Creating an effective specification strategy

Creating an effective specification strategy

Written by Chris Ashworth

My office was recently phoned by someone saying “I’m going for an interview for a specification sales job and I know nothing about how this works, where can I get some background?” We pointed them in the direction of our knowledge hub. This highlights a problem companies will increasingly face as the construction market recovers – a shortage of good staff. One tactic is to appoint from within, taking people with good product knowledge and giving them sales skills. But that is just the start. In my experience many companies, having appointed a specification sales person, just leave them to get on with the job.

Appointing a sales person is not the end of the process, but the start. They need support to help them maximise productivity. Implementing a specification strategy will do this, allowing you to get maximum leverage from what you already do. That means having a good suite of sales tools (literature, product directories, project stories, samples, CPD seminars, standard specifications, BIM data) and a clear focus on who your target specifiers are.

Which specifiers should you target?

Start by thinking about the sectors that represent the best opportunities for you. These will be those where your products have the best fit, but also sectors showing growth. For example, if you supply into healthcare and schools then at the moment schools offer a much better opportunity with a programme of investment compared to healthcare where capital budgets are being cut. You can find this information in the Economic & Construction Market Review published each month by Barbour ABI.

Analysis of the project data in Barbour ABI will identify the top practices specialising in the sectors you want to target. My experience is that the 80/20 rule applies and 20% of the practices will represent 80% of the work. You now have a target list you can work to build long term relationships with.

Long term relationships are key

You want your target specifiers to view your company and your technical sales representative as a Trusted Advisor. If they have confidence in your organisation and your representative they will turn to you when they need advice. As one architect recently described it to me “the friend on the end of the phone”. Achieving that status is not easy. It requires an investment in time and effort and you must deliver real value in terms of the quality of the technical support you provide.

Use CPD content to build relationships

Very often, offering a CPD seminar can be a great door opener. It puts your salesman in front of specifiers and gives him the opportunity to demonstrate his technical expertise. If he does this well then he will be passed enquiries and have the opportunity to start to build the relationship. But take note that this requires a well thought through CPD seminar which has been developed to meet a series of objectives, has a logical progression, compelling content, is entertaining and informative and of course well presented. Very few seminars meet all of these requirements.

So make sure you get maximum effect from your specification sales team by developing a strategy to ensure they are focusing their efforts on building long term relationships with the specifiers who are working on the right projects for you and supporting them with a range of sales tools which they can use to best effect.

Further Information
Chris is a specialist in specification strategy and founder of Competitive Advantage Consultancy which specialises in market research and training for the construction industry. He is a member of the BIM4M2 steering group and Deputy Chair of the organising committee for CIMCIG, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group.

Chris will be participating in an exclusive Twitter Chat organised by Barbour Product Search on 28th April.

You can also register for the next Barbour ABI Economic & Construction Market Review, due to be published Thursday 23 April.

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