For many products, like commercial roofing, the repair/replacement market is a larger opportunity than new construction. The facilities manager is a key but very challenging audience you need to reach. Here’s what you need to know about facilities managers in order to be successful in the commercial repair replacement market.
6 Challenges Facilities Managers Face.
1. A facilities manager is typically responsible for a number of buildings. For example, a college facilities manager is responsible for all of the buildings on campus.
2. Each building has thousands of products and systems that need to be maintained and replaced as they age. It’s impossible for anyone to be an expert in all of these areas.
3. The facilities manager is also responsible for services such as janitorial, snow removal and more.
4. They are often understaffed and overworked.
5. They strive to lower their costs and get more done with a smaller budget.
6. If they are successful and there are no problems, they are invisible, which can put more pressure on their budgets. “If there are no problems, you must not need as much money.”
These challenges can lead to projects being delayed past when they should be completed. This can mean expensive emergency repairs that may only be temporary fixes, causing facility managers to pay twice, once to fix it fast and again to fix it right.
How Does The Facilities Manager Survive?
He relies on contractors. He knows that half of a project is labor and half is the product. He also knows that the labor half is where the problems usually arise.
1. He wants to deal with the person who can fix the problem.
2. He knows that he is a more important customer to the contractor than he ever will be to the manufacturer.
For the most part, he trusts his contractor to recommend the best solution.
What You Can Do?
Realize that the facilities manager is overwhelmed with issues. He has to have a degree of knowledge about many products. He probably has a lot of experience in a few areas. If he sees himself as an expert in roofing, he’s probably less of an expert in HVAC or plumbing.
By experts, I mean people who are up to date on the latest advancements and can specify a product to their contractor. These are smart, experienced people; there are just too many areas than any one person, or even department, can keep up with.
I recently spent a few weeks visiting facilities managers and discussing how building product manufacturers could be most valuable to them.
Here’s what they told me:
1. If they don’t ask about Green, sustainable, environmental or solar, they’re not interested. Decisions about these areas are made by people above them, and the facilities manager is not going to push for the change.
2. They want to be educated. They realize they can’t keep up with all the advancements in products and systems. They will come to seminars you offer, and if you do it internally for them, they will want their staff can attend.
They would really like to ask their contractor better questions about the contractor’s proposed solution. They know contractors are resistant to change and are probably not going to bring them a new solution.
3. They are interested in cost. Not only a lower product cost but also the installed cost and the life cycle cost of your solution. If your product has a higher initial installed cost but a lower life-cycle cost, give them the evidence and case histories to convince the owner to make the investment.
4. They need you to convince their contractors. If the preferred contractor doesn’t want to use your product or doesn’t like your company or your distributor, you won’t make the sale.
One last point is that facilities managers respect each other. If you are successful in converting the facilities manager of a large, well known institution, you can use that as a very convincing case history with other facility managers.
The facilities manager of a large Midwestern university insisted that my client’s very high-end product always be used. My client used that to convert many other facilities managers.
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Thanks for the following comments. I’d like to hear your feedback and suggestions on how to sell facilities managers.
“Mark, Great Article, I would add that you always need to get a clear understanding where the funds for the purchase are coming from, is it operations money or capital improvement money? That sometimes clarifies if the facilities manager is making the decision, or making a recommendation to a higher authority.”
Roth, A Sodexo Company
National Sales Executive / Roofing Division /New Business Development Team
“So true! Building managers are a strong buying influence as to what materials go into their buildings. They are the one’s who have to live with the buying decisions.”
Tom Crewdson, Regional Sales Manager, Smoke Guard