Blog for Building Materials Companies

How Selling Architects Has Changed

  |  Posted in Architects, Sales

How Selling Architects Has Changed

Like many other professionals, architects did most of their work from office buildings or standalone design firms.

And like many other professionals, the pandemic changed the way they did their jobs.

Architects were some of the lucky ones. Since most of their work can be done digitally, they adapted quickly by packing up their desks and working from home. Others hung on as part of small skeleton crews operating out of half-empty office spaces. And they visited job sites.

But it’s not just where they did their jobs that changed. The pandemic also affected their work at a deeper level, including the way they think about building and design.

If you sell building materials, this will affect you as well. When architects change the way they do things, you need to change the way you sell and market to them.

To get a better sense of how you should modify your approach, here are four ways architects have changed since the pandemic.

1. More Than Ever – They Buy and Source Online

Some architects are a bit old-fashioned. They really like tangible things.

They enjoy sketching by hand. They’re fussy about the brand of pencils they use. They will practically lose their minds over an Eames chair. Even the younger ones probably have a small record collection.

That’s why samples can be such a big deal for them. It gives them something to hold in their hands, to feel, to hold up to the light and examine. It helps them get a sense of your product that they couldn’t get from reading through the spec sheet.

As much as they love those physical products, no architect can resist the convenience of doing things online. And that’s especially the case since many of them have gone fully remote.

Swatchbox is a company that specializes in getting samples into the hands of architects in today’s digital world. You should check them out if your sample program isn’t best in class.

Your samples are only part of the picture. To get your product specified, you also need to make it easy for architects to learn about it and compare it to the alternatives – without ever stepping away from their laptops.

To do that, you have to make sure all the information they’ll need is online and easy to find. Not just product pages, but guides, blog posts, and product comparison pages.

If you have those already, great. Work on your SEO and content to make them even easier to discover. There are more and more influencers on YouTube that many architects follow. Find the influencers in your product category and get them to talk about your product.

Put your marketing team to work. Redesign your site. Create lots of content – more than you think you need. Become a one-stop shop for anyone looking to learn about your product category and make informed product choices.

This is an area where a smaller company can outperform and larger one. It’s not about how much money you can spend, its about sharing your knowledge and expertise.

Architects will do their own research, which means you should do whatever you can to help them. Providing them with the information they need and making it easy to find, will make them more likely to seriously consider your products.

2. They’re Working Remotely

By now, you may be back in the office. But many architects aren’t.

Some firms have embraced remote work in a very serious way. They’ve even cast a wider net, hiring talent from around the world instead of sticking to a local area.

By now, you’re also used to selling virtually. If you’re selling to architects, you need to keep that on the front burner. Make sure you keep putting a lot of resources into remote selling, especially with firms that are sourcing their talent from around the globe.

In-person selling is coming back, sure. It’s just not going to give you as much reach when so many architects are still working from the spare room in their sweatpants. You need a sales strategy that makes those remote architects feel like they’re a priority, not an afterthought.

Make sure you look as professional as possible on virtual sales calls with a good camera, lighting, sound, and background.

3. They Specialize

Successful architects specialize in a type of building or construction. There are architects who specialize in hotels, airports, movie theaters, and convenience stores. There are over 300 types of buildings.

You need to know the types of buildings where your product offers a clear benefit. Identify the leading architectural firms for this type of building and put them at the top of your prospect list.

When you can talk about the type of building they design as well as your product, you rise above the competition.

Instead of going to the AIA Show, go to a show for that type of building. You’ll have less competition. Not only will the architects be at that show, but the owners and general contractors will also be there.

Many companies tell me they can’t reach owners or general contractors, this is how to get in front of them. And when you take this approach you are much less likely to get value engineered off of the project.

4. They’re More Likely to Be Doing Contract Work

Decoupling themselves from physical office spaces gave architectural firms an opportunity to experiment. Many of them started hiring lean, relying not just on a stable pool of full-time architects but also on professionals they could tap on demand.

Lots of architects still show up at the same desk every weekday. But more and more, you’ll find yourself dealing with freelancers, contractors, and consultants.

Those architects aren’t a permanent part of the companies they work for. They might not even put in full-time hours for them. But that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. Many of them are highly skilled, sought after, and have a surprising amount of influence over the company’s big decision-makers.

Never underestimate the importance of selling to these people. They might come and go, but they could still have the final say over product decisions.

Plus, the fact that they move from company to company can be an advantage to you. If you win them over, they can recommend or specify your products with client after client.

Just remember that they also don’t have the same incentives as full-time employees. They have a shorter span of time to impress their clients, so they’re willing to try things that are a little more bold and forward-thinking.

They’re always thinking of the next project. Without a permanent job, they need to keep getting hired over and over again. They’ll be looking for suppliers that can help them build an eye-catching portfolio, not just a reliable output of projects that all sort of look the same.

If you have products that can help them stand out, use that to get their attention.

Keep Getting Specified

Some things haven’t changed, even with the pandemic.

Architects still want room to be creative while making sure their clients are pleased.

It’s still true that there are two kinds of architects: the left-brained ones who zero in on product performance and the right-brained ones who place a lot of importance on aesthetics.

But a lot of things are different now, and your sales and marketing strategy needs to keep up.

The good news is that all the ways you adapted to the pandemic should improve your success with architects. If you’ve already embraced virtual selling and improved digital presence, don’t stop improving.

And if you haven’t yet, it’s time to start. It’s still not too late to shift and meet the changing needs of architects, – but it soon will be.

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About The Author

I am the leading sales growth consultant in the building materials industry, I identify the blind spots that enable building materials companies to grow their sales and retain more customers.  As I am not an ad agency, my recommendations are focused on your sales growth and not my future income.

My mission is to help building materials companies be the preferred supplier of their customers and to turn those customers into their best salespeople. Contact me to discuss your situation.