Strong Personal Relationships Are Key to Closing More Architectural Sales
A strong personal relationship is one in which the customer fully trusts and likes the architectural sales representative (ASR), whether they are a direct hire employee or an independent manufacturers’ representative. The customer is interested in a partnership that is equally valuable to him and to the manufacturer the ASR represents. For any product or group of products, the customer is willing to give most or all his business to that manufacturer.
There is a perception today among many in the commercial architectural products market place that personal relationships in selling are less important today than in years past. Information is available to architects and other specifying influences on the web as well as through LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media. Buying customers can place orders directly with manufactures. There is a wide spread feeling that most customers just buy on lowest price.
However, personal relationships are as important in architectural sales today as they have ever been. In many ways, they are more important because of increased competition. The old adage that people deal with and buy from people they trust and like is still a selling truth. What has changed is an architectural sales representative today must be more thorough and persistent to determine which architects write tight specifications for equal products and which end customers truly value personal relationships and will purchase the highest value products and services.
Although price has a strong influence on any buying decision, a manufacturer’s product quality, warranties, customer service, after-sale service, and sales relationships are also critical elements in determining perceived value. Perceived value is the balance between price and the benefits of a product. Perceived value is truly the basis for most customer buying decisions. It is the architectural sales representative with his detailed technical product knowledge and strong personal relationships with both architects/engineers (A/E) and buying customers, who can clearly communicate product value that can optimize a manufacturer’s sales.
How does an ASR determine if an A/E or buying customer considers a strong personal relationship important in making design or buying decisions?
- They are interested in the total package of sales and services provided. This total package includes thorough company and product knowledge, support during and after the sale, the willingness and effort to exceed expectations, and, of course, the price. They understand the price may not be the lowest in the marketplace but trust it is competitive.
- They value honesty and integrity.
- They work toward a “win/win,” solution when a problem occurs.
- They express interest in becoming a strategic, valued partner.
- They are interested in the life of the ASR – including family information, business background, hobbies, etc. – and also want to share the same information about themselves. To build upon this relationship, they enjoy lunches, a factory visit, and other entertainment as time permits. They look for opportunities to see how an ASR acts outside the daily business environment. This helps them develop a high level of trust in the ASR. They depend on the ASR to be a trusted consultant when they have specific product or general industry questions.
The blog next month will explain how the architectural sales representative can develop and strengthen personal relationships with both architects/engineers and the buying customers who write the purchase orders.