Is your marketing and sales an open freeway? Or an existential roadblock?

In both our private and professional lives, we consume information today in a vastly different manner than we did a decade ago. Perpetually connected to seemingly infinite networks of information, everything we want to know is right there at our fingertips, whenever we want it.

What does this profound paradigm shift in information consumption mean to building product manufacturers? Frankly, everything.

Sooner or later, manufacturers who fail to re-tool to stay out in front of this rapidly shifting reality 
will go extinct as they succumb to competitors who more perfectly adapt.

There are powerful digital forces at work in virtually all buying decisions today – especially within our multi-layered and complex building products industry. How well your company masters this brave new digital reality will ultimately determine your fate.

Consider this: A recent Gartner Customer 360 report predicts that, in just 3 years, customers 
(i.e., architects, designers, specifiers, distributers, contractors, and owners) will manage 85% of their relationship with an enterprise (i.e., your company, products, and services) without ever talking to a human  (i.e., your technical, sales, and customer service teams).

By 2020 the customer will manage 85% of its relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human.

This won't diminish the value of a well-connected, responsive, and knowledgeable salesforce, but it does mean that a salesperson's role, skill-set, and time for day-to-day activities must ultimately conform to this new 85% reality. Let's look at how this relates to architect-specified products as an example.

Like most of us, today's architects are digitally-savvy consumers and, while they don't ultimately buy any building products directly, what they initially specify carries enormous influence toward sales.

Your brand, products, services, message, value proposition, and USPs are introduced and reinforced to the architect through strategic, compelling, and well-integrated marketing initiatives. These may include advertising (print, digital, programmatic, television, radio), public relations, content marketing, continuing eduction, email campaigns, tradeshows, and more.

If you are extremely fortunate, the architects you reach will have an immediate need for your product, call your rep, and send you off and running on the long journey to specification (and hopefully a sale). However, it's more likely that the architect will act upon their interest in the same way that most of us do when formulating a buying decision – we go to the Internet.

We Google the product and the manufacturer. We visit their website (which alone is a decent victory for marketing). We dive deeper into the details. We compare. We explore what a product looks like in situ. We pin photos that inspire us. We bookmark. We download.

Then we seek validation for the good impressions that begin to form, so we start researching who else is using the product. We read customer reviews. We find interesting articles and prodouct reviews from our favorite, most reputable sources. We share links with our peers and ask for their input. We try to find a place where we can see or experience the product first-hand. And we search for answers to our biggest concerns. How durable is it? Are there hidden costs? Is this my best choice? Is it green? Does it come in green?

But what happens when we run into a roadblock that prevents us from forming an informed evaluation and validation for a product? Easy... *click* We're gone. We move on. We find an alternative. Talk about a missed opportunity and waste of precious marketing dollars.

For the manufacturer poised for tomorrow, this architect doesn't move on.Instead, this architect experiences an open freeway in their journey of discovering you.

In fact, they may be impressed by how effortless and enjoyable the journey was compared to your competitors. And even if they don't have an immediate need for your product, they decide to subscribe to your eNewsletter to keep themselves up-to-date with new products, projects, and promotions. They share your products and story with colleagues. They jump at the chance to learn more by taking your online AIA/CES course. They stop by your tradeshow booth. They may even invite your rep to visit their office.

Most importantly, when the time comes that your product is needed or desired by this architect, rest assured that your salesperson is speaking with a well-informed and supremely qualified prospect.

For these reasons, the role of your salesforce is far less about prospecting and far more about business development, and carefully managing those last few remaining steps of the sales cycle. Maneuvering through proposals and negotiations, ensuring a spec is held, supporting the needs of the entire building team, and securing the sale.

Incidentally, to compound on the complexity of this architect example, maximizing your salesperson's success means that a manufacturer must be certain that the same "roadblock-free" marketing and sales processes the architect experienced are repeated and tailored to fit GCs, designers, sub-contractors, distribution, and dealers, as well.

If you're interested in learning how LarsonO'Brien can help your company remove roadblocks to more effectively and efficiently generate and nurture a greater volume of qualified leads – significantly improving close ratios – please feel free to email or call me anytime. I'm happy to learn about your goals and challenges, and explore the ways LarsonO’Brien can help.