Selling to Architects: What You Need to Know

February 27th, 2014 by DWM Magazine

 

One of the ways companies can interact with architects is to invite them for a plant tour (Shown here is a Crystal worker during a tour the company hosted in October of last year.)

One of the ways companies can interact with architects is to invite them for a plant tour (Shown here is a Crystal worker during a tour the company hosted in October of last year.)

Everyone wants to drive sales up right? Yes, but sometimes different methods need to be applied to different groups, as Vincent Grieco, New York regional sales and technical manager, Crystal Windows and Doors, explained recently when he addressed members of the Northeast Window and Door Association regarding, “Selling to Architects and Engineers.”

You need a special sales approach for architects, said Grieco, who pointed out they are very different from window dealer/distributors, contractors, building/property owners and the general public.

“You are not making a sale you are building a relationship,” he said, while adding that they have a strong allegiance to their profession and clients.

While architects require a different sales approach, that approach also has to vary depending on the size of the firm. Some companies are extremely small, one-person firms while others have 50-100 plus architects on staff, he pointed out.

Firms usually gravitate to certain categories of buildings and structures, he added. For example tract homes, custom homes, retail, multi-family, high-rise or institutional.

“Some are primarily interior design and construction–don’t pursue these firms,” he advised.

While architects need to keep up with a myriad of building products this presents a great opportunity to window companies.

“It is difficult, if not impossible, to know it all,” said Grieco. “Window manufacturers can supplement architect knowledge and assist with responsibilities.”

He also listed a variety of factors that architects know they need from window manufacturers. The list is long and includes everything from a strong familiarity with products and services, shop drawings and product specifications.

More importantly, there are items architect do not know they need including:

• A product line hierarchy—good, better, best;

• Competitor product comparisons;

• Ways to achieve performance targets;

• Individual targets–thermal, structural, sound, etc.;

• Several targets simultaneously;

• Advice on increasing substitution of vinyl for aluminum in light commercial applications;

• Installation practices, details and typical drawings;

• Availability and use of accessories;

• Alternative visual and practical designs;

• Alternative cost-effective solutions;

• Product customization;

• Value engineering;

• Justifiable price drops; and

• Reasonable additional options and upgrades.

Again, this is where opportunity comes in. “Be a resource to the architect,” said Grieco.

Ways to reach architects include everything from email, direct mail, trade shows, AIA chapter networking events, architect/engineer “lunch-and-learn” sessions, AIA CEU fenestration courses and factory tours at window manufacturing facilities.

What not to do? Telephone cold calling tops Grieco’s list.

“From personal experience, this [cold calling] is a total waste,” he said. On the flip side he said “unscheduled visits work extremely well.” But if you are opting for the latter, you better do your homework.

Know which products to present. Know the architect’s area of expertise,” said Grieco. “Above all do not waste the architect’s time.”

The next area may seem like a no-brainer but is not often the case—know your own company.

“Know your product line, have architect-related materials ready,” said Grieco. “Know your strong selling points and value-added services, and have a list of notables who can vouch for your firm.”

What type of sales style is best: Grieco said the “soft-sell.” “Avoid the traditional approach of dumping lots of information all at once—let them gravitate to what they need and want. Be flexible and customize your approach,” he said.

Grieco ended his presentation with some words to live by and words to avoid. The latter list includes everything from cheap, cheaper and cheapest and “no one beats our price.”

“Architects don’t want cheap goods,” he said

What does work is words including custom, value-engineering, cost effective and energy efficient.

“Listen and let their needs drive the conversation, meeting and relationship,” said Grieco.

Have you been employing these methods? If not, these might be some things to keep in mind the next time you call on an architect.

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