untitled1-300x230With the UK construction industry strengthening we have been asked by a few of our clients how they go about recruiting more sales staff. Identifying a candidate with the myriad of skills required to specification sell is a challenge.

When recruiting an established Specification Salesperson you will expect him or her to have a network of Specifier contacts. Candidates should be asked to provide examples of projects secured, volume of product, profitability, who they dealt with and the tactics used to secure projects.

One way to identify suitable candidates is to ask architects or contractors if they can suggest any good Specification Salesman that they deal with from other manufacturers. These can then be headhunted. Be aware that if he or she has been working with a different category of product their existing network of contacts may not be relevant to your company.  And because of the long duration a lack of relevant contacts may take time to become apparent.

Alternatively, consider deploying an existing employee, developing them into a Specification Sales role. In this way you have someone who’s technical, interpersonal and self-management skills are already known. Developing their skills will often carry less risk and cost less than external recruitment.

Many Specification Salespeople start their career in non-sales roles in the construction sector. This early experience gives them relevant technical and industry knowledge, which they can use to good effect when selling.

What makes a good specification salesperson?

Although we are talking about the recruitment of a salesperson, specification selling is about business development first and selling second. Skills can be grouped into three broad categories:

Technical knowhow

What specifiers want is technical information and advice; they want to deal with a manufacturer or supplier who can provide good quality, comprehensive information on demand.
Therefore training your new recruit is important. You need to ensure they are fully informed about your construction products. Equally you should encourage them to have a thorough understanding of the construction industry. This can also be achieved through regular training, as well as encouraging them to attending industry events and reading the technical press.

Your specification salespersons should be able to:

  • Understands the design and construction process
  • Understand each project and demonstrate relevant product benefits
  • Answer 80% of product questions immediately

Self – management

Unlike an office-based role a sales role can be lonely and difficult; to succeed the salesman needs to be self-motivated. A bad day on your own suffering a series of knock-backs is very difficult. Perseverance (and good support from the company) is needed to maintain the drive and enthusiasm to continue.

Your specification salespersons should be able to:

  • Use time effectively for maximum leverage – focusing on the key opportunities
  • Understand the relationships within the project team and who the decision makers are
  • Be patience and have the organisational skills to monitor a project from beginning to end
  • Research organisation backgrounds to ensure they attend meetings fully prepared

Interpersonal skills

Good interpersonal skills are required to build close relationships with members of the project team, gathering and exchanging information about the project. The specification salesperson requires good communication skills, both on a one-to-one basis and in group presentations (i.e. a technical seminar). They need to have a fact finding attitude to identify opportunities. They also need the patience to be involved from the start of a project until its completion. Monitoring progress and influencing the Decision Making Unit.

Your specification salespersons should be able to demonstrate:

  • Good questioning and listening skills, together with a problem-solving attitude
  • Good communication skills, at a one-to-one level as well as in group presentations
  • They can speak the specifiers’ language and reflect the personality of the contact
  • Enthusiasm and self-motivation
  • An understanding of decision making process and how to influence it
  • An ability to maximise opportunities by effectively researching projects and organisations


Good product knowledge is a very important sales skill. Of almost equal importance is an understanding of the construction industry, including contractual relationships, the roles of the different members of the construction team and knowledge of the legislation.

Specifiers do not want to be sold to:

  • They want to deal with technically competent people
  • Design advice – on demand, accurate and reliable
  • An ongoing relationships not a project selling approach

You also need your sales person to have the self-motivation and discipline to manage their workload efficiently. You need to ensure they have the skills and tools to monitor the market, build a network of contacts, develop customer strategies and so become the Trusted Advisor.

Further Information

Whether you are recruiting an established specification salesperson or are developing your existing staff we have a number of training opportunities that can help.
Our training topics include:

  • Understanding the specification process
  • Understanding the Construction Industry
  • Marketing in the Construction Industry
  • Construction Industry Sales Skills
  • Delivering effective CPD

Find out more

We can also work with you in developing an effective specification strategy. Please contact us for more information. We are happy to chat with you to review your requirements and for you to decide if you are happy to work with us.
Tel: 01276 503539 or email talk@cadvantage.co.uk


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