Enhancing Your Specification Sales Skills

During 2020 we have seen a significant change in the way that building product manufacturers engage with their customers. In the case of specifiers, like Architects and Engineers, face to face meetings have almost ceased due to many decision makers working from home or wanting to maintain social distancing. Consequently, there is greater use of online information both from the manufacturer’s website and other third-party providers. Sales teams are also using video conferencing facilities to present CPD seminars, answer technical enquiries and generally progress a project opportunity.

This remote working means that understanding the specification process is more important than ever for both Marketing and Sales teams to be effective. Issues you need to understand are:

Market Dynamics – its not just your product’s performance that influences selection. Other influencers are factors such as availability of BIM content, product identifiers, operating costs, design for manufacture and sustainability credentials to name a few. Product manufacturers need to understand which factors are important to specifiers of their products and demonstrate how they support this.

Contract Types is another important factor. The type of contract used to mobilise the project will determine who the ultimate specifier is and the strength of influence of the different members of the project team. Establish the type of contract and you can then plan your strategy to achieve specification and eventually sell you products into the project.

But key to your product being installed is a well written product Specification. As the Grenfell Tower inquiry has demonstrated, there is a lose interpretation of ‘equivalent’ so unless a product specification clearly defines all that makes a product equivalent you can expect it to be value engineered out by the sub-contractor. Being replaced by a lower cost alternative probably with inferior performance.

Having ensured you have a good product specification it is also important to understand the Specification Process. Most product decisions evolve, from the early stages of the RIBA Plan of Works through to Stage 5 Manufacturing & Construction. At each stage, members of the project team will influence the decision. It is important that the manufacturer engages with each of these at the correct time.

To be effective at engagement, or even have a chance of being considered, the product manufacturer and their customer-facing team must build up a position of trust. Specifiers need to have confidence in the brands they select and often rely on the Trusted Advisor to guide them. This is a long-term process which both marketing and sales need to understand and invest in.

When it comes to engaging with project decision-makers there are a portfolio of Sales Tools available. Marketing need to ensure these are available, and Sales need to understand how to use them effectively. In most cases there is a superficial purpose, but a more hidden opportunity. For example, the product sample is used to demonstrate the look and feel of the product to the specifier. But used correctly it can enable project follow-up and contribute to understanding in a negotiation.

The contractor is also an important decision maker, both main contractor and specialist sub-contractor. The building product manufacturer needs to build relationships and understand their motivation and product preferences. This relationship will be key to both Defending and Switching Specifications. Many sales people limit their engagement to the buyer, but there are others roles in the contractor organisation which are even more influential.

To implement an effective specification sales strategy can be a time consuming process, so it is important to Manage the Process effectively. This requires an approach based around key account management principals and informed decision making.

To help organisations develop these skills Competitive Advantage provides in-house training tailored to your organisations needs, open courses and an online learning programme. Creating Demand through Specification is available to update team skills or introduce new recruits to the complexities of the specification sales process. Split into 10 modules it allows personal development over a number of weeks.