Substituting Building Material Products
Substituting building material products prior to bid is an important responsibility of the sales team of any building material manufacturer. No matter how effective a salesman is in marketing to architects, it is impossible for him to know all the players involved in writing specifications in an architect’s office on each and every project. In a majority of projects, the architect wants substitution requests prior to bid, because the owner is interested in receiving bids to obtain the lowest price/best value. Additionally, after a bid, it is easier to close sales with a subcontractor, distributor, or general contractor if a salesman’s product is listed in the specification.
When a salesman’s product is not listed in the specifications, what is the best plan to become listed? There are effective practices to this process. Here’s what I suggest.
How to submit a substitution prior to bid
- Make the substitution request at least two weeks in advance of the bid date to allow sufficient time for the architect to review the submittal. It is normally more effective to send the request directly to the project architect. Some architects will not review products prior to bid for any number of reasons, but there is normally a better chance for a response from an architect than a general contractor. The closer the relationship a salesman has with the architect, the better the chance of a response and/or approval to be listed. If the salesman is a trusted advisor, the chance for approval is the highest.
- Respect the architect’s work and work load. Make a complete submittal with the substitution request to clearly demonstrate that your product is truly equal to the design standard of one of the products listed in the specification. It should be clear and concise so the architect can review it in a reasonable amount of time. Use the form provided in the specification if there is one. If there is not, use the standard AIA form in the General Requirements, normally in Section 01600. It is not practical in many cases to meet the specification item for item, but the submittal must clearly demonstrate that the submitted product fully meets the intent of the specification.
- Be aware of the type of specification when preparing the substitution request. Whether it is a proprietary, performance, or open specification, submit the substitution request accordingly. If it is a closed specification, do not make a submittal. Any substitution should be made after the bid.
- Assemble a complete standard submittal package that can be modified to fit the specifics of the job for the sake of efficiency.
- Review addenda to check if your product becomes listed. If your product is not listed in an addendum, contact the project architect by telephone or email one week prior to the bid to check on the status of the substitution review process and to ask if there are any questions or clarifications needed.
- A bid can still be submitted when the architects’ office or the project specifications state there will be no product reviews prior to the bid if the salesman and the manufacturer believe their product is truly equal. There are many reasons a request for substitution does not result in a product being listed in the specification, but the bid becomes less risky the closer the relationship the salesman has with the architect.
It is worth noting that a specification using the term “or equal” can cause confusion prior to a bid, because of how the term is interpreted by different parties. A substitution submittal should still be made when there is an “or equal” clause to assure that your manufacturers’ product is considered “equal” by the architect.
In addition to providing a salesman with the best chance to be successful in bidding a project, the substitution process also has other advantages for the salesman and his manufacturer.
Advantages of Taking Action In A Substitution Process
- Each substitution request is another valuable contact with the architect to present your manufacturers’ product. If your product is used on the project, it also demonstrates customer acceptance of your manufacturer and product.
- It demonstrates professionalism and helps you move closer to becoming a trusted advisor to the project architect.
- It moves your manufacturer and product one step closer to being listed in future specifications and possibly becoming a design standard.
If you need more information on this subject or need ideas concerning how your sales force can be more successful selling to architects, contact me today. Helping other construction materials salespeople achieve their professional goals is my specialty.