To assume that the contractor is insisting on using the cheapest product available is far from the reality. There are many influences on product choice. The specification salesman must create demand, reduce the importance of price and transfer influence away from the supply chain to the manufacturer.

In this blog article we review the tools available to the specification salesman in achieving this.

1. Technical advice is the key reason for a specifier to have a relationship with a manufacturer. If the manufacturer has an in-house advice service this will encourage enquiries and build the manufacturer’s reputation. Often enquiries received can give early notification of a new project and a common failing is for the technical advisers to answer enquiries without establishing what other product opportunities exist, or even failing to gather details of the project. Each enquiry needs to be turned into a hot sales lead for further development by the Specification Salesman.

2. Samples represent another important sales tool. A request for a sample is an indication that the product is being considered for a project. A second request may mean that it is being put forward for approval. Supporting specifiers with samples is an opportunity to build the relationship as well as following up a potential sale. The relationship can be further developed by offering to visit practices to review and update samples, removing any that are out of date or surplus to requirements. Such a visit will also provide a valuable insight into the competitor products being considered by the specifier.

3. CPD seminars are an effective tool for creating a new relationship or enhancing an existing one with a practice.
Most professionals are required to complete 35 hours of CPD (Continuing Professional Development) each year.  CPD seminars are a proactive way to introduce your company and demonstrate technical competence. This has the benefit of meeting many specifiers at one time and can often end with a discussion about a specific project. But to be effective the seminar should have good impartial technical content, be approved by one of the certification bodies and be well presented.

4. Visits and networking is an important way of staying in touch and keeping a visible profile. Attending industry events gives you an understanding of the challenges our specifiers face and the topics that are of concern to them. It is also an opportunity to re-establish current contacts and make new ones. As with industry events, scheduled visits can also provide an opportunity for greater understanding of the challenges facing the specifier, but on a more individual basis, giving the opportunity to provide bespoke solutions.

5. Technical literature is an important item for your sales portfolio. In this day and age though it does not need to be just an expensive printed brochure, which requires storage and which quickly falls out-of-date. Today there are many channels that can be used to communicate your product information, starting with your website and an online brochure, or by the production of a short video for YouTube or images on Flickr or Pinterest, or indeed an App. There are many opportunities to be creative with how you provide your technical product information, making it accessible in many formats and formats that customer friendly, up-datable and cost-effective.

6. Standard specification clauses provide a means of saving the specifier time and ensuring that a product is correctly described. With thought these can also be written to minimise the opportunity for specifications to be switched. Companies can create their own clauses, or work with organisations like NBS who will promote product specifications as part of their service to specifiers.

7. Sales leads – detailing the stages of a project from outline planning approval to completion are an important sales tool. However they tend to be underused by many companies. Typically an organisation will receive details of a new project and immediately contact the specifier. Often the timing is wrong and the specifier is not ready to discuss that particular product. More critical is the fact that most of the companies subscribing to such services will be making contact at the same time. Consequently the specifier will be inundated and will not be receptive to calls.

Project data can be used more effectively to segment the market and identify those specifiers regularly working on the type of project of interest to the company. These should then be targeted for relationship building. If this has been done effectively the sales lead notifying a new project will merely confirm what is already known.

In a similar way project data can be used to build a picture of relationships between Client, Architect and Contractor indicating which companies tend to work together.

What other tools would you consider valuable when specification selling?

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