As the contractor evolves into a consultant’s role, knowing one’s product—as well as its competitors—is important. Contractors’ ability and willingness to discuss the qualities of their products compared to alternate or even competitive systems will be appreciated by the architect and specifier, since most project specifications require a minimum of three brand names (or contain non-proprietary phrases such as ‘or equal’).
When discussing one’s own product versus competitive materials, it is important to do so within the context of use and application, features, and benefits, or—better still—by addressing solutions for the challenges or problems voiced by the designer, not by badmouthing the competition. Negative selling should never be used to promote one’s talents or products. The more informed an architect or specifier is about product options, the more likely he or she will write a clear, correct, concise, and complete specification. Sharing knowledge and experience with project designers supports the creation of unambiguous construction documents, which improves the project bidding and installation process, makes the architect look good, and elevates the contractor’s stature in the eyes of the architect.
Accelerating the process
For those involved in architectural consulting or marketing (i.e. promoting products and expertise to design professionals), this author feels a membership in CSI is invaluable. The group comprises architects, specification writers, product reps, contractors, and owners. Varying by local chapter, there are numerous opportunities to interact with these members, including monthly meetings, regional product shows, and technical, educational, and social events. Being visible at these types of gatherings often makes it easier to secure an appointment with an architect, since he or she already knows the contractor. CSI also offers the Construction Document Technology (CDT) certificate, which provides comprehensive knowledge about the preparation and management of construction documents. Specifiers recognize this credential, which, again, facilitates meetings and discussions with the design team for a project.
Deriving benefits from architectural consulting takes time. It is a form of marketing, with success depending on three elements:
- receptive audiences; and
- relevant, stage-specific messages.
Conducting architectural calls in accordance with these three marketing elements provides a framework for successfully bidding and securing more projects, as well as for establishing credentials as a reputable and reliable design consultant.
Howard Jancy, CSI, CDT, is a commercial architectural services representative for Custom Building Products. He has 30 years of experience with tile, stone, and concrete flooring, as well as paving design, installation, and remediation. Jancy’s responsibilities include specification writing and review, technical service, and continuing education. He has written articles for numerous industry publications, including Landscape Contractor National, the Journal of Architectural Coatings, and The Construction Specifier. Jancy has also been a presenter at World of Concrete (WOC), as well as various CSI chapter programs throughout the Midwest, and is a member of the CSI Chicago Chapter. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.