Selling to Architects
I have been spending a lot of time with architects over the last couple of months. I attended the American Institute of Architects (AIA) show in Chicago, and I was part of a discussion group there along with several other manufacturers and architects. Last week, I had the opportunity to make a presentation to a firm in the Los Angeles area and have been involved in putting an architectural program together for Frameless Hardware Company (FHC).
The main theme that keeps coming up is communication. When you sell to an architect you need to know what you are selling. During the design stage, they are not just looking for a sales pitch on your product. You first need to know their project goal. Is it a certain look or design they are after? Or maybe a LEED platinum building where energy performance is important. In today’s market, having carbon Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) on your products may be key to the sale. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the architect is looking for information and knowledge that will be relevant to their project. You must identify that before you start your sales pitch. Your product may be secondary to the sale.
Once a product is spec’d, your job starts. I have read many articles that state that original specified products are only used about 50% of the time. When I ask architects if they welcome input from the subcontractors and bidders, they all say yes. The subcontractors that are selected for the job are experts in their fields and architects welcome suggestions that can help meet their project goals.
You also need to know how to sell an architect from the bidding stage. I talk to a lot of glazing contractors that are apprehensive about bidding on alternative products. Architects are always open to substitutions as long as they are done correctly and enhance the project.
A lot of salespeople don’t take the time to learn how to offer a substitution package to their customers as part of their sales pitch. You must provide this information to the glazing contractor on your product. Don’t expect them to know how to present your product as a substitution.
This means reviewing the spec documents. Some keywords that architects look for are innovative, next generation, short lead times, ease of installation and sustainability. You will have better success getting your product in as a substitution by understanding what you are selling besides the product itself.
Keep in mind the more knowledge and experience you can offer an architect the more valuable you are. It is important to be responsive and be there when they need you.