Written by Chris Ashworth
Although the title of this article is ‘Specification Selling’ it is written for the marketer as well as sales – if the sales team are to be effective they need the marketing function to understand the specification sales process and contribute to the strategy.
Select target sectors
Your strategy starts by deciding which sectors represent the best opportunities for your business. This is partly about where the growth is, which Barbour ABI can point out, but also about having products which offer real benefits to the sector. So in Healthcare that might be related to hygiene or ease of cleaning, in Offices it might be linked to creating a productive working environment.
Having selected your target sectors you then need to identify the decision makers and influencers. Usually decisions are driven by a team of influencers, with varying levels of influence; the client, specialist consultant, architect, engineer, quantity surveyor, main contractor and specialist sub-contractors are examples of some, but not all, of the roles that influence. Depending on your product, they will have varying levels of influence and need to be identified and engaged with for each project.
Create brand awareness
All of your organisation’s communication channels will need to be used in an integrated manner. Initially to create awareness and interest; as well as blog articles, YouTube and white papers, Barbour Product Search has a role to play at this stage. Then there are selected emails, usually offering information in the form of downloads. It is also important to monitor social media to better understand the issues of your key contacts. If you are very lucky a question about your product category may even be posted on social media which you can answer.
But while every project needs to be tracked, it is also wise to build relationships with key influencers who will be working on your best project opportunities again and again. You need to build relationships with these influencers, initially using marketing to generate interest and nurture a contact which, at the right time, can be passed onto sales to build a strong relationship. That relationship is built by providing good technical expertise, helping the influencer to understand the issues around product selection and often guiding them through the legislation.
Many manufacturers suffer from specification switching, with their products being substituted for an alternative, often by the specialist contractor. While some of this is inevitable, it can be reduced by developing well written specifications which include characteristics which are unique to your product. Unless you can offer generic and brand specifications which include the key performance features of your products there is little point in going through the specification process.
Good specifications are just one of the tools the sales team need to engage with the influencer. Technical literature, CAD details and also BIM objects are other elements which are needed by the project team. Samples are another important tool. Some products lend themselves to samples and it is easy to provide examples which are portable and eye catching. For other types of product, it’s not so easy. Then it is necessary to come up with imaginative ways of representing your products – high quality images, video or models for example. But remember samples are needed to help a specifier make decisions, to show the client what is proposed and sometimes to explain what’s intended to the sub-contractor. If you can offer good support in this area you will have an advantage over other, less well prepared, competitors.
Having armed your sales team with their sales tools, it’s then important to make sure they are working smart by selecting projects where your product specifications will have a good chance of remaining firm, building relationships with the contacts who have influence and then monitoring the situation throughout the life of the project until the sub-contractor finally commits and places an order.
Over the coming months I will go into each of these areas in more details. Follow #SpecStrategy on Twitter for 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 Marketings Construction Industry Group.
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Written by Chris Ashworth