Best practices for sales professionals: How to build relationships with A&Es

Speaking the language of your A&E, appreciating different views can help projects reach mutual goals

Sales professionals in the security industry often find themselves in a quandary. Specifiers are very delicate about sharing their time, and their managers want them building a huge network of relationships with all the specifiers in their markets. Add the notion that most sales people think about commissions for the next 60-90 days, and now they’re stuck between three masters: the specifier, their management, and their own bank account. Let’s look a little closer at these three dynamics.

In general, architects, engineers, and consultants are left-brain thinkers. Although the theory that people think primarily from one side of the brain or the other has been debunked in recent years, the common behaviors and reactions of specific personalities remain valid. When a specifier interacts with a sales person, their logical skeptic meter is extremely sensitive. Unfortunately, most sales people are wired one way, and that wiring usually consists of a competitive nature, an outgoing personality, a social orientation, and a refusal to quit. As you can imagine, these two perspectives of the same situation, such as a “technology update meeting”, are 180 degrees apart.

Sales management usually has a vision of 12 to 18 months, and typically are more strategic planners than sales people. Therefore, relationships with A&Es are important to management. For companies that can’t justify a department dedicated to specifiers, sales managers find themselves challenged to inspire their sales people to build these relationships. Since it’s difficult to track specifications for every job and pay sales people for their effort with the A&E community, their management is typically done with the stick rather than the carrot -- and the sales people feel it.

Finally, most successful sales people are focused on the next 60-90 days. Of course, the superstars balance their activity, but the ones that make their goal every month or quarter stay tactical and focused on the short term. Every hour they spend building a relationship with a specifier is an hour they could be spending trying to close a potential sale this month. The time they invest with the specifier will pay off for them in 12 – 18 months in most cases.

Can you feel the tension of the sales person? Their management is beating on them to meet with someone who has a perspective vastly different from theirs, and if successful they’ll be rewarded for their effort in a year or two.


Sales keys to building A&E relationships

So, what can a sales professional do? Below are four best practices for sales professionals to build relationships with A&Es. If followed, the sale professional will be able to most effectively work successfully with the A&E community while continuing to have enough time to do their day job and secure business this month.

1. Become a specialist. Imagine that you woke up tomorrow morning and the plumbing in one of your bathrooms had backed up. Would you call a general contractor? No, you’d most likely jump on the internet and find a reputable plumber. Now, imagine that you knew of a strong plumber in the area because they’ve proven their competence to you in one way or another. Would you still invest time searching the internet? Most people would simply call the plumber they knew was an expert.

Although it’s usually in the design phase, a specifier is often dealing with an issue like backed up plumbing. If you can position yourself as the expert in a certain area, you’ll get the call. Your specialty can be a vertical market, an application, or a technology. For example, you could be known as the transportation guru, a point of sale video authority, or an expert of managed access control. Hopefully your company will develop the core messaging and direction, but you don’t have to wait for them – just move forward. Obviously, pick something that is congruent with your company’s vision and deliverable, but don’t be afraid to move forward and create your own specialty.

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