To be effective, the process of relationship building really needs to start before a project has even been conceived. But how do you achieve that? Here are 5 simple steps to follow:
Step One- Analyse your target markets
Identify your top clients, contractors and architects or engineers operating in each sector, and how they work together. Then to really understand them you need to conduct research to profile them. This can be done via the internet but also use telephone research, to reveal who within your target organisations are actively involved with your type of product. Regular research can help you understand their issues and challenges, the key communications channels used and the product requirements they have. Understanding your target market puts you in a better position to provide what is truly needed.
Step two – Develop relationships built on trust
A valuable way to develop new relationships is the CPD seminar. The seminar is an important first stage in relationship building and an opportunity to create product advocates. Using targeted promotion and offering technical advice via CPD seminars can position you as trusted advisor. Technical advice is the key reason for a specifier to have a relationship with a manufacturer. CPD seminars are a proactive way to introduce your company and demonstrate the technical competence of your team. 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.
You can also raise your profile by using blogs, LinkedIn groups and Twitter. A word of caution, avoid a sales message, instead look to share valuable information and solve problems, the aim is to develop and maintain relationships with individuals – not to sell to them, as with CPD seminars, provide good impartial technical content.
Step three – Broaden your relationship circle
Once a project has started explore opportunities for product specification, talking to your advocates to learn more about others in the decision-making unit who can become targets in your relationship-building process.
Map the other players in the decision-making unit: client, architect, engineer, sustainability consultant, QS, main contractor and specialist contractor (both buyer and project manager). They can all influence the selection of products. Very rarely does one person have the power to force through a product choice, but most have the power of veto.
As the project progresses and more influencers join the team, the specification sales person will need to build relationships with all of these players and understand how influential they are, as well as try to move his or her product offering up their priority lists.
Step four – Stay in touch
Specifiers have changed the way they work, using social media more, making it easier for the product manufacturer to stay in touch with requirements. Our research Construction Media Index found that 60% of construction professionals use it for help with work, mostly to network or keep informed about industry news. Remember, when participating in social media avoid the sales message. Instead listen and engage in online conversations, providing solutions to specifiers; listen, be useful and be found.
We have also seen a start in the adoption of Apps in the construction sector, led by architects. QR codes are used by a third of industry decision makers and video is watched by more than half of architects and main contractors. There are more ways than ever to stay in touch with specifiers and provide useful information.
Samples still remain an important sales tool; sample specifications and CAD images are important items for manufacturers to provide and with the adoption of BIM, BIM objects. Product samples are an opportunity for dialogue with the specifier – don’t always post when it could provide an opportunity for a meeting with a hard to contact specifier. A face to face demo can make the product properties more memorable.
Offering to visit practices to review and update samples, removing any that are out of date or surplus to requirements provides a reason to stay in touch. Such a visit will also provide valuable insight into competitor products being considered.
Step five – Remember to work at it
It is important to maintain customer records, often with CRM, as then you can review and analyse leads lost and won. Monitor a project throughout its life, to identify what you are doing right and where you are going wrong. Monitoring customer relationships can provide an opportunity to make improvements and strengthen the relationships you have carefully built. The information gained can also feed into your regular customer surveys and research.
Developing a specification strategy is a team effort that takes consideration by both marketing and sales. Conducting regular research allows you to understand your key contacts, and the challenges they face. It allows you to provide technical product information in a format or channel appropriate for your audience.
Delivering CPD seminars provides an opportunity to demonstrate technical competence. Technical advice is the key reason for a specifier to have a relationship with a manufacturer. Monitoring the progress of a project and gaining further insight into the decision making unit offers further opportunity for influencing and securing the specification of your product.
Reviewing your specification strategy on a regular basis is essential, to ensure you provide the right information at the right time and continue to get your product specified.