight into this from a sales perspective? Has anyone won, or lost an account specifically because their team was virtual?