The Influencers of Sales and Specifications
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Face-to-face relationships can still be crucial for product specification in the age of the internet, emails, phone calls, webinars, and Skype. For thousands of years, humans have done business face-to-face whether its buying, selling, or bartering. Technology like the telephone didn’t dramatically alter the buying and selling process. However, the age of the internet has added new complexities to the selling process for building product manufacturers.
Author Jim Blasingame defines our current age as the “Age of the Customer”. He theorizes that new technological advances have diminished the face-to-face advantage that Sellers once had. In the Age of the Seller, there were three types of groups that mattered to companies.
- The Suspect—The Suspect was anybody the Seller hadn’t talked to. It could be somebody in the phonebook. Some of you young whipper snappers under the age of thirty might ask what’s a phonebook. Answer: It’s a monstrous, heavy, billion-page relic from the past that contained information and advertisements about companies. It also stained your fingers with cheap ink and was made from thousands of murdered trees. It’s been replaced by the internet in most places that have electricity.
- The Prospect—A Suspect becomes a Prospect after they have met the Seller’s qualifying criteria. They have a pulse and cash.
- The Customer--A Prospect becomes a Customer after the sale has taken place.
- The Influencer—In 2018, one of the most critical aspects of selling is the Influencer. With the advent of the internet, the influencer has become a significant part of the process. Today, users of services and products have become Influencers. For example, an architect who participates in a great AIA continuing education course sponsored by a product manufacturer, may recommend that AIA CE course to their colleagues.
Users can be Influencers without ever having met the Seller. A specifier may select a masonry product, window, door, paint, etc. without ever meeting the building product rep. The User can find product information online and make recommendations or warn others about a bad product. Users may use forums and other platforms to post reviews about various building products. Good news and bad news is spread regardless of what a building product manufacturer does. The control is in the User and Influencer’s hands.
Blasingame also discusses how community affects sales. Different Users may be aligned with different communities. For example, a building product manufacturer may market their product differently when approaching distinct groups such as architects, interior designers, engineers, and contractors. Demographics could include where a design professional is in the country, what types of projects they work on, etc.
A successful building product manufacturer will implement strategies that reach out to not only current Users, but also Influencers and different communities. Reaching these various groups can be expensive and time consuming if a manufacturer isn’t careful. That’s why metrics and focusing on ROI for outreach is critical.
If your company has only a few product reps calling on contractors in one metro area of the United States, that might work for a very specific and regional aligned product. However, a building product manufacturer that has distribution nationwide or in multiple states should have a multi-pronged approach. Outreach strategies should include online AIA courses, online LEED courses, webinars, and classroom events.
How does your company reach Influencers? What communities does your company provide outreach to?
For more information or to discuss the topic of this blog, please contact Brad Blank