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How to “Sell” Building Products to Architects and Designers

How to get specified by being yourself!

In today’s ever-evolving digital-meets-real world, it doesn’t matter what you sell, you need to up your game. Developing your marketing and sales strategies can be even more important than what you’re selling.

Not surprisingly, design-minded professionals can be very particular.

If you are trying to find your sweet spot for selling building products to this market, it’s time to rethink traditional marketing and sales strategies.

In modern sales, the best pitch doesn’t feel like a pitch at all.  Read on for tips on how to “sell”, without feeling salesy.

THINK LIKE AN ARCHITECT

If you want to gain an architect’s trust and sell them your product, you have to take the time to walk the walk and talk the talk. You will also need an amazing, quality product to fit their discerning tastes.

They tend to stick with products they trust and like so they don’t have to test something new and risk issues with the delivery, install or service. 

If you can convince them you’ve got something that can meet – and exceed – their expectations, then you’ll have a customer for life.

Being an expert on your product also gives you street cred.

Bring that expertise with you as you identify who you’re marketing to. Having that expertise, rather than just selling a product, will get you a lot further in impressing potential new clients.

And you also want to work with experts, so identify architects, firms, or suppliers who stand out as leaders and design the types of projects you want to target. No one wants to waste time pitching or considering a product that is not a good fit on either end.

It’s also important to know who’s actually specifying your product. Is it the creative end of the team, the architect with the aesthetic vision? Or is it the technical nuts-and-bolts engineer or contractor, making sure a square peg is not going in a round hole?

These two sides of the team may have different priorities when it comes to what fits into their project budget, so know who you’re presenting to and what matters to them as far as features and benefits.

PLAY IN THE SAME SPACE

Architects, designers, and specifiers have plenty of choices when considering products and materials for their projects. So, what’s going to make you stand out? One word – collaborate. One of the most effective ways to do this is through social media.

Architects and designers are especially active on social media platforms – the more visual, the better – where they are regularly posting about projects or looking for inspiration or information, depending on the platform. 

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Love, like, and share

Social media can be a great way for an architect or their firm to promote their business, so why not get yourself noticed by helping them promote? Make sure to tag or mention them in posts you share that involve them.

Follow, like, and comment on as much of their content as you can.

Congratulate them on a great project, an award, and more. Regularly interacting with them will go a long way and keep the conversation going. The more you promote them, the more you will be top of mind when it comes to specifying for their next project. 

Be a conversation starter

Own what you do, and what you say. Have real conversations with architects and designers online about products and projects. Don’t be shy. If you initiate, they will be more than willing to answer your questions and engage with you.

Get as involved in industry conversations as you can through things like online discussions created by the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

You might even consider starting a channel or group on social media on behalf of your brand or product. You can shape the conversation to be an industry leader yourself.

Content is king

Being a social media creator takes work. Content should be thoughtful, not salesy. Architects and designers don’t want to feel like they are getting a sales pitch every time they hear from you on social media.

They are inundated with product information every day. Make their job easier. Offer them content they can use. That could be tips, product knowledge, or best practices to solve a tricky design dilemma.

They will see value in the expertise you can offer, not just your products. Becoming a go-to resource will set you apart from your competition. 

Make virtual interactions a reality

The social media connections you make, and the online conversations you have, will bring you credibility and value. But, at the end of the day, you still need to sell your product.

Social media can be a gateway to meeting face to face and having a more personalized opportunity to pitch your products.

So parlay those likes, loves, and comments into opportunities to get in the door and see architects, designers, and specifiers for one-on-one meetings, trade events, or showroom visits.

Court tomorrow’s talent

Students are the future, and they mean future business for you too. Make sure you are involved with local design schools and universities, as well as student groups, and chapters of architecture and design professional groups.

Offer your expertise, your time, any industry job postings you know of,  and of course, your products for their projects. Be a guest presenter for a class, or offer an internship experience.

Create a design challenge sponsored by your brand. Students will remember you and your products when they enter the working world. 

Two people looking at a construction site.

PICK SOME DESIGN MINDS 

The myth that architects don’t like dealing with building product manufacturers, is just that, a myth. In fact, the AIA actually published a study based on responses from over 400 architects.

The study, The Architect’s Journey to Specification: Rethinking the Relationship Between Architects and Manufacturers surveyed architects as well as manufacturers to see more closely how architects select products for projects, and how manufacturers and sales reps can get their attention.

What the study shows is that architects rely on manufacturers more than you might think.

They value them as a resource, but it’s important to differentiate yourself and your product, as architects are discerning and have a high level of expectation.

Highlights from the study include:

  • 9 out of 10 architects prefer that product manufacturers be involved in the specifying process, and many actually expect assistance with writing, editing, or reviewing the specs.
  • About 88 percent of architects say that building relationships with manufacturers is important to their success.
  • Architects prefer to interact with manufacturers through face-to-face meetings or in-person events, when possible. Calls with reps top the list too, as well as relying on information from the manufacturer’s website. 
  • Interestingly, the study revealed a disconnect between what the architects shared and how the manufacturers are marketing to them. Only about 60% of manufacturers realized that architects want them to reach out and build strong relationships with them.

Forming strong relationships with architects and designers is an invaluable resource. Educate yourself about what architects want, and do it often. Be upfront, ask them what they are looking for, what matters in product and material selection, how you can help them in the process, and even how often they want to hear from you. 

SHARE THE MARKET(ING)

So how exactly do you market to architects and designers and actually get your products specified? Some may say that you shouldn’t contact them directly unless they have requested information, but the truth is, they are always looking for information on new products and materials.

They never know what project may be coming their way and they like to be prepared with lots of options. So, if you’re not top of mind, then you’re not going to be considered. 

Architecture styles and design choices are always changing based on trends in fashion and technology. What doesn’t change is the architect’s responsibility to specify quality products they trust and can believe in.

Getting tuned in to what they are looking for is the key to your marketing strategy. You’ll need to know the answers to questions like:

  • What are they looking for in building materials and furnishing? 
  • How do they look for product information?
  • Where do they look for information? 
  • At what stage of the decision-making process are they looking for information? 
  • Who are the decision-makers? 
  • How do you reach those decision-makers?

Knowledge is power, and the more you know about your target audience of architects and designers, the better prepared you will be in how you market to them. Click To Tweet

GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT

What do they want when it comes to products and materials? That’s the burning question. Architects look at product selection from two angles. The structural and functional requirements are the first priority of course, but aesthetics play an equally important role.

The experience and environment a product can help create can go a long way to winning an architect over.  As highly detail-oriented professionals, they want as much detail as you can give them on a product.

More is more. You’re the expert on your product, so take the time to educate them on it – they will appreciate it. But remember that they also want to know about the experience when it comes to the product, so you’re not just selling them a “thing”. 

They want to know how this “thing” will help create the best experience they can possibly design for their space or building.

UNDERSTAND THE PROCESS

Getting a quality product in front of your desired audience is the name of the game, but knowing the process that an architect goes through, will make everyone’s job easier.

Architects take ownership of the entire project. They are actively involved in every part of the construction process, which means that you as a manufacturer can play a really important role in this creative process.

The process can go something like this:

  • At the beginning of the design phase, the architect will review a variety of products and materials. They will pour over all of the details to make sure the product provides a solution that fits in with the total concept, design, and budget.  
  • During the design process, architects will look for and find inspiration from other projects and work by their colleagues. Inspirational images become reference material.  
  • Architects want to source their inspiration. So if they see a certain look in their reference material, they will be looking for a product to fit the look or need.
  • When it’s time to actually source and select products, architects look for quality, reputation, ease of installation, and cost-effectiveness.
  • If the product is new to them, they’ll be looking for informational and instructional videos. This is especially true when it comes to installation so they can properly prepare the team and not risk project delays, extra labor costs, or material loss.
  • Post-installation, if an architect and the team love a product, they will be a customer for life. And they will tell others about it.  Word of mouth goes a long way in this industry in particular. 

Architects want to stand out. If you can give them a product that makes their project even more unique, you’ve got a big opportunity. As a building materials manufacturer or sales rep, you should tune in to how involved an architect is in every little detail of the process and the products they use. 

You’ll build lasting relationships this way – before construction even starts –  and it’s not a hard sell. 

EDUCATE

Continuing education is something architects and designers are always on the search for. It’s required for state licensing and keeping professional memberships up to date.

So, what better way to have an audience with your target market than to offer them a Lunch and Learn with course credits that they need?

Many architecture firms limit the number of meetings with outside sales reps, but if you can offer a continuing education (CE) course, this may be your way in.

Remember, this isn’t a sales pitch, you will need to create a course with educational value that is sponsored by you or our brand.

You can see what’s involved in becoming a CE provider by checking out the AIA website. It’s a great way to get in the door and gives you a way to “soft sell” and discuss your product if specific questions come up as part of the course.

INNOVATE

Have a great website? An interactive product information feature? Or an app? Make sure you’re touting the ways you make it easier for architects and designers to ask questions and find information and options about your products.

These are research-driven people and they will spend a large part of their process looking at a variety of materials and products and weighing the options, benefits, and more. 

If they have a bad user experience on your website, social media, or any channel they find you on, they will never come back. The experience should be robust with individual product pages, easy-to-download specs, professional photos, case studies, testimonials, and video how-to’s.

Provide an easy way to request more information and samples, clearly outline product certifications, and make finding the product through local distributors a breeze.

How to pitch to an architect

The best pitch is no pitch at all. Educate architects and design pros on your products and how: -easily they are installed -they integrate with companion products -they are priced -they are maintained over time Providing “the scoop” on what you are hearing in the industry (trends, new rules and regs, etc.) can also provide architects with a wealth of market-specific information that will make you an invaluable resource.

Pro Tip:

Use planned construction insights from BuildCentral to educate yourself on the entire market. Learn who’s responsible for the top jobs, the architects, owners, developers and general contractors responsible for each project, through every stage of construction.

Use these details to make investment decisions, plan go-to-market strategies, gain competitive insights or just to get a jump on the competition. Learn more with a Free Trial.