Sales Training

Inside Mind of Specifier: 8 Things Product Representatives Should Know

This webinar is a great tool for building product sales representatives.  The presenter is Liz O'Sullivan, AIA, CSI, CCS, CCCA, LEED AP BD+C, NCARB, SCIP, a Denver architectural specifications writer. Her firm, Liz O'Sullivan Architecture, LLC, provides architectural construction specifications consulting services to other architects. Her blog,, offers many insights that building product manufacturers can use.

Inside the Mind of the Specifier

Slides and a recording of Inside the Mind of the Specifier, a recent webinar from CSI.have been posted:
The program is recommended viewing for anyone selling through design professionals.

Google+ Hangout

I have not used Google + yet, but their Hangout capability might change my mind.

This is a recording of a Hangout with eight space science journalists. The system replicates face-to-face conversation more effectively than any other online program I have experienced.

Imagine using it for sales training. Participating in project team meetings. Online panel discussions. Jobsite walkthroughs.

Watch for future developments.

Sales Training at CSI Academy

Every building product sales rep or marketing manager will benefit from attending CSI's Product Representative Academy, to be held at the CSI Academies, March 1-3, 2012 in San Diego.

Here is what you will learn:

I'm Not Getting Through! How Do I Communicate With Design Professionals?
Do you ever feel you're not getting your message across in your architectural visits? Is it your age difference, your delivery method, the style, the timing, your cologne or all the above? Age difference is not the only problem -- it's the communication methods you use to get your message across. Architects work, learn, hear and express differently than most product representatives. Most of them have been interested in architecture and building since they were kids, and have a passion about the profession. Throw in a generational difference, and as the product representative, you need to find out the best way to get your message across. Join in this conversation on finding the best methods to share your information effectively with your architectural customers.

  • Learn about the communication barriers caused by the personality differences between architects and product representatives
  • Understand changing office dynamics and the benefits and pitfalls
  • Understand how different age groups respond, communicate and use your information
  • Learn to build trust in your relationships with architectural firms
Get It Right - What To Look For In The Specifications
Do you race to Part II of a specification to see if your product is specified and then ignore the remainder of the document? There may be important information that you are missing that could mean the difference between success and losing money, or the job. Listen to an architect/specifier's explanation of why all the information is important, how it will affect your product, and how it integrates with other products.
  • Learn the parts of a specification and the importance of each
  • Discover the frequent problems specifiers have when writing speicifcations
  • Learn how you can help the architectural team improve their specifications
Bringing Back Customer Service: How To Redevelop Relationships in Construction
What happened to the good old days, when a handshake meant something? Is customer loyalty a thing of the past? Has your personal communication with customers turned into a cold, electronic auto-response? This session will explore ways to help you redevelop relationships with customers by focusing on becoming their source and resource for information to solve their problems during design, bidding and construction phases.
  • Learn about the importance of building your network
  • Discover how referrals help make you the guru of your profession
  • Understand the importance of staying in the forefront
  • Find new ways to rebuild loyalty and remind your customer why they need you
Proprietary Specifications: The Mistakes Manufacturers Make
Many manufacturers provide electronic guide specifications written around their products exclusively. Are these sections useful, and are they worth offering? Who uses them, how they are used, and how effective they are in getting the sponsoring companies specified will be the main topics of this session.
  • Understand the difference between a generic and a proprietary specification section
  • Learn why many design professionals decline to use proprietary specifications
  • Discover the benefits of including the names of comparable products in your specifications
  • Learn why it’s a bad idea to disguise a proprietary product spec as a generic section 
How to Submit the Ultimate Substitution Request (Panel Discussion)
Who likes submitting their products for approval, especially when there is no guarantee that you'll be considered or even reviewed? This interactive, 90-minute panel discussion with two architects and a product rep/subcontractor will help you understand the process, the why-where-when-how of making a request for approval of your products, what CSI forms are available, and where to find this information in the construction documents.
  • Learn how to avoid ever needing to make a substitution request again
  • Hear why architects don't want substitutions
  • Discover the rules of the game for a successful submittal
  • Understand how to make your request meet the needs of the project and its requirements, so it will be accepted
You Want Your Product Specified? How NOT To Spend Your Marketing Dollars
Websites are important. Print advertising is useful for establishing an image. Electronic directories can be helpful, providing you use them properly. Proprietary specifications can get you specified by smaller firms on smaller projects. But getting your products listed in the major master guide specification is crucial. This session explains why.
  • Learn about the website features that are important to a specifier
  • Understand the differences between the various product directories and where you should concentrate your resources
  • Learn why print advertising is less effective with specifiers
  • Discover the importance of getting your company included in the major master guide specification systems - and learn how to do it 
Integrated Project Delivery - The Good, The Evil, and Its Affect on The Building Team
Everyone’s talking about Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), but is anyone doing anything with it? In this seminar you’ll meet a team on the IPD fast track, with a real project under construction. The panel will explain how this project delivery method completely shakes up the standard roles of architects, contractors, owners and suppliers by making them one team, focused on realizing the project, which results in shared responsibilities, shared rewards, shorter construction schedules, lower costs, fewer disputes, no legal battles, and a more enjoyable project experience for all. Sound too good to be true?  Maybe it is -- or maybe it’s a process worth serious effort. This model changes the whole role of a product rep in the construction process. In the IPD  process many of the project trades are contracted, on the basis of qualifications, rather than a hard bid for the work! Don’t miss this opportunity to find out how to compete for your place in this new delivery method -- or you may be find yourself on the outside as a spectator.
  • Find out why owners, designers and construction teams are considering IPD as their new delivery method 
  • Understand how IPD is changing the process of incorporating product knowledge into a project, and how that affects you
  • Learn about the pitfalls and downsides of this delivery method over traditional methods
Why Is It So Difficult To Get My Product Specified? Viewpoints Of An Architect and Product Rep
At the end of the day, all product reps and manufacturers want is to see their manufacturer, model number and product type listed in the architect’s specification. Sounds like a simple request, doesn’t it? It’s just what the architect needs on the job, so what’s the problem? Attend this session and listen to an architect and product representative discuss the complex choice and decisions that are essential to the product selection process and how these selections can make the difference between a successful or failed project.
  • Learn about the architect’s office policies and process of selecting products for projects 
  • Hear the manufacturer’s side of developing new products and getting them specified 
  • Discover the liability of creating specifications and who is responsible for their performance
  • Understand the influence of the owner or outside forces when making product choices
Reading the Architect's Drawings - Do You Really Know What You're Looking For?
When you visit with a designer and they roll out the plans, does fear race through your veins? Are you afraid the architects will find out that you can't find your own product on their drawings?  If you want to know the difference between a plan and elevation view, what section and details mean, how to read  an  architectural scale, or just want to look like you know what's on a set of drawings, this session is for you.
  • Learn where to find your products on the drawings
  • Find out how to identify the types of drawings and how they relate to each other
  • Work with archiectural scales - hands-on!
  • Discover how plans, elevations, schedules, details and the specifications work together
The Eleventh Hour Of Bidding
BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND! Have you ever been in a general contractor's office on bid day and wondered why they don't talk to you? If this bid's today, why weren't they working on this proposal sooner?  Experience the excitement of being in a general contractor's office just before a bid is due. While you may know everything about your product, learning how the general contractor uses this information and your quotes may surprise you. This fast paced exercise will give you new insight why it’s essential to know about the construction documents, the bidding procedures,  and the means and methods BEFORE you submit your price.
  • Learn how subcontractors use your prices and how you may be disqualified
  • Understand the importance of knowing how your information may be analyzed at bid time
  • Find out how General Conditions, Supplementary Conditions, Division One, Specifications and Addenda affect what you need to include in your prices
Ways to Make the Audience Hungry for Your Box Lunch Presentations
What do presenters do right or wrong during box lunch presentations? Hear it from an architect that has sat through many presentations and a product representative that has provided thousands of programs. Learn the important steps to make your lunch-and-learn education session more productive, effective and beneficial to your architectural audience. Discover new ways to stimulate interest in your product, methods to improve retention for adult learners, and techniques to make you their first call for product or system consulting.

Using General Conditions and Division 01 to the Product Rep's Benefit
If you're just selling the product to your customer without knowing how the General Conditions and Division 01  affect your product or its installation, you may be walking into trouble! Know that those who frequently read the General Conditions and Division 01 are lawyers, judges, and the well-informed users who keep themselves out of the courtroom. Attendees will learn the importance of the General Conditions and Division 01 and who is responsible for what, how, and when. Beat the competition by knowing how the General Conditions and Division 01 affect your product and your Bid. Learn which sections of Division 01 you simply cannot miss reading.
  • Understand the role of Division 01 General Requirements in the Construction Contract
  • Understand what parts of the General Conditions and Division 01 affect the technical specifications and the product
  • Learn what articles in the technical specifications relate to what Sections in Division 01 
  • Learn how Division 01 shows you who is responsible for what, how and when 
A Link is Not a Relationship! Social Media for the Small Rep Agency
LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and similar social media platforms are new tools – but what you should be doing with them isn’t! They’re today’s way to support your relationship with designers, so that you can remain the go-to person your clients think of first. In this session, we’ll discuss using social media to build and maintain relationships with the design team. We’ll use examples from LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. You’ll leave with a strategy for getting started in social media, or, for the experienced social media user, strategies for making your social media profiles work harder for you. Submit links to your profiles in advance, and we’ll discuss what you’re doing in social media!
  • Understand social media and its unique value for construction professionals 
  • Learn the process of turning a “like” into a relationship   
  • See where you can incorporate social media into your marketing strategy
  • Develop a plan for getting started in social media 
When to Say “NO”: A PR’s Dilemma Of Providing Too Much Free Assistance
How many material samples did you deliver this week? How many box lunch educational sessions have you presented with only interns and secretarial staff attending? How many voice mail messages did you leave as you followed up on budget pricing? Have you created your own monsters because there is no value perceived in what you are providing as a complimentary service?  Designers, architects and specifiers needs to understand what value you bring to the team. Gain tips and ideas to ensure your place as a respected colleague, not just a sample delivery person.
  • Learn methods on how to interview your customers to provide the right samples and right budgets effectively   
  • Discover ways to control your urge to say and do too much
  • Understand your role as a source of accurate architectural information
  • Discover how NOT to be just a salesperson
Helping Design Professionals Make Sustainable Choices: Performance vs. Greenwashing
Everyone, including the design professional, wants to make choices that provide a better environment. They know they have choices to make in the design of a sustainable project, and in the selection of products and systems. Some choices seem right -- they appear to satisfy environmental, social and economic elements.  But, are they really the correct ones for providing a truly sustainable project, or do they just appear to be? A product or system can perform on a sustainable project, but does it meet the true intent that complies with the rating system used? Some questions will be presented that may be used to assist in that review.
  • Review some of the current tools for analyzing products and systems that claim to be “green” or “sustainable”
  • Learn what design professionals can do to minimize greenwashing
Product Reps Giving Back: The Importance of Professional Memberships and Certifications
There are many product representatives loyal to their company's products and interested in seeing them specified. Memberships in professional organziations help to achieve that goal, and give the product rep an opportunity to become an appreciated and sought after industry professional. Hear from two long time CSI members and Fellows of CSI about how professional memberships have enhanced their careers, and their bottom lines.
  • Hear how active involvement can build your leadership skills
  • Learn how the CSI network can enhance business and employment opportunities
  • Build your reputation through participation 
  • Listen to others share how professional memberships have enhanced their career

Register now!

Parliamentary Procedure is a Sales Tool

Robert's Rules of Order was compiled by an engineer.
"Henry Martyn Robert was an engineering officer in the regular Army. Without warning he was asked to preside over a public meeting being held in a church in his community and realized that he did not know how. He tried anyway and his embarrassment was supreme. This event, which may seem familiar to many readers, left him determined never to attend another meeting until he knew something of parliamentary law." (Robert's Rules of Order website)
Building product salesmen, like engineers, ought to be prepared to participate in "deliberative assemblies," to use Robert's elegant phrase for meetings where a group considers and democratically decides on a course of action or policy. As Robert's found, being able to conduct a business meeting effectively is a form of service to an organization. It can also enhance an individual's reputation and afford leadership opportunities that can aid one's career.

I am reflecting on this following the recent Annual Meeting of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). A simple motion from the floor devolved into confusion that delayed the meeting and frustrated members. This would not have been the case if the meeting had been assisted by an able parliamentarian or if the members had a better understanding of the rules of order.

Rules of order are similar in function to MasterFormat's Division 01 - General Requirements; both describe administrative and procedural requirements to be followed in order to achieve a goal. Conducting a meeting is far easier than managing a construction project.
"The application of parliamentary law is the best method yet devised to enable assemblies of any size, with due regard for every member’s opinion, to arrive at the general will on the maximum number of questions of varying complexity in a minimum amount of time and under all kinds of internal climate ranging from total harmony to hardened or impassioned division of opinion." (Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 10th ed., Introduction, p. xlviii)
While CSI's meeting was tumultuous, the members were still able to approve the motion in question, with a substantial majority voting in the affirmative.

Familiarity with parliamentary procedures will enhance your participation in professional and trade associations and committees and in community affairs. To learn parliamentary procedures, I recommend reading Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised IN BRIEF, a clear, concise, and correct guidebook that is complete enough for use most meetings. I also recommend The A-B-C's of Parliamentary Procedures, a pamphlet that explains basic rules and is priced so that copies can be affordably provided to all members of an organization.

Roberts worked with the US Army Corps of Engineers, eventually becoming its Chief of Engineers. Among his many civil engineering works were improvements to waterways. Yet his greatest achievement was to improve the flow of group decision making and to drain the swamps of debate. It is altogether fitting that contemporary members of the construction industry follow his lead.

Red Listed Products

Living Building Challenge Version 2
Acceptance is growing for a "Red List" of materials that are considered environmentally hazardous. The Red List, created by Living Building Challenge, precludes usage of the following:
  • Asbestos
  • Cadmium
  • Chlorinated Polyethylene and Chlorosulfonated Polyethlene
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • Chloroprene (Neoprene)
  • Formaldehyde
  • Halogenated Flame Retardants
  • Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Petrochemical Fertilizers and Pesticides
  • Phthalates
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
  • Wood treatments containing creosote, arsenic or pentachlorophenol
These compounds are found in many building materials; finding and adopting suitable alternatives will require a significant investment for many manufacturers.

The investment may be worthwhile, however, since the number of developers prohibiting Red List materials is increasing. For example, Google is among organizations that have banned the use of Red List products. Google is alleged to be building facilities at the rate of 40,000 sq. ft. a week.

Anthony Ravitz, Google’s project coordinator for real estate and workplace services, says the firm's decision is based on an economic analysis of the true costs of using a material, including the health and vitality of its employees and avoiding expensive claims for illness due to exposure to potentially dangerous materials. He calls upon manufacturers to provide better transparency about what is in their products, saying, “We don’t have complete information about what’s in our products. It’s not readily available. Until we have that, it will be difficult to make the best decisions.”

CSI Academy: Construction Product Reps

Become part of Project Team
The date and location for the next CSI Academies has been set. The event will take place March 1-3, 2012 in San Diego. Along with training for construction specifiers and construction contract administrators, the program also includes CSI's Product Representative Academy.

Designed for experienced building product professionals, the Academy instills confidence by teaching you the roles and responsibilities of all the construction teams, and how they should interact (and what to do when they don’t!) You will improve your marketability and productivity with skills and information you can use immediately.

The Product Rep Academy will help you become a product representative who understands more than the product – know where and how you fit into the construction process, and become a useful resource the design team will call on again and again. We’ll teach you best practices for presenting products and supporting the design and construction teams. Manufacturers will tell you what you need to know about their products – we’ll give you the skills to present that information and succeed in the commercial construction community.

Chusid Associates highly recommends this program to everyone involved in building product sales, marketing, and customer service.

Questions? Email

Misuse of Product Reps by Architects

CSI Product Representative Practice Group Meeting
July 13, 2-3 pm ET


Topic: Product Rep Abuse - The Growing Misuse of Product Reps by Architects

Presenter/Group Leader: Alana Sunness Griffith, FCSI, CCPR

Have you experienced elation when design professionals call, need your services desperately and you drop everything to respond immediately? Have you experienced frustration when you call the next day to follow up and are told they are too busy to talk to you? Or, are they are unresponsive when you want to spend a few minutes with them to share education about your product or the product's application? We'll share some "war stories" on July 13, but also will talk about some ideas to help you become better connected with the design professional.

System Requirements
Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
Mac OS® X 10.4.11 (Tiger®) or newer

Advice for Sales Reps

Joy Davis, Web Content Manager at Construction Specifications Institute, post this annotated slide show with sound advice for sales representatives working with design professionals.

CSI Webinar - Guide Specifications: A Building Product Sales and Marketing Tool

Michael Chusid, RA, FCSI, CCS, SCIP and Vivian E. Volz, RA, CSI, CCS, LEED AP will explain how guide specifications make it easier for architects and engineers to write your product into their projects. A well-written guide spec also helps educate specifiers about your product, so they can write more accurate and better coordinated project manuals. This course will be led by two experienced specifiers with expertise in guide specifications and building product marketing. They will explain how to apply CSI principles to guide specs, integrate them into your marketing efforts, and train your reps to use them as a sales tool. You will learn how guide specs can help reduce the risks of product liability and substitution abuse. The course will also help you prepare for the CDT and CCPR exams.

Date: September 8, 2011
Time: 2pm EST 

Learning Objectives
  1. Understand guide specifications and how to use them to communicate with specifiers.
  2. Be able to apply CSI formats and principles to the special requirements of guide specs.
  3. Know how to use guide specs to provide "point-of-specification" assistance to specifiers.
  4. Use guide specifications to reduce product liability, construction claims, and substitutions.
  5. Train your sales team to use guide specifications as a valuable sales tools.
Credit: 0.1 CSI CEUs, 1.0 AIA LUs

Marketing with Standards

Standards: Dense Prose
Industry standards are essential to the construction industry. Yet they are often confusing, out of date, and contradictory. Produced by consensus organizations, they are subject to political pressures that can favor or exclude proprietary products and innovative solutions. Moreover, designers, builders, and building material suppliers are challenged to stay current with revisions to standards.

This complexity can work to your marketing advantage.

First, building product manufacturers should be active in standards writing organizations affecting their work. These consensus-driven committees need your insight into best industry practices, the needs of your clients, and the pragmatic limitations of current technology.

Further, you can keep your clients up-to-date and informed of changes to standards. This will make your firm the "go-to" resource for current and reliable information. For example, changed standards provide a great opportunity for publicity; contact the editors of trade journals and offer to provide an article about the revisions.

Your marketing and technical literature should be up-to-date, and that your sales representatives and customer service personnel are trained. Then use your product literature, e-mail blasts, guide specifications, and continuing education programs to inform your customers.

Your point-of-purchase and packaging provide other opportunities. Imagine a customer that has a choice between two products; one has a sticker proclaiming: "Complies with the New 2011 Industry Standards," and the other is silent on the matter. Which has the greatest appeal?

I recently updated a guide specification for a client that produces pigments for integrally-colored concrete. In the decade since I wrote the original guide spec, most of the standards it references had been revised. The updated standards cost over $100, an expense few construction firms are willing to pay, especially when a firm has to stay abreast of revisions in dozens or even hundreds of product categories. An even greater cost is the time required for a professional to review the steady stream of updated documents. This provides an opportunity for my client to be of service to their customers.

For example, American Concrete Institute document ACI 303.1 - Specifications for Architectural Concrete has not been revised since 1997, but it references another document that has been revised, ACI 117. The 2006 version of ACI 117 changes how construction tolerances are specified. Had my client reissued a guide specification with the obsolete tolerances, it would have been a disservice to their customers, a potential source of embarrassment, and perhaps even a legal complication.

Another document, ACI 301 - Specifications for Structural Concrete, also contains requirements for "architectural concrete." ACI does not offer guidance for coordinating specifications where loadbearing (structural) concrete must also meet rigorous appearance requirements (architectural). Having identified this conflict, my client can now help their clients by offering guide specification language that reconciles the conflicting documents.

Requirements for concrete pigments are defined in ASTM C979. Yet ACI 303.1 adds requirements that are not in the ASTM standard. The added requirements are not representative of industry practices and can actually be a detriment to successful concrete work. One suspects the committee was influenced of the one manufacturer that benefits from the added requirements; my client did not have a representative at the table. My client's revised guide specification explains the rationale for sticking to the ASTM requirements, and tries to paint their competitor into a corner.

I now serve on an ACI committee that is updating some of the outdated standards. While I am there to represent my client's interests, I must always work towards the goal of advancing the entire industry.

Time to audit your guide specification?

This is an encore of an article Michael Chusid wrote 15 years ago. It is showing its age, especially in the "Delivery" discussion as computer technology and publishing have evolved rapidly. However it has stood the test of time. 

I need to update my company's guide specifications with new technical information. I want to use the opportunity to make sure they are as well written as possible. What should I look at? - C.T., product manager

Though primarily a technical document, a guide spec is also part of your sales literature. It must be written in a way that supports your overall marketing and builds customer commitment to your product. Before revising your existing guide spec or writing a new one, I suggest auditing your specification requirements according to the following criteria.

Consider the accuracy and completeness of your specification. Have your manufacturing standards and product features changed? Can you claim new performance levels? Have product testing standards changed? Review your product literature as you update your specification so your product claims are consistent.

Specifications are one of the first things attorneys look at in construction lawsuits, so write your guide spec in a way that minimizes product liability. I add a disclaimer to guide specifications I write: "This guide specification must be edited by a qualified design or construction professional to meet project requirements." But disclaimers are not enough. The specification also must be written so that it cannot be interpreted to say something you don't intend. Make sure it does not express any unintended warranties.

Remember that your guide specification will be part of a project specification. In addition to reducing your own liability, your goal should be to reduce everybody's risk, including the specifier, contractor, and building owner. Write the specification so that the responsibilities for and risks of using your product are realistically and fairly assigned.

Also, review your history of product failures and construction claims, and write your guide spec to help avoid predictable problems.

To communicate effectively, use standard formats and styles. Issuing a guide spec in a nonstandard format will make it appear that your company doesn't understand the construction industry, which could damage your credibility.

Construction Specifications Institute formats and principles are appropriate for most uses. But various government agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and some state and municipal agencies, have their own formats and spec writing styles. If these are important customers, you may need separate guide specifications for their projects.

Some building products, such as a roofing material, can be specified alone in a single narrow specification section. In other instances, you might want to include your entire product line in a single section so specifiers can evaluate options in the line. With windows, for example, the specifier can choose from various styles and glazing types.

Or your product may be one of many that are traditionally specified in a broad specification section. For example, concrete admixtures are specified along with the other ingredients in a concrete mix. Understanding the specification scope will help you determine how much guide spec detail to include.

Most specifiers today want to receive the specification in a word processing format. You might also want to consider providing expert system software to automate product selection and spec writing tasks, or creating links between your specifications and CAD, multimedia, cost estimating, and other applications.

It no longer makes sense to print guide specifications in Sweet's Catalog files, given the high per-page cost. Instead, consider putting your spec on an Internet site or a CDROM, like those published by  Sweet's, Arcat, or Spec-Data. Also decide if you want your product included in master specifications, such as those published by SpecText, Masterspec, and the Corps of Engineers.

While a guide spec is not a place for advertising hyperbole, it can communicate or reinforce your product positioning. Product features and benefits should be written into the guide specification to create a competitive advantage for you.

Some manufacturers fill their guide specs with proprietary features, hoping to make it difficult for competitors to break their spec. But this does not work unless the features truly add value, and not just differentiation. It may be beneficial to try another strategy, naming the firms and products you would prefer to compete against in your own guide specification.

Your specification does you no good if you don't tell anyone about it. In your architectural sales literature, tell readers to call or fax for a copy of the product guide specifications. Many trade journals will print news items announcing that you offer a guide specification, especially if it is on diskette, so send out press releases.

Your salespeople may want to customize the guide specification for use in their sales presentations for specific projects, or they may help specifiers edit it to meet project requirements. In either case, train salespeople to use the document effectively.

To work as a sales tool, a guide specification has to be easy to use, unambiguous, and flexible. It has to lead a specifier through a decision making process from general design concepts to specific product requirements.

Before writing a specification, look closely at project specs architects have written for your product to learn what information they consider important enough to specify. Interview several specifiers to find out how they make specification decisions. Then, after you have prepared a draft of your guide specification, ask several architects to critique it so you can revise it before you publish it.

The guide spec audit provides two benefits. First, it will help assure your guide specification will be one specifiers want to use, increasing your success in getting specified.

Secondly, it will improve the substitution resistance of the project specifications put out to bid. A well written guide spec improves the odds that the architect's project specifications will be written well and will show a strong preference for your product. This will make it less likely your competitors will be able to break the specifications with unequal products.
Chusid Associates offers a SpecAudit(tm) to help its clients take advantage of guide specifications.

Have a question you'd like us to answer?
Send an email to 

By Michael Chusid, Originally published in Construction Marketing Today, Copyright ©1996  SpecAudit is a trademark of Chusid Associates.

Why Architects Need Sales Reps

Click on image to enlarge.
Right out of architectural school with a polished portfolio of design work and blazingly fast speed on the latest 3D drawing tool. But ready to select building materials? That's another question.

I was lucky in my first architectural job -- I had mentors in the firm that took time to train me. But most of what I have learned in those early days of architectural practice was taught to me by building product sales reps.

I remain grateful, example, to the architectural hardware consultant who explained that an office lock can be locked from the inside via a push button, but a classroom lock can only be locked from the exterior and requires a key to do so -- thus preventing students from locking the door when teacher steps into the hallway.

CeSill is cartoon strip by Larry Fredlund, Assoc. AIA, CSI, a sales rep for Pella Windows. Check out this and his other comments on architectural practice at

How to Lose Sales

Are your sales reps following up in a timely manner? Are you?

Many building product sales reps can tell stories about design professionals that took advantage of the rep's services. But the reverse also occurs too frequently.

An example of a sales rep taking advantage of a design professional's  The following is from an email I got from Mr. Specifier (not his real name), the Director of Specifications a large A/E firms:

Here is another example of a product representative dropping the ball.

Mr. Rep (not his real name) wanted to meet with me and the other spec writers here.

I checked with our other spec writers to find a date and time acceptable to all of us (not an easy task). Within 24 hours of his request for a meeting, I was able to recommend a date and time when we could all meet with the rep. But 4 business days (6 calendar days) have passed without a reply from Mr. Rep. I am irritated and have canceled the proposed meeting.

This interaction does not leave a good taste in my mouth. While it is nice that the product rep. is willing to bring lunch, it still is our time we are giving him for the presentation and to arrange the meeting. Is this product rep always going to take 4+ days to respond to me? How do I go back and ask the 4 spec writers for their second available date?

This rep. is getting off to a bad start with us. I would just blow him off - but I am very interested in his product and think the other spec writers might learn something, He is a CSI member, so I may give him another chance.

Do you think it is unreasonable to expect a quicker response?
Being generous, one might give the rep some slack. Perhaps the emails got lost in his spam filter, or maybe the rep is sick. But in this day of electronic communication, the rep can white list prospects to keep them out of the spam filter, and can set an auto-responder to let prospects who is taking care of business in his or her absense.

Lunch Training Session Verbiage

Apparently you can no longer use the phrase "Lunch N Learn," as a training company has trademarked the term. Their trademark also extends to the phrase "lunch and learn."

Instead of using this term for lunchtime presentations, here are a few of the other terms people came up with for lunch learning sessions:

"Dine and Discover"

"Sales and Sustenance"

"Luncheon Learn" (although this might be too similar sounding to the trademarked term -- but I really like it!)

Read the rest of the article here.

UniFormat 2010: How Will You Use It?

CSI and CSC have released UniFormat 2010. This new edition harmonizes with CSI’s other standards and formats, including MasterFormat’s 50 divisions and the new PPDFormat, which guides the development of preliminary project descriptions. The new version improves UniFormat's ability to consistently serve its purpose:
Because it breaks a facility into the systems that perform distinct functions – shell, foundation, interiors, etc. -- without naming the specific solutions used to achieve them, it provides a consistent method for tracking and estimating costs and evaluating options even before the design team has finished developing drawings and specifications.
What This Means for Manufacturers?

UniFormat classifies building products and systems, but in different groupings from MasterFormat. UniFormat groupings are more useful early in the design process and in situations where design flexibility is key, such as in design-build and integrated project delivery (IPD) It is already used in building information modeling (BIM) for classifying elements of the model.

If the updated standard, the rise of BIM and various forms of IPD, and the easily-integrated electronic documents all point to UniFormat's being used more often and more effectively, this means that manufacturers will need to understand and use it, too. In theory, if your product literature speaks UniFormat, your product is speaking the right language for the early part of the project design process, and the right language for design-build and IPD.

Consider, at a minimum, imbedding the UniFormat code for your products in your BIM objects. Place it on your product literature along with your MasterFormat number and title. Include it in your keywords for web-based literature. Include it in your next sales training. (If you have a multi-use product, like mortar or sealant, your reps may need to know several UniFormat codes where your product might be used.) Classify articles, technical bulletins, and other publications according to the UniFormat element they discuss, and you may start to find your systems rubbing elbows with systems to which it isn't normally compared. For instance, terra cotta, phenolic panels, and aluminum composite panels all occupy different Divisions of MasterFormat, but they are all part of exterior walls, UniFormat element B2010. Consider all of these ideas, and brainstorm your own: if UniFormat increases in usage among design professionals and contractors, you'll want to be ready to use it, too.

What Else has Changed?

Possibly more exciting than the update itself is the electronic formats in which UniFormat is now made available. The UniFormat 2010 edition includes the following documents:
  • A searchable pdf of the full UniFormat document, including added descriptive information for titles and an index.
  • A full listing of the UniFormat numbers and titles as an Excel spreadsheet for import into databases and other applications
  • A transition matrix between CSI/CSC UniFormat 2010 edition, CSI/CSC UniFormat 1998 edition, ASTM UNIFORMAT II, GSA UNIFORMAT, and NAVFAC UNIFORMAT.
These different formats help users integrate UniFormat into its software environments: BIM, estimation tools, and preliminary project descriptions, to name a few. CSI is smart to offer UniFormat in such flexible documents, which allow it to serve its purpose with more fluidity and accessibility than ever before.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the new version will cause an increase in the use of UniFormat. We'll be keeping our ear to the ground, though, and it may behoove manufacturers to do the same.

CSI Webinar: A Marketing Tool for Manufacturers and Sales Reps

CSI Webinar
Guide Specifications: A Marketing Tool for Manufacturers and Sales Reps

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 from 2:00PM to 3:00PM


Michael Chusid, RA, FCSI, CCS, SCIP
Vivian E. Volz, RA, CSI, CCS, LEED AP
Building product manufacturers often provide guide specs to specifiers for use as starting points in the writing of project specifications. A simple guide spec is a useful tool, but much more can be accomplished when a manufacturer understands the guide spec’s potential. A well-crafted guide spec, employing CSI’s principles of specifying, can educate the design professional, hold the keys to successful installation, and build trust between the manufacturer and the design team. This course, led by two experienced specifiers with expertise in guide specification writing, will help suppliers identify whether a guide spec would be a valuable addition to the product literature. The course will offer insight into preparing documents that will be valuable to design professionals, contractors, and customers.

Register here.

Apple's Tech Failure

Apple had a technical failure during a keynote demo, and it provides an important reminder for us all: always, always, always practice extensively with any technology you will be using in your presentation before you arrive at the presentation! Know how to set it up, how to operate it, how to take it apart, and have a backup plan in place for when you forget the one cable that makes the whole thing work, batteries die, or they give you a projector but no screen.

Sometimes there is no opportunity to practice, such as at a trade show where you use the projector they provide when you get there. In such cases I always bring an "emergency kit" that has all the wires I could possibly need and a flash drive with my presentation materials on it. I also keep a copy accessible online, but again, I've learned the hard way not to rely on having a good internet connection.

Lastly, remember that you don't need Powerpoint to do your presentation. Know your material well enough to speak without the slideshow if needed. It should compliment you, not the other way around.

An Important Reminder

Here is a reminder that it is important to address a prospect in a language the prospect understands:

Building product sales is especially challenging because your prospects may have such varied interests: performance, sustainability, aesthetics, availability, constructability, cost, and more.

MasterFormat 2004 Cheer

MasterFormat 2004 is now the clearly established standard for organizing construction work results. Michael Chusid, president of Chusid Associates, served on the MasterFormat Implementation Task Team that helped popularize the system. He composed and sang the following song at educational events across the country to help break down resistance to the new standard:
(To tune of Mickey Mouse Club Song)

Hey! Designers and contractors
It's as useful as can be;
MasterFormat (CSI!)
MasterFormat (CSC!)
For everything you want to specify! (Fi! Fi! Fi!)
You can do more
With Two Thousand and Four,
So why not give it a try?
M-A-S (S stands for Specifications!)
T-E-R (Are you ready or not?)
(Shout) MasterFormat!
Michael's article about using MasterFormat in building product sales and marketing can be found at