Want To Know The Secret To Growing Sales Through Increased Specifications? Ask Your Sales Reps.


It’s a funny thing to watch—manufacturers scratching their heads trying to find ways to grow sales, all the while ignoring their best source for specification insight: their reps.


Sales Reps Are Boots on the Ground, Real-Time Data Gatherers

I meet many rock star sales reps. Some are independent and carry multiple brand lines. Others are company reps that may carry many products under one brand umbrella. Either way, they are highly motivated to grow sales and will do whatever is necessary to garner the specification.

So, if you want to know which products to develop, what the upcoming industry trends are or which sales and marketing materials are working, ask your sales rep.

Then, listen.

You and the sales team have the same objective: to grow sales. They are on your side, so take the time to sit back and listen to what they have to say. Listening should be something that is done consistently. Whether you choose to make listening sessions a part of your quarterly meetings or twice a year one-on-one interviews, make it a consistent part of your sales management process.

Most of us are really good at talking, not so much at listening. Active listening is a communication technique that requires the listener to fully concentrate, understand the speaker and provide feedback without judgment. It takes effort. One of the strengths of active listening is that it discerns complaining from constructive and valid thoughts. This isn’t about listening to salespeople vent, rather it’s about finding out what prevents them from excelling at their job.

Once the conversation starts, it’s important to know what to listen for. Many successful companies employ the “5 Whys,” which is basically a tool to help get to the root of an issue by asking why until you find the actual cause.


Listen for Real Issues and Actionable Solutions

Try combining active listening with the “5 Whys” with your sales reps to get to the heart of real actionable improvements that remove barriers to sale. Here’s a sample of how these two techniques can work in a listening session:

Sales rep: I can’t grow sales for our existing product unless it changes.

Why? I’m tired of losing specifications to our competitor because they are cheaper. I think we need to lower our pricing. It seems like all specification decisions in our category are made on cost and cost alone.

Why? The competition is cheaper because it is an inferior product. It will need to be replaced or resurfaced every five years. Our product is superior but it costs more initially and architects don’t like that.

Why? Because they are trying to bring projects in to meet a certain budget. That requires them to value-engineer at every point of construction. Architects are trying to please the client and our product takes too much effort for them to sell.

Why? Because in many firms, sales development now falls on the shoulders of the architect. They recognize that the path to partnership requires not only building a strong portfolio, but also helping to grow the firm’s reputation and bring in new business as well. That includes growing repeat revenue from existing clients. They have to keep everyone happy and they are not going to take a stand on our product when they can specify something cheaper.

Why? Because they don’t see how they would personally benefit from doing so.

Okay, now we’ve uncovered the core issue, and guess what? It’s not price. The barrier to sale is that the entity who would most benefit from the product, the developer, isn’t aware of it. The manufacturer has not provided the sales reps or the architects with the marketing tools and data points that they need to sell the product as a benefit rather than a cost. So, together, the manufacturer and the sales rep have now pinpointed a new marketing target: the developer.

This technique has identified what the real issue is and provided insight as to what the manufacturer can do (actionable) to remove the obstacles to sale.

Areas to actively listen for are:

  1. Product development

  2. Trend forecasting

  3. Sales presentations

  4. Marketing materials

  5. Changing market conditions


Stop Listening, Stop Growing

If you choose to ignore or not engage your reps, you will lose sales, lag behind competitors and throw away marketing budgets on ineffective materials. Ultimately, the brand will become eroded until it’s no longer relevant.


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.