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Specification selling is about creating awareness of your products and the benefits that their use can bring to a project. It is about creating awareness and hence demand, reducing the importance of price and transferring influence away from the supply chain to the manufacturer. The five key elements of delivering an effective specification strategy are:
Focus on your product benefits, not on price
It is important not to sell on price alone. Use research to know and understand the reasons for the specification of your product. Be clear on what it is about your product that is different from the competition and can justify its selection. This need not be limited to the product itself, you can differentiate by providing services in the form of technical advice, site surveys or BIM content.
Identify receptive construction sectors
Focus on the sectors where the benefits your product offers will be best received. Also think about the type of contract where the specification is most likely to hold firm. For example premium products are more likely to be used when the project contract is Traditional as opposed to Design & Build.
Identify the key players
Identify the key players in your target sectors and focus on creating awareness of your product with them. Broaden your focus beyond the Architect. Don’t forget Contractors they recommend products, will make selections for some contract types and also have the power to veto a product choice. The Client may also specify, recognising that the cheapest solution at the time of construction may have long term extra operational cost implications.
Create awareness across the Decision Making Unit
It is important that all members of the Decision Making Unit (DMU) are aware of your product and recognise its importance to the success of the overall design and operation of the project. Develop arguments, using case studies and technical papers, to support the use of your products. Promote your sustainability credentials. Provide data for BREEAM & SKA. Consider Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) or schemes for your industry. Understand BIM and provide BIM content.
Deliver great technical support, positioning yourself as the Trusted Advisor
You need to speak the specifiers’ language, providing solutions. Your sales team must be approachable, to become Trusted Advisors to the decision makers, providing reliable technical support. These include the Technical CPD seminar, standard specifications, case studies, white papers, technical literature and samples. BIM is changing the way products are specified.  BIM research shows that designers will give preference to products available as BIM objects. Specifiers will need support online, offline and also face-to-face, so ensure it is available in the right format, at the right time.
Conducting research can uncover the facts and lay the foundations for a strong specification strategy. Specification selling focusses your sales team in the right areas and provides clear targets. Reviewing your specification strategy on a regular basis is also best practice. An effective specification sales strategy enables you to provide the right information at the right time and deliver what the specifier wants.
If you would like assistance in developing your strategy Competitive Advantage can help in a variety of ways, from workshops to help define actions, to implementing elements of a programme such as developing an effective CPD seminar or researching case studies as well as in-house specification sales training
 rules of specification selling
Chris Ashworth is a specialist in specification strategy and founder of Competitive Advantage Consultancy which specialises in market research and training for the construction industry. He is a member of the BIM4M2 steering group and Deputy Chair of the organising committee for CIMCIG, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group.

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