How To Sell Building Materials and Architectural Products: Three Ways Companies Can Get More Specifications by Architects and Designers


It happens all the time, yet it always hurts just as much—losing your specification to a similar product that’s cheaper or simply offers a faster delivery time. Especially for smaller companies, the pain is doubled by the amount of resources it took to get the specification in the first place. Architects and designers cite various reasons for changing products, but the bottom line is: your product should be irreplaceable. To them, it’s not.

You’d know your product anywhere. You could pick out your flooring from a sea of samples and see its superior features. Unfortunately, architects and designers can’t really distinguish one hardwood from another, and when you look at the state of their libraries, you can see that standing out in a sea of chaos is quite a difficult task. As competition creates infinite choices, we encourage manufacturers to look for ways to connect emotionally with specifying audiences, become unique, and create lifelong relationships.

But first, know your audience. Architects and designers are ARTISTS first. That means they approach life and work from a very different perspective. They deliberate over every choice, from the weight of the frame on their eyeglasses to which one of the hundreds of shades of white is truly alabaster. They speak another language, one too few companies bother to learn. Those that do are rewarded with a steady stream of specifications.

1. Be Authentic. Nothing Sells Like Authenticity.

What is your brand and why is it different? Answering those questions is the first step to building a unique brand. Too often, companies spend a great deal of time and effort trying to look like their competition. Make your brand distinct, eye-catching (even for subtle differences), and most importantly, make your brand unmistakable. Is this a family business? Are you coming from a uniquely green perspective? What is the inspiration behind what you do? Build a brand that can’t be imitated by another company. Sure, another manufacturer can put their product together the same way as you, and they can deliver samples to an architect’s office like you do—but will they look and feel like you do? Can they tell the same story as you do? First, architects and designers will consider your product because it’s authentic and inspires their creativity. Later, they will specify it because it performs well for their client in the final construction.

Set expectation and desire for your product through unique selling experiences, and then be authentic and consistent in all of your communications.

Whatever an architect or designer is specifying, they will seek out and find something that inspires and engages them first.


2. Disrupt the Library.

Architects and designers scan the shelves of their sample libraries looking for familiar brands. Your job is to add one more product into their consideration set, rise above the rest, and achieve specification. If you are a small to medium-sized company, you must disrupt the library on a fraction of the budget of your larger competition.

Picture this: 

A busy architect has asked their junior to go to the library and pick out all of the binders for flooring so they can consider each option. The assistant looks through the maze of binders for something that screams “luxury wood flooring,” does yours? What does the spine of your binder say? What is your binder made of? Getting off the shelf and into the consideration set can be as simple as saying COMMERCIAL FLOORING on the spine and as beautiful and seductive as having the binder or box made from your actual materials.

In an ideal world, your product would be preselected before the project ever starts—not slugging it out on the library shelves. In reality, many product specifications live and die by something as simple as the spine on a binder.


3. Be Relatable.

Limit the technical jargon to your product spec sheets and leave it out of your other marketing materials. Where you see factual information that verifies claims, architects and designers see chaos.

Increasingly, we’ve heard architects and designers tell manufacturers that they don’t want to hear about all a product’s details in the early stages of consideration. Instead, they want to hear about the benefits of that product. This insight has implications not only for messaging and positioning, but also for sales tools and marketing collateral. For example, it doesn’t mean that your specified audience doesn’t want to hear about your products features, but they just don’t necessarily need to read about them during the early stage of their decision making. In essence, they first want to know how it benefits them.

Architects and designers want to ease into your brand. Therefore, when you market your product, your message should be concise and compelling. It should explain clearly up front in “plain English” what your product does and why it matters. This kind of approach brings a sense of relationship and familiarity to the awareness-building step of your product’s sales process.

All in all, when you can create a memorable brand for your product that is unmistakable for any other, makes your target audience feel inspired, and is clearly relatable, then your product will succeed at becoming specified.


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.