If you call on architects and you aren’t satisfied with your sales growth, maybe you need to rethink your approach.
You probably take the same approach as your competitors:
- Invest heavily in reaching architects with sales calls, lunch & learns, trade shows, advertising, case histories and more.
- Get specified, which in most cases means you are one of several “or equal” solutions.
- Spend more time trying to defend the spec and keep it from being “value engineered” out of a sale while you are waiting months until the product is ordered.
This approach favors larger companies that have more salespeople, bigger marketing budgets and a sizeable market share. It also favors companies with sales people who are focused on architectural sales.
What I see are companies that want to grow their sales and think architectural specifications are the only way to do it.
It’s like there’s an imaginary rulebook that says you have to focus on architects if you want to make a sale.
A Contrarian Approach
If you aren’t satisfied with the results you are getting by focusing on architects, consider this:
Just How Important Is the Architect?
The role of the architect is changing. Rather than designing buildings from the ground up, they are more likely to take previous designs and update them.
If their client is going to build a new hotel in Kansas City, they will base it on the one they built last year in Columbus. There is also a generally accepted idea of how certain buildings, like office buildings, should be designed.
To get these projects, the architect doesn’t have the luxury of thinking through all of the details. If a product has worked well in the past, chances are they will cut and paste the specs for the same product into the new design.
This is not the fault of the architect, this is just the world they live in today.
On some projects and with some types of products, selling the architect is still very important. This is especially true with products that are chosen more for their appearance than their performance.
The Owner/Developer, Facilities Manager, and Occupant Are Becoming More Important
Building owners, developers, facilities managers and occupants are all taking a more active role in the design and the details of their buildings.
If your product benefits these people, contacting them directly is likely to get you better results.
Some of the benefits these customers are looking for:
- Faster project completion time
- Reduced maintenance or operational costs
- Longer service life
- Occupant satisfaction
- Overlooked features such as sound control
- Lower costs
If these customers like what your product can do for them, they can get you specfifed.
Be the “Value Engineering” Expert
It’s not enough to be in the spec. Companies that are already in the spec are value engineered out of sales on a daily basis.
If so many sales are lost to value engineering, why not be the company that is gaining most of those lost sales?
Value engineering sometimes means using lower cost or cheaper products. But general contractors are also looking beyond product costs. If your product can be installed faster or with less labor, that is also a type of value engineering. If your company and supplier are easier to deal with or provide other support that benefits the GC, that’s also value engineering.
Most companies focus on the architect until the product is specified. Then they reach out to the contractor, who may have more experience and a stronger relationship with their competition.
I rarely hear about an architect defending a spec, and I always hear how a contractor will switch the spec.
Stop Following the Leader
In each product category, there are a few companies that dominate in architectural sales. Think of them as major league teams. If you’re competing with them and can’t match their sales and marketing resources, you’re at a disadvantage.
Your sales will probably grow faster if you stop following the leader and go around them by focusing on the owners and contractors instead.
Even the leaders can’t afford to effectively cover architects, owners and contractors. They’re focusing on architects, which means they’re leaving these other customers open to you.
Architects Continue to Be Less Important
The industry and the financial community have woken up to the amount of waste and inefficiency in construction.
Every day, more buildings are being designed and built faster, cheaper and better.
A few architectural firms are actively engaged in this shift but most of them play a supporting role where they are told what to do.
Owners like Marriot, contractors like Skender and companies like Katerra, Z Modular, FullStack Modular and others will be making more of the product decisions, based on a new set of criteria.
If you make the shift away from architects today, you will be ahead of your competitors. Eventually, they’ll be the ones who will have to follow you.
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