Any salesman must be able to demonstrate value if they are to sell a premium product. If your product is commodity then price will be the major issue and you will not need a specification salesman.

Architects and engineers do not want to be sold to, and they will not deal with salesmen if they feel they are being pressured. A ‘soft sell’ approach is required, solving problems and demonstrating value.

This is the classic selling approach which is used in many industries:

  • Questioning to understand the needs of the customer
  • Confirming their requirement and proposing a solution
  • Identifying any concerns or worries and presenting relevant benefits to address these
  • Confirming that the product will be specified

Presenting relevant benefits is key to this. Most products have a long list of features, not all will be relevant to each decision maker or influencer. It is thus important to recognise which are relevant, hence represent relevant benefits and should be presented. It is also important to understand how these deliver value to the project or decision maker.
Often there are many benefits which are taken for granted or overlooked by the salesman. It is important to thoroughly review what benefits are available and how they can deliver value for each decision maker – architect, engineer, contractor.

There are three components of value:

  • Functional Benefits
  • Emotional Benefits
  • Costs

Functional Benefits are the most obvious, some are ‘must haves’ such as meeting legislation. Others are important but perhaps ignored such as technical support. To identify all of these requires a thorough understanding of your product, how it is installed and used. Often there are small points which the manufacturer might not be aware of but an installer knows.

Emotional Benefits may not be acknowledged by the decision maker but are also important. If using a product for the first time people will be more prepared to take a risk if it is a well known brand. Similarly a specialist contractor can gain kudos and credibility from being an approved installer for a leading manufacturer or supplier.

Cost is not just about the price paid. There are many costs; the time and energy required to source a product, hidden costs such as hire of scaffolding which can be reduced as a result of a different installation process or shorter installation time, the emotional strain of worrying if a product being delivered from abroad will be late causing the contractor to incur penalty charges. All of these factors need to be identified and presented as relevant benefits which deliver value.

By presenting these effectively the salesman can overcome concerns and demonstrate how his product or service will deliver value to the decision maker and the project.

Chris Ashworth

Chris is founder of Competitive Advantage Consultancy which specialises in market research and training for the construction industry. He is also a member of the organising committee for CIMCIG, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group.

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