Engaging the Specialist Sub-Contractor to advocate your building product

Engaging the Specialist Sub-Contractor to advocate your building product

Guest post provided by Chris Ashworth

The specialist sub-contractor is an important influencer in construction product specification.

For the building product manufacturer, the specialist sub-contractor is an important influencer. It might be that the architect or engineer has written a performance specification, which the specialist sub-contractor will interpret. On Management Contracts or Design & Build, the specialist sub-contractor will often be developing the design. And if there are needs to reduce costs, then it is the specialist sub-contractor who will be advising on value engineering. There are also many cases where the specialist sub-contractor has simply ignored the specification and installed what they believe to be the best solution – for them!

Whatever the situation, it is important that the building product manufacturer maintains a relationship with all of the leading specialist sub-contractors for their products. You can find these by using Barbour ABI’s List Maker tool.

Why build a relationship with the specialist sub-contractor?

The concept of sub-contracting in construction started to be adopted from the mid 1800s and by the end of that century, as new building materials and methods were introduced, the need for specialist contractors became firmly established. Today Barbour ABI lists 29 different types of specialist sub-contractor, with more than 40 supporting trade associations.

There are big and small sub-contractors, and for the purpose of this article I’m thinking of the larger organisations, many of which have multi-million-pound turnovers.

• At the basic level, it is important that the decision makers and influencers in the specialist sub-contractor know about your products; their capabilities, features and benefits. If they don’t know about them they can’t use them.
• The estimating team need to be bidding based on competitive prices. This is not just about the price they pay for your product, but about prices quoted in the various pricing guides published, if labour rates are wrong you will be at a disadvantage. And if installation of your product is wrongly priced then either the specialist sub-contractor will not win the work or they will bid an alternative product.
• It is also very important that the specialist sub-contractor’s site operatives know how to install your products correctly. Many product failures are a result of incorrect installation, and failures reflect badly on the manufacturer.
• If the specialist sub-contractor likes your company and products they will act as an advocate to the client, architect, engineer and main contractor.

How to build a positive relationship with the specialist sub-contractors

Technical CPD seminars are often seen as being for architects or contractors. But they are also of interest to estimators, engineers and project managers working for the contractor, many of whom will hold a professional qualification. Research from the Construction Media Index shows that 31% of contractor decision-makers participate in CPD schemes. So, include the important specialist sub-contractor in your promotion of CPD seminars. But make sure your promotional message is tailored to this audience.

Provide installer training, and consider publishing a list of approved installers – companies that you consider provide a quality installation. This helps the specifier, client or main contractor looking for an installer for your products and also brings business to the specialist sub-contractor, strengthening their relationship with your organisation.

Share project leads with those specialist sub-contractors you have a good relationship with and will not switch your specifications. This is not just a matter of passing on a project lead from Barbour ABI, after all they probably subscribe as well. You need to add value. That means sharing information about the product specification, special needs for that project and when it will be going out to tender. It also means giving them unique information and not passing the same details to their competitors. Make the relationship special. And of course, aim to have a “special relationship” with a number of sub-contractors.

Decision-makers to engage with in the specialist sub-contractor

Like other organisations in the supply chain, there will be a number of decision-makers working for the specialist sub-contractor. First to be involved will be the Estimator who is responsible for initial pricing. A Technical Manager or engineer may be involved if a solution needs to be designed. The bid process may also involve a Project or Contracts Manager who will be involved in preparing the bid. If the sub-contractor is appointed then this is the person who will manage the project and probably make final product decisions.

Competitive Advantage have developed a Specialist Sub-Contractor Persona which is available for you to purchase and download.

Further Information

Promoting your company and building products with Barbour Product Search can help to increase your visibility to the full specification audience. Email editor@barbourproductsearch.info for more information.

Sign up to the Competitive Advantage newsletter for an overview of construction market activity as well as construction sales and marketing advice.

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.

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