Here's something that's always amazed me...
(...And it's the perfect opportunity for you to get your foot in the door on every project out there.)
It's how insufficient a lot of substitution requests are. The ones coming through during a building project's bidding phase. Or during construction.
I'd understand if the specifications weren't very good. Or didn't provide explicit requirements on what we expected from manufacturers. But a lot of the projects I've worked on had very tight specs and were pretty darn clear.
If I'm the architect or engineer and you want me to consider your product after I've already taken the time and energy to research the products I decided to spec-- you need to convince me.
Simple as that.
Don't expect me to go the extra mile to dig up the research myself to determine if you make the cut.
But still, I see requests come through with a few lines of the request form filled in with barely legible handwriting.
No proof. No backup data or similar projects or references.
No compelling reasons to consider their product over the two or three I'm familiar with and chose to design around. Why should I take on the risk of accepting your product on my client's building?
With the mountain of work an architect has during the brief bidding period of a project, we actually prefer these inadequate requests. They make our job easy. No thought necessary.
Into the denied pile it goes.
The secret to getting accepted...
Most of us are too busy at work and saying "No" is a lot easier and tends to be our default answer.
It saves us a lot of work and headspace. If we can avoid proving to ourselves or our superiors acceptance of a product or idea would be beneficial.
Saying "Yes" usually means something is changing, leading to more work for me.
OK. Maybe it isn't a secret, but knowing it can save you a lot of disappointment. And it can help you change the way you frame your future substitution requests.
Choose to write defensively...
When I used to write a lot of RFP responses for architectural projects, I did a lot of research on the best writing techniques.
I learned about "shredding the RFP."
I learned about principles like "personalizing" and "newspaper writing." Writing in the active voice, and avoiding confusing technical jargon.
But one of the most eye-opening tips I read (on the topic of writing RFP responses), was the idea of writing defensively.
Basically, it means you want to write your response in such a way that it answers ALL the questions posed in the RFP.
The reviewer wants to say "no," so you need to write in a way they have to work harder to find a reason to say it.
Putting yourself in the architect's shoes...
Let's apply this to your substitution request...
You need to make sure you've "checked all the boxes."
Imagine the architect has a checklist setting next to him. And he's going down the list ticking each box to make sure your product is equal or better than what he specified.
To take it a step further, visualize the architect has too much work.
So he takes his stack of substitution requests home with him. And has them sitting next to him as he's watching his son at baseball practice.
He picks your request form up and he half-heartedly goes down his checklist between watching his son at bat. He wants to get through your form quickly. Wants to say "No."
Don't make it easy for him. Make him prove it to himself.
Make him pay attention and maybe even save your form for when he's back in the office in the morning. Where he can add it to the approved pile.
Give me reasons to say "Yes"...
If you have a good product that's truly an equal, then it shouldn't take too much more work to do this.
If your product is newer to the market, but you have proven successes in another market. Make sure you're constantly collecting testimonials and records of those successes.
Provide a "preponderance of proof." Overwhelm me with reasons to say "yes."
Whatever you do, don't leave it to my whim. Be defensive. Make it hard for me to say no. Make me prove it.
Make it a great marketing day!