NBS have just published their latest Specification Survey and it provides some invaluable information about the evolving specification process as well as some clues for improving specification sales activity. Here are a few points for you to think about.

Get involved in projects at an early stage

An important finding is that specification creation is starting earlier in a project’s life, developing out of the briefing document. That means that the specification salesman needs to be involved at this stage influencing the architects and if possible the client. At the very least involvement is needed at the concept design stage, when 37% of the 229 respondents to the survey said they start to write the specification. However this is just one of a number of touch points, as 74% say they write or modify the specification at development design stage and 91% during technical design stage.

Understand how types of specification influence product choice

In my training I explain that the type of specification an architect uses is determined by a number of factors and may even vary on the same project. This is confirmed by the research which reports that 81% of specifiers use different types of specification (performance, descriptive, proprietary) for different types of project. It also shows that 69% use generic product specifications. This surprises me as I would have expected most architects to use these when the circumstances were right. NBS point out the hazard of re-using specifications as they may not be accurate and up to date. Of course their solution is for the specifier to use the NBS service. Another alternative would be to ask a sales man they trust to review the specification . This is an opportunity to make sure your products have a good chance of being selected.

NBS identify a trend to use more performance specifications (2011: 80%, 2012: 61%, 2013: 75%) my own opinion is that the type of specification used is driven more by the contract types being worked on and the type of products specified.

Help architects specify your product correctly

A fact that most people involved in the specification process already know is that architects re-use their specifications, thanks to the miracle of cut and paste. In this survey this habit is quantified with 75% of specifiers saying that they re-use specifications (significantly higher than a RIBA survey of a few years ago). But importantly, 71% said they collect information from manufacturers and 52% ask manufacturers to write specifications for them. So it is important to offer a comprehensive range of information, including standard specifications. This also shows how important the service of a specification salesman offering to review a specification is to the architect. Something you should be doing on a regular basis. The need for this service is further supported by the research which shows that 87% of respondents have experienced difficulty when producing or using specifications. Typical problems include the drawing and specification contradicting each other (52%), inaccurate or incomplete technical data (49%) necessary clauses omitted (30%). So get out there and help those architects to specify your products correctly!


NBS are to be congratulated for making useful information of this nature freely available, so why not take advantage of it and download the full report NBS Specification Survey 2013 and make sure you are up to speed on the latest developments. For my part I will be updating my training module “The Specification Process” which forms part of the Specification Strategy series, available as an in-house training course or as an open course. If you want to develop your company’s specification strategy then contact us for more details.




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