How To Sell Building Materials and Architectural Products: Own the Business to Specifier (B2S) Sale


Architects and designers specify millions of building products and materials annually, representing billions of dollars in sales. Getting your products on their preferred list requires developing a deep understanding of how they think and work. To be honest, architects and designers are a unique breed that many companies don’t fully understand. If you want to have your product included in this billion-dollar industry, you must strive to understand who’s specifying and why.

"But wait," you think, “I’m already paying sales reps to do this, and as the saying goes, why should I buy a dog and bark myself?” The truth is you can’t give your sales reps the necessary marketing materials unless you understand their customer and what motivates them. The stakes are higher for smaller companies with limited resources. They run the risk of not taking the time to understand this audience and therefore may miss countless specifications. Unfortunately, we’re usually asked to review materials after they have been created with the more is more, kitchen-sink philosophy, that works in direct opposition to how specifiers think. We’ve worked both sides of this industry—helping architects and designers grow their businesses, as well as helping companies get their products specified. After years of observation, we can tell you that the companies that understand this audience and tailor their marketing materials for them become industry leaders.

Architects and Designers:

  • Typically hold a Master’s Degree

  • Are split 50/50 gender for Architects

  • Slowly approaching 50/50 gender split for Designers (more female currently)

  • Are becoming culturally diverse, still primarily Caucasian and African American

  • Tend to be introverted

  • Balance scientific inquiry with creative process

  • Value beauty and order

Architects and Designers are first and foremost brand consumers—they don’t make a distinction between your brand and that of Apple or Audi. They gravitate towards brands that are beautifully articulated; they expect to be inspired, seduced and enlightened. They are educated. They are accomplished. And they are focused on aesthetics balanced with functionality. This persona responds well to elements of subtlety and design in a product’s execution—from the product brochures to the website to the business cards your rep leaves behind. They respect and adhere to order and process.

The easiest way to garner more specifications is to match marketing materials and messaging to the specifier sales funnel.


Stage 1: Inspire

This is the first stage of the specification funnel. In B2B and B2C sales, this is often referred to as the awareness stage. The key difference is that architects and designers are curious folks whose career depends on seeking out the latest advances—hence they are looking to be inspired rather than persuaded.

Do: Show your best work. Homepages and brochures filled with beautiful images of your product or materials in its edgiest setting. Latest projects should be featured in both hard copy and online magazines and blogs. Keep your communication simple, clean and high level.

Don’t: Include technical specs, ordering information or a comprehensive list of benefits. Architects and designers are creatures of order and process, and listing this information in this stage will read as disjointed chaos.


Stage 2: Educate

Once they have been inspired, your potential specification moves to the Educate phase. This is the phase where they have a specific project or problem in mind and are culling best products and materials for comparison. While architects and designers are capable of understanding the features of your product, all they care about are the benefits. This is the time to educate them on what your product can do for their client, making sure to give them enough information to prove how superior your product is in its category.

Do: Explain benefits in a way that gives architects and designers the words and proof points to remove competitors products from their consideration set. Case studies with supporting data and clear images detailing the product benefits allows for clear and easy comparison.

Don’t: Talk about technical features—having a stain-resistant fiber coating is a feature of many carpets and does not separate your product from the rest. Too much irrelevant information reads as messy to specifiers and is a reason to quickly remove your product from their consideration set.


Stage 3: Convert

By now, specifiers have been inspired by your product enough to learn about it and compare it to its competition. In essence, you have won the sale in the architect’s and designer’s mind. Now, they need to convert their client to choosing this exact product—no substitutions. This is the stage where companies fall short. You must arm your specifier as if they were the sales rep.

Do: Provide a library of high-res photographs of the product, both in situation and as a silhouette along with CAD drawings available to download as needed. White papers, case studies, certifications, data points, etc., that are easy to copy or download and incorporate into presentations are vital to close the sale and gain specification.

Don’t: Hide vital sales information behind password-protected portals. Quite often, the grunt work of compiling the vital sales information is left to juniors—make it easy for them to find the information they need.


Stage 4: Specify

Finally, your product has been properly identified, reviewed, chosen and defended—it’s ready to be specified. Typically, this is where the specification writer takes over and will either be working with the architect or designer to obtain the technical specs, or downloading them directly from the site.

Do: Make it easy to find the right technical specs per product. Make sure names, item numbers, color choices, etc., are consistent. Specs should be delivered in a PDF format with text that is easy to cut and paste into additional documents. Include details like special instructions for ordering, shipping or installs. This is the time to have every detail wrapped up.

Don’t: Hide technical specs on your site or have inconsistencies in naming, sizing or other details. Glossing over vital instructions will only ensure that problems will arise further down the road, possibly resulting in removal from the project.

Understanding how architects and designers seek, understand and specify products at different stages of the sales process will allow you to create marketing materials that facilitate specification and grow sales.


Susan Milne

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