Becoming a Preferred Product Representative
A significant challenge for a representative of architectural construction materials is satisfying the needs of many different customers. Your objective is becoming a preferred product representative for each of them. These customers include architects and engineers who specify your products; general contractors, construction managers and subcontractors who purchase your products; and your manufacturers’ marketing and customer service departments that provide you sales support. We will look at how you can work effectively with each of these customer groups to become preferred.
Architects and Engineers (A/E)
Although every customer is important, for the architectural construction materials representative, this group requires the most attention and service. If architectural products are not included in the s, the opportunity to receive a purchase order from your end customer is significantly reduced. For most products that you represent, the A/E’s should demand 40% – 50% of your time.
Here is a summary of the keys for satisfying your A/E’s:
- Understand needs and personalities
- Provide solutions, not just technical product knowledge
- Develop strong personal relationships
- Become a trusted advisor
- Be professional
- Respond to questions and concerns on a timely basis
- Respect their time
General Contractors, Construction Managers, and Subcontractors
You have worked diligently with the A/E customer group to get your product specified. Now you must provide customer service and product bids to general contractors, construction managers, and subcontractors in order to receive a purchase order. There are numerous challenges in satisfying the needs of this group. For these businesses, their priority is to receive quotes that help them close a contract for a project that optimizes their profit and strengthens their relationship with their clients. Even if your products are listed in the specifications, or even if they are the basis of design, these customers may not use your price.
Here are the keys to satisfying the needs of general contractors, construction managers, and subcontractors—and therefore closing more projects:
- A person-to-person relationship is still critical to sales success. These customers work with the product representatives they respect and with whom they enjoy working. Your product price is only one component required to close a sale. Develop strong personal relationships with your key customers in this group to close more sales.
- This group of customers is likely to be large. Divide them into key, second level, and third level customers. Focus on the key customers. The Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) holds true with this group. Approximately 80% of your orders will come from only about 20% of your customers.
- Be professional. You will not get every order. Learn from each quote and personal contact to build your understanding of each customer’s needs.
- Offer your most competitive price on each project, but more importantly sell solutions to their needs and problems. Promote the benefits of your product and personal service to build value in their minds.
- Follow up after shipments to be sure your products arrived as promised and your customer is fully satisfied.
- Because of the large number of projects that are quoted, there is often a long period of time between purchase orders. Continue to periodically stay in touch with either a short visit (always make an appointment), a brief telephone call, an email, or a text.
Manufacturers’ Marketing and Customer Support Departments
This is often a forgotten group of customers by architectural materials representatives. You are calling on customers, making quotes, and closing orders every day. Every day is a busy, but this support team at the factory is an important cog if you intend to optimize your time and sales effort. They need your attention. Manufacturers’ marketing and customer support departments provide quotes, handle order processing, assist in solving customer service problems, and provide a professional, friendly attitude when one of your customers calls the factory for assistance. Here are the keys to properly serving this group of your customers.
- Treat them as professionals and as a valuable part of your sales team. No matter how serious a problem or situation you might be discussing, stay calm – do not raise your voice!
- Understand and believe that they are doing the best job that they can do. Mistakes will be made, because a person is not accomplishing anything if they are not making mistakes. Many problems you and this team face together are more than likely due to the operating processes that each manufacture has in place to carry out the sales function. If anyone on this support team is not doing their job, it is up to their manager to take appropriate action.
- Have fun together. You are both very busy, so keep personal discussions brief. At the same time, learn about their family and share their good times and bad times. Build a personal relationship with each team member.
- Provide suggestions when they ask for your help to solve situations with either customers or others on the factory team.
If you continue to create new ways to improve your service to all groups of customers, your sales will grow, you will prosper, and you will enjoy selling
For more information on becoming a preferred product representative, contact Scott Lau Consulting today.