In my perspective from the back of the bus, I often wonder why so many product representatives feel ineffective or intimidated calling on architects. Granted, some architects can be quite a treat. The terms argumentative, aloof, know-it-all, unapproachable, abstract, and expletive deleted are often mentioned. Have you ever stopped to wonder why?
Without trying to defend architects, consider that often an architect’s attitude towards product reps is the result of being misled or over-sold on the applicability, features, and benefits of construction products. Look at a typical reaction to telephone marketers or used car salespersons, what is it that is so offensive? I would suggest two aspects. First, the unrelenting hard-sell without having any idea of your needs or interests; and second, the underlying attitude that the product offered is the only possible choice and how could an architect be so stupid not to immediately understand?
Unfortunately, product representatives must overcome the back wash of less enlightened sales types that have gone before them. However, it is relatively easy to overcome this type of resistance by using a solution-oriented approach rather than a typical product-oriented approach. Architects are primarily concerned with finding the most appropriate range of solutions not the best or greatest product.
In a survey done (editor's note: many years ago) by McGraw-Hill Sweets, architects were asked what they wanted from product representatives. The top 2 results were ‘recommended uses & application of products (92%)’ and ‘guide specifications (88%)’. The last choice was ‘manufacturer’s history, experience, overall capacities & range of products (40%)’. This means that architects want to know how to appropriately apply and integrate products into their designs, not be confused by competitive features and benefits. The need for guide specifications clearly indicates the need write clear, competitive, and enforceable specifications. Lastly, horror of all horrors, the least thing architects want to know is about your company.
Another critical element for effective architectural sales calls is the ability to listen. Practically every time a rep calls on me, the first words are about company history, the president’s ancestors, and how many products have been installed in Outer Slabovia last week. Next, we hear how many years he or she has been in the business, how big their territory is, on and on. Then, a guided tour through the product binder, page by page by never ending page. In all this time, usually 30 minutes, never once has the rep asked about projects, how products are selected, are the office master specifications up-to-date, and the like. The best advice I can offer for effective architectural sales calls is to SHUT-UP AND LISTEN!!!! You will be amazed by the knowledge and insights you can discover about what the architect knows and wants to know about your product. There is a definite reason why the Creator gifted us with 2 ears and one mouth. Here is the outline that I used when making architectural sales calls. These are basic issues and touch points that I found highly effective when dealing with project architects, curmudgeonly specifiers, and firm principals.
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
Followers of the Let's Fix Construction blog know of our adoration and appreciation of the CONSTRUCT conference, held annually in the Fall. Born originally as the Construction Specifications Institute's (CSI) annual meeting and trade show, CONSTRUCT continues in its dedication to bring together all disciplines in the AEC industry.
Much like the membership of CSI, you can join Architects, Designers, Specifiers, Engineers, Contractors, Construction Managers, Owners, Product Representatives, and Manufacturers at this event. Starting Wednesday, October 9th and concluding Friday the 11th, National Harbor, Maryland is the location for this years conference.
From Emerging Professionals Day to 50+ accredited education sessions, from 175+ exhibitors to the demo and learning theater, from CSI Night Out to the latest event to be added, Product Rep University, CONSTRUCT is truly the conference to attend if you are in the construction industry.
This early posting of the weekly Let's Fix Construction blog is meant to save you money if you plan on attending CONSTRUCT. Registration is open and early bird rates expire Monday the 24th at midnight.
This year will be my ninth consecutive CONSTRUCT show attended and I consider it to be the bargain of the AEC industry. Its foolish not to save money in this day and age if you can, so I implore you to take advantage of these rates before they go up at midnight. Just $420 for a Construction Specifications Institute member and $460 for a non-member today, these rates go up to $550/$625 starting on Tuesday the 25th.
And if you're interested in only attending Emerging Professionals Day or the Product Rep University on Wednesday, October 9th, the rates are even cheaper. As a product representative myself, I know how difficult it is to get education that benefits my day-to-day job. As the primary instigator of the Product Rep University, I helped select some great education sessions for fellow reps like "Discipline Roles & Project Goals: How Do I Fit In?", "Why You Need to Read Division 01 on Your Projects: The Rules of the Game" and "Substitutions and Submittals: Not So Dirty Words". There are three other education sessions for the PRU, including the "Power 90 for Product Reps: Greetings, Meetings & More To Know", which I will be a part of.
Ask anyone that has attended CONSTRUCT in the past and you'll hear the benefits first hand of why you should attend. I hope to see you in National Harbor in October. If you make it, please stop me and say hello.
Contributed by Liz O'Sullivan
On a recent project of mine, the lack of a submittal for the contractor’s proposed solution to an unexpected situation caused a problem. The contractor didn’t think that a submittal was required by the contract documents, and the architect didn’t realize that a submittal was required by the contract documents. The contractor could have saved himself some money and time, and could have saved the architect and the owner some time, if the contractor had just prepared a submittal for the architect’s review before proceeding with the work. (Oh, yes, some freshly-installed flooring underlayment had to be removed before the project could proceed. THAT was a waste of time and money.)
If something is added to a project, because of an unforeseen condition, everyone (architect, owner, contractor) often acts as if it’s the first time this sort of thing has ever happened. It’s not. Unexpected things happen all the time on construction projects, and that’s why we have standard processes to deal with them.
Anything that wasn’t originally in the project, but is part of the project now, is in the contract as the result of either a change order or a minor change to the contract. Whether it’s a moisture mitigation treatment for an existing slab, or a whole new roof assembly, whether it was initiated by an owner as a late addition to a project, or it was initiated by the contractor as a solution to an unexpected condition, or initiated as a substitution request because of a sudden product unavailability, it ends up in the contract as the direct result of a change order or a minor change (such as the type authorized by an ASI, Architect’s Supplemental Instructions). Even when the change results in no added cost to the owner, and even when its purpose is solely to repair a mistake made by the contractor, it’s a change, and it should be documented (and submitted on).
Architects and specifiers can make sure that the contract documents require submittals for things that weren’t originally in the project. Requiring submittals for items added to the project during construction is a good idea. In fact, requiring submittals for items added to the project during construction may be even more important than requiring submittals for things that were originally part of the design, since the new element wasn’t originally thought through along with the rest of the design. The contractor’s preparation of the submittal, and the architect’s review of the submittal, act as a double-check mechanism to help make sure that the added item will be appropriate.
In my 25-plus years as a specifier I have been an independent consultant and in-house project specifier. I have had the privilege of working with a wide variety of designers, project architects, and interior designers. I have developed specifications for projects ranging from room additions to a billion-dollar hospital.
Recently on 4Specs.com, someone asked the question, “How to work effectively with Specification Writer?
In my opinion and experience, the more knowledgeable a design professional is about specification processes, the more effectively they can work with specifiers. Probably the best project architect I have ever worked with was a gentleman at Ellerbe Becket in Minneapolis. He was incredibly knowledgeable about specification processes and how they integrated with drawings. He also hated writing specs. He would ask me the most insightful questions about what he was drawing and how it should be specified. He understood the process and how to make it work for his projects.
In explaining to design professionals what they need to understand about specifications, I would ask them to consider the following issues and concepts.
Every design professional has expectations for a certain level of quality in their projects. One key element that is often overlooked or underestimated in projects is quality. How do you accomplish the design concept and protect your design intent? How do you indicate the levels of quality that are appropriate for your client’s needs and budget?
Specifications, that’s how. Drawings have no qualitative aspects; they indicate size, shape, and relationship but not quality. Specifications are all about quality. They contain critical procedures and product information that allow the design professional to stay in control of the review and approval processes that affect the design concept.
Also, the boring bit about formats and standardized places for information are critical in limiting omissions by acting as checklists and highly effective coordination tools.
Recently, a national trade association contacted education presenters to provide them with the evaluation results for their programs. This is a large association with a very strong focus on technology and its applications in business, education, worship, and industry. Their national convention offers hundreds of hours of educational opportunities for the attendees.
In general the education programs were very well received and evaluated. Attendees rated 90% of the programs at 4 (out of 5) or above for “overall quality and interest”. However, it is interesting to note that the same attendees indicated that less than 10% of the programs were rated 4 or above for “applicability to daily practice”. In other words, attendees thought the programs were very interesting but came away with nothing they could use in day-to-day practice.
In my experience this is true of most of the continuing education that I receive from product manufacturers’ box lunches, AIA continuing education programs, and CSI Chapter presentations. The majority of them are interesting and provide USEFUL information but rarely do they ever provide USABLE information. The concept here is much like searching the web on Google™ or Yahoo™, you end up with hundreds of USEFUL items but only a tiny fraction are truly USABLE. If continuing education is to have a positive impact on the construction industry, developers and presenters are going to have to put real, applicable content into the programs.
To effectively use continuing education as a marketing and communication tool, the content presented must be directly applicable to the day-to-day operations of the audience. Information about a product’s features and benefits is quite useful, as marketing hype, but it is rarely usable since design professionals need industry information, technical data, design guidelines, and details to effectively integrate a product or system into a building project.
In any type of presentation to design professionals, the focus must be on providing USABLE rather than USEFUL information. I guaranty it will transform your relationships with design professionals and enhance your professional credibility. It is critical to provide continuing education information on how to specify the product and to provide examples and details of how to appropriately incorporate the product into the drawings. I am constantly amazed how few educational presentations even discuss specifying and even less, how to detail and coordinate the drawings.
The best and most effective presentations are extremely simple, no PowerPoint™ or flim flam, just product installation examples, guide specifications, and example construction drawings of successful installations. That is truly USABLE information and HIGHLY EFFECTIVE continuing education.
(Editor's Note: Michael D. Chambers, FCSI, FAIA, CCS is Associate Vice President and Senior Project Specifier for HGA and is responsible for the specifications in the four California offices and is principal of MCA Specifications. Michael also sits on the CONSTRUCT Education Advisory Council with Let's Fix Construction Co-Founders, Cherise Lakeside and Eric D. Lussier.
NEW FOR CONSTRUCT IN 2019!
The NEW Product Rep University Program has been designed to meet the needs of Manufacturer's Representatives of Architectural Building Products, as integral members of the project team. The program features a full day of education (6 sessions) to help you stay up to date on current trends in the industry, and refine your interactions and relationships with design professionals. Get additional details on the Product Rep University here: www.constructshow.com/PRU
Download a Product Rep University flyer here.
CONSTRUCT will be held October 9 - 11, 2019 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, MD. Read more on CONSTRUCT here. )
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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