How to sell effectively to construction decision makers

How to sell effectively to construction decision makers

Selling to construction decision makers is neither easy or quick. The sales person and their organisation face a number of challenges when developing their specification strategy:



No one person makes the purchase decision

The construction decision making unit (DMU) involves numerous people. There is the design side; client, architect, engineer, quantity surveyor, interior designer. Then there is the construction side, within the main contractor there will be estimator, project manager, site manager, buyer. And a similar group of people with the specialist sub-contractor. Only a few, if any, have the power and inclination to drive through a product choice. But all have the influence to stop a product being used.

There is also the challenge of finding these people. Barbour ABI will list some, but not all of the members of the DMU. Finding the other members is a process of networking, in person or online.

But having found the right people, the real challenge is getting their attention. They are too busy to respond to cold calling, or speculative emails. To get their attention you need to offer useful and relevant information – probably via an established contact, be that a person or recognised information source. This is where marketing can support sales. By using inbound marketing techniques, such as downloads via a form. By developing content and sales tools that provide useful information for each stage of the decision-making process, so target="_blank">targeting your messages across the construction supply chain.

Finally there is the challenge of getting your product used. Be that getting it selected in the first place, or ensuring it is not switched out during the various stages of the plan of works which will last many months.

Key elements to success

In my experience, there are five key elements to success:

Early engagement: The earlier you are involved in the project, promoting the benefits of your construction product, the better. Conversely, the later you are involved the more the discussion will be about lowest cost. Although Barbour ABI can tell you about a new project, to be effective you already need to know the key members of the DMU. Ideally the client, certainly the architect or engineer, possibly the project manager if a Design & Build Contractor is involved. If you have established relationships and are seen as a Trusted Advisor you can get invited into the discussions.

Strategic Product: You are likely to be included at an early stage if your product is seen as strategic. That means that decision makers appreciate that making the right selection is important, and making the wrong choice has consequences for the successful completion, or operation, of the project. Demonstrating the strategic value of your product is really important.

Well Written Specifications: Unless you can provide the architect or engineer with a well written specification, describing your product in such a way that it is difficult to substitute, then the earlier stages are a waste of time. Very rarely is there a single nominated product. Even if a product is named it is usually accompanied by “or equivalent” which opens it up for substitution. In many cases, especially with Design & Build, the specification will be performance and not name any product. So, you need to provide a specification which effectively describes your product’s performance characteristics.

Being the Trusted Advisor: Both the company and the individual sales person need to work at becoming the Trusted Advisor. In its simplest form this means being seen as the expert in your product sphere and the first port of call for the decision maker. Trust is something you need to earn and it will take time to build the relationship. There are a number of stratagems to support this including technical articles and CPD seminars.

Monitoring the project: This is a constant process throughout the life of each project, and you need to use your network of contacts to establish what decisions are being made when. Also recognise where the strength of influence rests, which will change over time, and know when to be presenting relevant benefits to that person. Finally, when you are being told that your product is too expensive and an alternative is to be used unless you reduce price, which will surely happen, you need to know how true this is. Is it just an attempt to negotiate a better price or is there a genuine risk of substitution? And how will you react?

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. Chris is also Deputy Chair of the organising committee for CIMCIG, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group.

Chris will be running an open course Creating Demand through Specification in London on 28th March. This sets out the marketing and sales process in more detail.

Learning Outcomes

• Understand the impact of market influences
• Recognise the different contracts used and their impact on decision making
• Know different decision makers and how they influence specification
• Effectively use the different sales tools available
• Develop personal strategies to manage the process

6 Hours CPD
Book your place now!

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