How To Sell Building Materials and Products to Architects and Interior Designers

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Two Personas Sales Reps and Manufacturers Should Know • Written by Susan Milne

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Independent sales reps carry many product/material lines, and they have to know a great deal about each one. Every line they represent is competing against another to make it onto the table for a lunch-and-learn or an in-office consult. At any time, sales reps have the opportunity to position your product/material as the best choice for a project. Your first challenge is to market your product/material to them in a way that invites reps to bring it forward most often. We've asked hundreds of reps why they choose to promote one product over another. The answer lies in understanding who the reps are selling to and giving them a reason to do it more frequently. That means companies must come up with consistent and interesting ways to motivate their reps.

What reason have you given your reps to promote your product/material first in the past 12, 6, 3 months?

Before we delve into personas, it is important to understand that reps are not merely there to sell. The job of rep is to earn the trust of their clients and to become the number one advisor who will help them make a choice that they will not regret. Keep in mind, Architects and Designers will hear about the failure of products/materials for years to come. Fear of failure is what drives them to specify products over and over again.

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There are several types of personas that typically influence the specification sale:

  • Designers
  • Architects
  • Property Owners (Academic, Commercial and Residential)
  • Purchasing Agents
  • Contractors
  • Installers

The reason to know each of these personas is to gain a better understanding about what's at stake for them and how your product/material can help them solve their problems. Once your company is able to understand who your reps are working with, it will help you to create marketing materials that are relevant. For this exercise, we are going to focus on Architects and Designers. 

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As we meet each persona, can you figure out how your product/material is relevant to them?

1. Architects

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BACKGROUND:

  • Unique balance of right and left brain; both creative and logical
  • Predominantly introverted
  • Problem solvers
  • Increasingly, they are responsible for client recruitment and retention—natural succession is for Architects to become partners and buy into the business 
  • Always learning

DEMOGRAPHICS:

  • 70:30 male to female, though rapidly changing
  • 35-65+
  • Educated with a concentration in architecture

IDENTIFIERS:

  • Visionary
  • Strong-willed

GOALS:

  • To design and bring order to our world
  • To become a known, recognized and prominent name
  • Build a portfolio of press-worthy properties, and in doing so, grow reputation

CHALLENGES:

Fear of Failure. Projects typically take two to five years but will be around for decades. Clients have a long memory of who designed what, and they want everything to always look like new. Value engineering—trying to redesign for less is risky business.

SO, HOW DOES YOUR PRODUCT/MATERIAL HELP?

Think about it. If an Architect has a portfolio filled with projects from five to ten years ago, it is imperative that these structures are still holding up. Architects sell future work based on past performance and referrals. How does your product/material become a choice worth fighting for? How does it ensure that property owners and managers will be happy with the design and quality for years to come?

COMMON OBJECTIONS:

This is where we list the types of objections that your reps are bound to encounter. What are your main push back points and how can you respond? Some might include:

  • Cost
  • Supply
  • Fear of unknown

2. Designers

REAL QUOTES:

We encourage you to have your reps gather real quotes from the field. Some quotes we have gathered for different clients include:

“I've had jobs haunt me from years ago. The reps assured us the decking would hold up. Three years out, it looks terrible and the museum has to replace it. I will never, ever trust that rep again. They had to know it would fail—had to.”

“I think I'm naturally good with clients, but now it's part of my job. I actually have to go get them. It's a lot of pressure.”

“At this point, a lot of my clients go to HOUZZ and tell me what materials they want to use. It's been a blessing and a curse.”

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BACKGROUND:

  • Master at the art of the detail
  • Can see beyond a space's sense of purpose by creating an atmosphere to transcend it
  • Longstanding passion for art, design and fashion
  • Leans more toward the extroverted side
  • Values style over money

DEMOGRAPHICS:

  • 80:20 female to male ratio
  • Skews young-single or newly-married professional
  • Educated and licensed to practice interior design

IDENTIFIERS:

  • Early adopter of the latest trends
  • Adheres to a strong set of design rules and then smashes them to bits
  • Smart, confident, fun and thoughtful
  • Great at networking

GOALS:

  • Wants to be recognized for talent and ability to create one-of-a-kind environments
  • Wants to bring brands to life
  • Wants beauty and style to translate to the customer experience

CHALLENGES:

  • Often overshadowed or talked down to by architects
  • Every detail matters; choices made must stand up to years of wear
  • Product failure undermines trust between designer and client

SO, HOW DOES YOUR PRODUCT/MATERIAL HELP?

Designers create one-of-a-kind interiors that make or break many properties. A skylight or siding choice may never be seen close up, but the curve of a chandelier that reflects the same curve of the floor tile brings a continuity to the viewers mind. Interior Designers become industry stars by creating properties of distinction. Those properties need to translate to dollars in some form or another—in guests of a hotel with a higher per-room spend, students enrolling in university or hospitals with better outcomes. How does your product help designers achieve their goals?

COMMON OBJECTIONS:

  • It's not beautiful enough
  • I can achieve the same look with a different product
  • I've never used it before

REAL QUOTES:

It's key to gather your own real quotes. What you hear may surprise you. A few of my favorite ones: 

  • “At the end of the day, as beautiful as it is, this is a billion dollar industry. I'm trying to find the magic combination of products/material/finishes/textures to breathe life into a space, to make it more than the sum of its parts. I work in hospitality, which means my clients want a financial return on their investments.”
  • “In Healthcare, everything is measured. It actually is my job to find wall coverings that don't spread germs and design nurse stations that help improve outcomes.”
  • “No, I’m not a decorator.”

Once you understand the personas your sales reps encounter, you can take a good look at your sales and marketing materials to see if they are working to grow sales or are just information sheets.

As marketers for small companies, my team’s role is to use our skills and experience to translate marketing materials into a language that makes sense to the very people who specify their products. Epiphany’s ability to understand the unique characteristics of our clients and mesh them with the marketing approaches of a changing design industry’s demands is where we really have an impact.

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Want to grow your sales by increasing specifications by architects and designers? Click here to download our guide: HOW ARCHITECTS AND DESIGNERS SPECIFY BUILDING AND ARCHITECTURAL PRODUCTS. If you have a question that hasn’t been answered or to find out more about how Epiphany can help you get specified, give me a call. 804.377.0106

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