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Working with architects

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Working with architects
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Many salespeople spend a lot of time working to grow their network while doing very little to grow their sales. Much of their energy is spent hunting for the decision-maker for a builder or remodeler, while others network through associations to try to make new connections. While these efforts can be effective, they require a good level of cold calls, rapport-building, and needs-identification before any revenue can be realized.

Many of the efforts are aimed at builders or remodelers. From my experience, most LBM salespeople overlook architects. As you’ll see, I view this as a missed opportunity. Throughout my career as a manufacturer, I have invited countless dealer salespeople to join me for architectural meetings. Many salespeople, frankly, don’t see how an architectural meeting, or a Lunch & Learn training session, is a good use of their time nor how it could translate into new sales opportunities. That’s a mistake.

On the surface, an architectural meeting can be viewed as a one-sided meeting solely aimed at the benefit of the architect. The architect receives an education about a product, a CEU credit for their license, and a free lunch. The presenter gives their time, buys the lunch, and provides the training—while getting nothing tangible in return. With this perspective, it’s easy to understand why a dealer salesperson would view this as a waste of their time.

However, with the right approach, meeting with an architect can be quite rewarding for a dealer salesperson. To start, the dealer salesperson needs to embrace the fact that the architect is influential with the builder. When an architect makes a recommendation, whether the builder likes it or not, they give it credence, consider the recommendation, and move forward accordingly. Being recommended by an architect is a good thing. So, how do you gain an architect’s recommendation?

To start, be sure that you approach the meeting with a plan of what you want to accomplish. This makes the meeting mutually beneficial for both you and the architect. From my experience, five key things to put on your meeting plan are:

1.   Display a genuine interest in the projects the architect has worked on.

2.   Strive to have the architect show you a series of the projects.

3.   Ask questions about each project, the challenges they faced, and the builders that built them.

4.   Offer to bring information on additional products or services back to the architect, ask what would be of interest. Learn what you can do to help them. Then do it.

5.   At the end of the meeting, request names of three to five builders that the architect thinks would be interested in learning about your services, or the product that was represented during the meeting. Making a sales call on a builder based on the referral of an architect can open new doors

With this approach you will have an insider knowledge of projects, opportunities for specific product applications, an open door to come back to meet with the architect again, and a list of warm builder referrals from a respected source. Now take the initiative and follow-up accordingly, as one architectural meeting can generate a long list of opportunities for new sales.

Since many LBM salespeople turn down the opportunity to meet with architects, this could be a powerful tool to help you create separation with your competition. Indeed, instead of waiting to be invited, you may want to seek out your manufacturers and ask to join them on future architectural meetings.

Tom Zimmerman has over 17 years of experience in helping create and launch brands, accelerate the sales of existing products, develop teams and sales processes while driving value through the execution of commercialized strategies. Learn more at shift-stc.com or contact Tom at tzimmerman@shift-stc.com.