Architects Can Design Your Future

Rick Davis
January 14, 2009
COLUMN : Building Sales | Sales & Marketing

If you think you have done all you can to deal with the challenges of the current economic conditions, ask yourself if you have made an architectural sales call in the past few months. If your answer is no, then you are not taking advantage of very valuable opportunities in your market. There is no audience better suited to help a window and door salesperson during these times than an architect.

First consider that most economists are now predicting that the slowdown might last through 2009. You may find yourself wondering next December what you would wish you had done differently today. The projects that architects are currently designing will be the homes that are being built later this year. Now is the time to begin planting the seeds of sales growth for later in the year.

It is additionally worth considering that the high-end custom home market tends to fluctuate less than others. This is an industry segment that typically employs architects to provide professional designs for the homeowner. Thus, besides providing opportunities that will yield positive results months down the road, you will discover that, like you, many salespeople continue to ignore this valuable audience and that luck shines on those who invest sales time calling on the architectural community today.

Another particularly beneficial aspect of the architectural sales process is the opportunity to focus on design and product features that would otherwise be of little interest to a builder. A homeowner that engages the services of an architect is almost always more inclined to value the designer’s product recommendations over those of a builder.

Thus, if you really want to succeed as a sales representative, try your hand at the architectural sales process. It is an easy way to differentiate yourself from the competition and a fun way to meet people that are actually interested in talking about the features of your window or door products.

  • Be brief. Unlike builders and other industry professionals, architects are acutely aware of the value of time because they are paid for their time. Thus, it is better to create numerous reasons for brief visits rather than strive for long, drawn out sales presentations.
  • Do not overvalue the box lunch. Too many salespeople believe that architectural sales success begins with a box lunch. It is an excellent way to deliver valuable information, but is no substitute for the long-term effort it takes to build any credible business relationship. Treat them like a paying customer and strive to establish a solid business relationship first, not a one-time information dump.
  • Just deliver the facts. Architects are in the business of creating design and avoiding liability. After all, their business is the production of legal documents. Thus, the path to credibility begins with the facts. Simply deliver the product options and specifications. After your credibility is established, you will discover that architects are eager to engage your services as a consultant on specific project designs.
  • Ask the million dollar question. Architects that design residential projects are typically focused on one of two audiences – the builder and the owner. If the builder is the architect’s client, you should assume that the builder is generally in the decision-making role for windows purchases. But when the architect’s client is the owner, you will quickly learn that the chances for sales success increase dramatically. Ask the builder, “When designing residential projects, do you typically work with builders or the owners?”

Consider the value you would place on a potential client that purchases a few hundred thousand dollars of windows or doors over the course of years. You would hardly ignore this potential client if you knew it were in your own backyard. Now consider that this valuable client may be an architect. Although they may never spend a dime in your showroom, you will discover that the influence they wield among potential clients is worth millions.
 

Rick Davis is president of Building Leaders Inc., a Chicago-based sales consulting company, and provider of the DriveTime Diploma Series of Audio Sales Training. He has written the book "Strategic Sales in the Building Industry" and gives sales and sales management presentatios nationwide. He can be reached at 773/769-4409 or rickdavis@buildingleaders.com.