Becoming a Trusted Advisor

(Article 4 of the series on “Becoming an Independent Manufacturers’ Rep who Develops Specifications with Architects and Engineers”)   The term “trusted advisor” is a catchy phrase used in many business environments. Yet how do you know one when you see one? As noted by the article, “What Does a Trusted Advisor Look Like?” a trusted advisor can be identified by these characteristics: Someone looking for a long-term relationship, not short-term gain; Someone who puts clients’ interests in front of their own; Someone who is genuinely interested in their clients and their businesses; Someone who works hard to understand a client’s underlying interests not just surface “wants”; Someone who is reliable – does what he or she says he or she will do; Someone who is credible; Someone who gets up close and personal; Someone who connects emotionally; Someone who is genuinely passionate and enthusiastic; Someone who is authentic. These characteristics apply directly to a trusted advisor who is working with an A/E. For a manufacturers’ representative, becoming a trusted advisor takes time and a focus on being a consultant and problem solver, not simply a sales person. After decades of experience in the construction industry, I have found the following steps are required to become an A/E’s trusted advisor. Answer an architect’s questions clearly and in a timely manner. If you do not know the answer, check with an appropriate source. Give the architect the final answer when promised. When calling to offer design or specification assistance on a particular project, do your best to make the contact at the right stage of the project. A/E’s are very busy and often under time constraints to complete specifications. Some A/E’s accept telephone calls, but most often the initial contact should be made by email. Keep the A/E up-to-date with information about new products or changes to existing products through social media and emails. Do not flood them with constant communication. Keep communication concise and timely. Link your company website to the websites of the manufacturers you represent. Keep the manufacturers you represent limited to one or at most two Divisions of the specifications. The A/E needs to learn and understand what technical areas you can assist with, so he knows when to call for consultation with you. Provide educational lunches and seminars at appropriate times. Get to know an architect personally by spending short times during personal visits to talk about family, hobbies, etc. Entertain the A/E as appropriate. Becoming a trusted advisor might sound intimidating, but it’s doable with thoughtful effort. With this understood, it leads us to our last question, addressed in Article 5, “How does an independent manufacturers’ rep assist architects with specification writing?”  Questions so...

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When should an A/E be contacted to offer specification assistance?

(Article 3 of the series on “Becoming an Independent Manufacturers’ Rep who Develops Specifications with Architects and Engineers”)   It is important to understand the complete design process and how construction documents are developed to understand when the architect or engineer (A/E) needs to be contacted by an independent manufacturers’ rep to offer specification assistance. A very simplified description of the design process is comprised of the following phases: Schematic Design – a client’s design objectives are discussed. Alternative approaches to design and construction are developed. Design Development – constructability and integration of products and systems become defined. Construction Documents – final architectural drawings and specifications are developed. The specifications are written during this phase. Often the A/E will call a trusted advisor rep if he needs specification assistance. If he does not, or if a rep is not well established with a particular A/E office, a challenge for a rep is when to make contact to offer assistance for a particular product a rep is working to get specified. The timing depends partially on the type of product. If the product is highly technical or if it is important to the aesthetics, constructability, and final performance of the project, it normally will be necessary for the rep to introduce his product during the design phase. Although the specification will not be written until the later construction documents, the product must be incorporated into the project design for the rep to be asked to help with the specifications. If the product does not meet the criteria above, such as a commodity type product, the appropriate time to offer specification assistance is during the construction document phase. With this understood, it leads us to our next question, addressed in Article 4, “How does an independent manufacturers’ rep for architectural products become a trusted advisor?” Questions so far? Scott Lau Consulting is ready to be a trusted advisor for you. Contact Scott...

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