I’m not sure why, but I always imagine the bidding phase of a project will go smoothly.
You know — the design team has issued the project’s drawings and specifications. They’re “out on the streets” for the hopeful contractors, subs, and manufacturers to review and prepare their bids for the project.
This is that “quiet time” when the architects and engineers can catch up on all those other things they put off until the documents went out. Right?
But it never ends up going that way for me. Why?
That’s right. Over my entire career, this is one of those times you get to see the full gamut of building product manufacturers who “get it,” and those who just… don’t.
So, today, I’ll try to paint the picture for you of what an architect’s mindset is during this crucial time. And what you can (and should) be doing during the bidding period.
(Even if you’re already listed in the specifications.)
You dare to question the great and powerful Oz?!?
OK — there are some architects who don’t want to be challenged.
Or… at least don’t have the time to explain their spec choices.
Or… don’t really have a good answer to some of the questions you might have.
Unfortunately, you are at their mercy in most cases. And they know that.
So it’s important you ask the questions if you want your substitution request taken seriously. But in a diplomatic, non-aggressive way. To do that, you need to enter the conversation already going on in their head.
What is that conversation? It depends on your product’s category.
Substitution request for high-profile elements of the design
If your product is a highly visible aesthetic element, the architect may have invested a lot of time to design their building around it. And there may have been an extensive approval process to get to the final approved design.
That means your last minute proposed change might require some re-thinking on the architect’s part. Or it might require more meetings to get this new product approved. A lot of work for them, and not a lot of time to do it.
So, your solution is to make it as easy as possible for them to see the value and equal nature of your product. Do you have benefits above their specified product? Can you get an exact color match?
If so, clearly spell it out.
Do NOT quickly scribble in the substitution request form that you’re a match. You offer the same product. Then attach a 20 page PDF of your cut sheets. And expect me to search for any reason to approve.
Spell it out. Create a side-by-side comparison for me to quickly see where you are equal or better. More durable? Thicker panels? Whatever. Spell it out.
Remember, you’re asking me to change my mind, in some cases. And I may have to sell it to someone else.
What if your product isn’t a high-profile design element?
There’s a good chance your product is one of those “behind-the-scenes,” workhorses of a building. Hidden inside the wall, or above the ceiling.
If that’s the case, the architect might not have put as much effort into designing around your product.
But that doesn’t mean your job is any easier.
If your product falls in this category, there’s a good chance this spec section is one of those tried-and-true sections that doesn’t get a lot of attention on the project.
It’s the same one they used on the last project and “never had any problems before…”
So your challenge here is to convince me that I should change my mind and possibly my firm’s mind about the best product to use.
Where’s your proof?
And, if we’ve never heard of you, or your product, we may not be ready to allow your substitution request onto our client’s project.
So, you need to also provide proof. Case studies, or lists of references and other nearby buildings where your product was used.
While you’re at it, the same rules apply from above. Make it abundantly clear how you match up to my basis of design and/or where you exceed.
As a matter-of-fact, that’s a good action item you can do right now. Go through all your competitors and make a spreadsheet showing how you match up.
This way, you’re ready for the next substitution request. As well as helping you see where you can improve or change your marketing up to stand out from the competition.
Be thorough and clear in your proposed substitution request
This sounds obvious (and repetitive) — But I’m always surprised how hard some manufacturers make it for me to say “Yes.”
In one of my past project’s bidding period, for two weeks all my time was spent fielding questions and/or reviewing substitution requests.
Now, my approach is different than many of my colleagues. If you send me an incomplete form, or I need more information to make a decision before sending off to the Owner for final approval — I’ll ask you for it.
Because I want to give you a fighting chance to help make my project better. Or possibly cost savings over my specified product.
But I know some architects and engineers who simply file those incomplete requests away as not approved and move on. And you never know why you weren’t accepted. Unless you ask.
Using your substitution request to master their spec
I was talking to a colleague who won’t take substitution requests. He doesn’t have the time. He simply directs non-listed manufacturers to his company’s specification writer. So they can present their case and get listed in their company’s master specs for future projects.
That’s unfortunate for the manufacturer for that current project. But I think it’s great advice for you to consider on your future lost projects. If you’re not listed, set up a call or firm visit to present your products and request addition to their master specifications.
And if they don’t have a master spec for your product, offer to help them set one up for future projects.
Who can you help?
I hope this glimpse behind the curtain helps you on your next substitution request.
And if it does, help me get the word out…
If you know anyone else who could use this kind of helpful advice, please send a link to this post to a friend. You’ll help me spread these messages and, at the same time, help a friend get the answers they might be looking for.
Until next time…
Make it a great marketing day!
P.S. Did you know I offer a consulting package for building product marketing and sales teams.
If you and your team have questions about how an architect thinks… How they make decisions and what objections they have… What you can do to overcome those objections… we’ll work together to get you the answers you need to make stronger connections.
Interested? Send me an email ([email protected]) –> put “CONSULTING PACKAGE” in the subject line, and I’ll reply with the details.
PLUS, whenever you’re ready, here are 3 ways I can help you connect with architects for your business
1) Request a free copy of my copywriting tips for building product marketers.
Just send a quick email or head over to the contact form and tell me you’d like the “Copywriting Cheat Sheet.” And I’ll get that right to you.
2) Book a no-cost, no-obligation 15-minute call with me.
Just go here and pick a day/time that works best for you.
3) Work with me One-on-One
If you’d like to work directly with me… just send me an email and put “One-on-One” in the subject line… tell me a little about your business and what you’d like to work on together, and I’ll get you all the details!