Ten Keys for Success Selling Commercial Construction Products to Architects
What defines success for a manufacturer’s product representative who is selling to architects? Success is when a product representative is accepted as a trusted consultant and his manufacturer’s products are included in an architect’s specification as the standard of design.
Architects and their consulting engineers are important members of the team that is hired by a building owner to complete a project to meet a specific set of needs. Although architects do not write purchase orders, manufacturers of construction products must call on them to be sure their products are included in the building specifications.
A Product Representative’s 10 Key Concepts for Selling to Architects
(These concepts also apply to selling to engineers.)
- Do your Research. For a first call on a particular architect’s office, learn as much as possible about the firm. Sources for information include the architect’s website, general contractors, subcontractors, and other architects. How is the office organized to handle design projects? Are they organized by design studio or by project? Does the architect have a particular clientele or type of work they pursue, or do they design for a wide variety of clients? Is a specific person designated to meet with product representatives, or is this the responsibility of each project manager?
- Be the Expert. Be technically knowledgeable about your product, industry, and competition. Use project photos and a list of local projects completed by your manufacturer as appropriate. Be prepared to answer an architect’s questions concerning product benefits, specifications, detail questions and pricing relative to competition. If it becomes necessary to check your manufacturer for an answer, provide it in a timely manner.
- Show Respect. Many manufacturers have a negative opinion of architects. They are described as “different,” fixed in their opinions, and in many other ways just frustrating. Product representatives need to recognize architects as hard working people with a job to do for their clients. Architecture is often a difficult and challenging profession. The architect is responsible for selecting all the varied products that are required to construct a building. They must design and detail the building and work with the rest of the building team to complete the project in a manner that provides the architect’s client with the value promised. For the architect to do his job, he needs professional, knowledgeable product representatives from a broad spectrum of manufacturers. Respect can go a long way in establishing strong personal relationships with architects.
4. Assist with Specifications. Understand how the specifications are generated. Is there a specification writer? Are the specifications generated from an office specification by the project manager and production team? Assist by asking to review the office specification or a specification for a specific project. This provides an opportunity to verify that your manufacturer is included as equal or – better yet – as the design standard. Suggestions can be made to the architect as to how the specification can be strengthened to assure competitive, fair bidding. Assist the architect in writing the type of specification he wants. Do not include features that limit competition unless specifically requested by the architect.
5. Be Thoughtful of an Architect’s Time. Make appointments for most in-person sales calls. It demonstrates respect for an architect’s time. Balance the use of personal sales calls, telephone calls, and emails to properly serve the architect’s needs. Record a summary of each important architectural contact in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
6. Build the Relationship. Offer lunch-and- learn presentations, including those for education points. Encourage attendance by designers, specifiers, and other staff involved in production and project management. Although architects are very busy, use every opportunity to take key architects for lunch, golf, or other appropriate entertainment activities. Take this time to make connections on a personal level and develop a strong personal relationship. A strong personal relationship is important in becoming a trusted product consultant for an architect.
7. Be Thoughtful of an Architect’s Time. Make appointments for most in-person sales calls. It demonstrates respect for an architect’s time. Balance the use of personal sales calls, telephone calls, and emails to properly serve the architect’s needs. Record a summary of each important architectural contact in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
8. Review Bid Documents. When projects come out for bid, review the specification and critical drawing details. If there are important modifications that should be made, send a brief email to the architect providing suggestions for additions or modifications for the project bidding as well as future projects. This must be done judiciously.
9. Follow Up. When working with an architect, whether in drawing details or in writing a specification, and a reasonable period of time has passed since the architect last discussed the project with you, follow up to check if any additional information or assistance is needed. This is important to be sure your manufacture is included in the specification. Email follow-up normally works well, but learn how an architect prefers to be contacted.
10. Be Patient. From the time a product representative first initiates a conversation with an architect for a specific project to the time the project goes to bid and an order is received from an end customer may take months or years. Selling to and working with architects requires long-term thinking. By selling to architects, a product representative is creating a backlog of projects that will bid in the future. These projects will have a high probability for closing a sale with an end customer, because your manufacturer will be included as a standard of design or at least listed among a limited group of acceptable manufacturers.
Selling to architects is a critical aspect of a manufacturer’s sales and marketing program. A manufacturer with a team of architectural sales professionals will generate higher and more profitable sales volume.