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William L. Shannon, Editor

William L. Shannon, Editor of CISCA

May I have The Architect's Name and Address Please?

for the March / April 2005 Issue, CISCA's Interior Construction Magazine

If your company depends upon architectural specifications for the sale of your product, and if this question is not asked for every quotation, and, most importantly, at order entry, you are asking for trouble. You are ignoring the most important key to the success of your business. Who is your customer and just as important, who is responsible for the customer using your product?

Organizations regularly spend tens of thousands of dollars on market surveys to ascertain, who is the customer? Why do they use our product? It's curious that these same organizations ignore the obvious opportunity to secure this important information, at no cost, when contacted for quotations and at order entry.

Many excuses are offered. That information is not available. The quote is due in five minutes; we don't have time to find the information. It was specified by the owner, there is no architect. There are two or more architects. There is no specification for this custom product, we just decided to bid this material on the project. The list seems endless. Incredibly, most members of the order entry team have no idea why this information is important. That is the fault of management. The same management that is responsible for developing new products, creating marketing campaigns, training and motivating the sales force, and increasing profits, never bothers to make it a priority to determine how, by whom and why their product was specified.

The problem of determining responsibility for product specification transcends all industries. It doesn't matter if the company uses a company sales force or independent manufacturers' Representatives. It would be understandable for a manufacturer to ignore this step in the sales process, if it didn't affect their business, but, proper identification of product specification influence has a tremendous impact on sales of all but purely commodity products.

Consumer product manufacturers figured this out a long time ago. They are very sensitive to buying influence. Where the consumer purchases the product. What form of promotion or advertising is most effective? Seems as if manufacturers in the commercial construction products industry don't have a handle on it.

If a product manufacturer expects their sales force to promote their product or system on all appropriate projects designed and specified in their exclusive territory, then wouldn't it be reasonable for the sales force to expect compensation for a successful specification? If the company is not diligent on all levels, in securing the appropriate information, the following should be expected;

  • The sales person will not spend time and effort on projects not located in their territory.
  • The sales person will neglect designers working primarily on out of territory projects.
  • The sales person will be reticent to visit designers with questions concerning projects designed in collaboration with out of town architects.

Obviously this is very short sighted for the manufacturer, particularly if their products or systems are applicable for out of territory projects. Most major metropolitan area architects work on projects all over the United States and many all over the world. If specification credit is not taken seriously, manufacturers' will not participate in many very lucrative projects.

The answer to this problem is really quite simple. No quote can be given, and no order can be entered for unique, custom or proprietary products, without the participation of the factory. Registration of specifications, for out of territory projects, simply does not work. Too many variables are involved. Job name changes, town name changes, owner changes, the list is long and varied. The one acknowledged fact is that there can not be an order without involvement of the factory. The simple and undeniable conclusion is, the factory should be responsible for accurately determining the architect responsible for the specification. On occasion there is more than one architect involved; most contracts clearly cover how that works. On some projects there will be negotiations, but, all involved will feel comfortable that they will be compensated for their work. Every piece of paper, quotes, purchase order acknowledgements, shop drawings, and sample submittals should include The Architects Name and Address. Without the architects there would be no project.

It is management's responsibility to properly train all company personnel in the importance of accurately determining the Architects Name, Address, Telephone and Fax numbers. They should understand, it leads to increased sales and can affect their job security. More sales, more job security.

Manufacturers should realize that this common sense, professional approach is good for all. It will help increase sales by guaranteeing proper coverage of architects designing out of town projects. It will assist the architect and client, insuring them proper technical assistance from both their local and job location reps. It will reduce resistance of contractors, by assuring them proper technical coverage for their project.

When the telephone rings, or emails arrive, at your customer service or sales department, be sure to ask... "May I have The Architects Name and Address Please?"

William L. Shannon CSI, CISCA
President of Shannon Corporation
Recipient of the 2004 De Gelleke Award

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