(by Marty Helly)
1. Get to Know Me and the Firm, Give Us a Chance to Earn Your Trust
Product Representatives work in many different capacities. Some are direct employees of a single manufacturer. Some work for distributors who supply the products of multiple manufacturers and product types. Some are independent representatives with expertise with numerous products and take a full system approach. Many have worked in their field for years and have extensive technical expertise. “We’re not all trunk slammers and used car salesman. Please don’t let a few bad apples stereotype us.”
2. Know What Information You Require and When
With CAD and Revit, drawings can look very detailed even at the schematic design stage. While reps provide estimates and specification assistance without charge to the designer, they aren’t “free”. Just like construction documents, detailed estimating, drawings and schedules take significant time and effort. If you only need an order of magnitude or a ballpark estimate for conceptual documents on a project that is still more than a year from construction, let us know. Don’t request shop drawings, a full proposal and bid pricing. Don’t have the hardware consultant prepare a complete detailed schedule when the floor layout is still in flux and door locations and functions will all change.
3. Everyone is frustrated when Bids come in Over Budget
“Our goal is to provide value.” If price and not quality is the driving criteria on a project, let the rep know. We can help you prepare your design with appropriately priced products. It’s not just about preventing us from spending time on a project we will never get when it goes to the lowest price substitution. We can help you be more efficient and look better with your clients. Everyone’s happier when the initial bids come in on target and endless rounds of “value engineering”, substitution reviews and re-bidding are not required.
4. Architects Know a Little about a Lot, We Know a Lot about a Little.
“If you want to use my product, let me help you to write a complete and accurate specification.” We realize you have more than 100 different sections in a typical project and that it’s hard to keep up to date on all of the changes throughout the industry. Your product rep focuses on one section. He stays up to date on his industry and knows the critical items to be included in an individual section to ensure you get the selected product.
5. Let Me Know Before You Specify Me
“I know my product’s limitations.” You and I both look bad if you specify my product and then after the project goes out to bid I have to tell you we can’t supply what you need. When we don’t have the right product, we may be able to point you in the direction of someone that can help you out.
6. Color and Finish Matter
We are happy to provide options to give you design freedom, but manufacturing processes are optimized to provide products in large volumes to customers around the world. It may be “just a coat of paint” or a “different metal substrate”, but that minor change may require complete shutdown and changeover of a production line at the factory to achieve. This results in significant costs and scheduling issues for a manufacturer. On projects where there are small quantities involved, the pricing issues become dramatic. When the finish is “To Be Selected” we cannot price it correctly. We need to know if this is going to be a highly specialized custom color/finish or one of our standard items.
7. Please don’t view me as a Free Lunch.
While we’re happy to do lunch presentations and help you get your required learning units, please make sure the topic is appropriate for your firm. Your time is valuable. I don’t want to waste it talking about a product you’ll never consider using. Let us focus on information that is meaningful to you. “We have answers. You have questions. Ask them.”
8. Give a New Guy a Break
There are numerous heartfelt stories from architects/specifiers that start out “when I was new in this industry, this product rep took me under his or her wing regardless of project size and educated me”. Pay it forward. A rep starting out in the architectural sales realm is often overwhelmed about the process, much like you once were. Take a few minutes to let them understand how to help you.
9. Help Me Help You
Even when you specify my product, there are times I can’t get a return call from a GC or Owner’s Representative. They will take your call. If you need me to help resolve an on-site issue or discuss something with your client, get them on the phone/in the room with me.
10. Talk to the CSI Guy with the CDT and CCPR
Product Reps who have made the effort to join our organization as CSI members, and particularly those who have taken the time to get their certification credentials, have taken the time to learn about the construction delivery process and how to properly work with you. Let them know you appreciate that time and effort by giving them a few minutes of your time. They’ll make sure it’s not time wasted.