Winning and Maintaining Architect Relationships
Posted on May 25, 2016
For distributors, building positive relationships with architects is just smart business. It promotes customer loyalty, prospects, valuable cross-selling opportunities, and reinforces both the brand of the individual distributor and Overhead Door. We spoke with Jai Patel, from Overhead Door Company of the Meadowlands and NYC and Gary Michael, district sales and new business development manager for Overhead Door, both of whom have experienced success in architect relations, to share some of their best practices for seeking out and delivering value to architects in their area.
Be The Expert
"Architects are busy people. They don't have the time to be experts on every spec of every product used in their projects. That's where we come in," said Jai.
As the go-to representative of Overhead Door's product line, a distributor's job is to gauge customer needs, understand project requirements, build trust, and communicate precisely how Overhead Door provides the solution the architect is looking for.
Before you pick up the phone, do your research. Knowing your market and community is the surest way to make sure opportunities don't pass you by. Which firms are the most active in your community? Where are doors being specified? Who has been doing the most work recently? Google for architects in your area to keep up on new entrants and browse their websites for past, current and future project involvement. Saving project title sheets from past bids is also a great way to develop your contact database. Trade publications and newsletters are also excellent resources to keep up on the activity in your market.
Provide Valuable Experiences
Every architect is either a relationship or a relationship in the making. Lunch and learns are a great way to showcase this expertise and expose architects to new product offerings.
"It provides a laid back interaction that we have been able to repeat year over year with some of the same firms," said Gary.
If you are able to provide a continuing education unit (CEU), it could prove as invaluable learning for this audience. Most architects in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) are required to take a certain number of CEUs each year in order to remain current on their accreditation. In addition, certain states require CEU's for architects to maintain their license in the state. Providing this needed education for architects is a win for both parties.
Whatever learnings your distributorship decides to provide, keep presentations fun and engaging. Be sure to follow up with participants to gather feedback (get their emails!), especially from those that pose challenging questions or special applications. Once you build trust and establish expertise, architects will actively look to spec your products for future business and proactively request additional training from you.
Trust Your Product And Deliver
Architects are more likely to deal with suppliers that support their products and distributors they trust to deliver as promised. They also prefer dealing with one supplier on their specified products over a piecemeal solution. With a breadth of product offerings, Overhead Door has an advantage other suppliers don't.
"Our breadth of products is a convincing proposition to win over customers that may be engaged in preexisting long-term relationships. To target these customers, we concentrate on products their existing supplier doesn't have," said Jai.
Some product options architects tend to gravitate toward include: powder coat finishes, zinc rich finishes, high cycle options that add to product longevity, high performance doors, aesthetically pleasing options and safety and wellbeing options.
"Don't be a wall-flower, just do it! Make the call," Gary and Jai offered in their final piece of advice for distributors looking to experience success with this segment.
Have any relationship building best practices of your own? Comment below and share what techniques have grown your business and customer base!