Meeting the needs of developers, general contractors, and architects is a daunting task. They’re short on patience when the pressure is on, and at the same time want a competitive edge at every opportunity. One thing’s for sure; a “me-too” supplier offer isn’t going to cut it these days. In multifamily, senior living, affordable housing, hotel, and office building projects in particular, “thriving” (as opposed to “surviving”) depends on an extraordinary performance.
When construction rainmakers look for an edge, they’re after that little something more enticing to tenants, thus justifying higher rentals. No less important, they also want to reduce costs with sustainable efficiencies – not occasional price promotions that don’t last, and frequently come with a hit on quality.
Feared supplier competitors are likely to use tactics that are not so obvious. The rest are generally left scratching their collective heads, wondering why they can’t get any market traction. Here are the “Things” we found market leaders do that make all the difference:
Thing #1 – Keep your ear close to the ground
Yep. It’s how the Cherokees in the old wild west knew the cavalry was coming, long before it arrived. As a supplier of materials, possibly with installation as an added service, you should get into the souls and hearts of your customers. Understand what makes them tick. If you can appreciate what influences them to go with option A instead of B, C, D, and all the also-rans, you’ll be off to the races.
In short, your entire team must stay alert whenever they come into contact with contractors, other suppliers, and, indeed, anyone active in your field of construction activity.
- It’s how you learn about new projects coming off the drawing board, and anything unique that you can wrap your resources around.
- A heads-up is an opportunity to initiate an early approach. As they say, first impressions – if compelling – last the longest.
- It goes a lot further than simply knowing something’s in the wind. Gather as much intelligence as you can about the developers’ strategies, and the things that will trigger their interest the most.
- Once you have construction parties in your crosshairs, search their websites for more insight into management thinking.
Connect with anyone and everyone that you think can help you through the door. It may be an employee or a subcontractor from past projects. Don’t let anything pass you by because the smallest detail changes can make the most significant difference.
Thing #2 – The technology factor
Technology is part-and-parcel of a supplier’s business in the construction markets. SaaS innovations and Apps enter the arena, almost daily, boosting relevant supply administration aspects. Every project customer wants to make sure that they get what they ordered, to spec, on-time, and without hassle. The tech designers are building around these needs, making things faster, less expensive, and narrowing down the margin of error from every angle. If your competitors are jumping on these business aids and you’re not, you’ll inevitably look less efficient.
- Appoint or nominate a tech leader from your staff, whose responsibility it is to introduce supplier technologies into the operation.
- Even if you are a small business, a tech maven is pivotal to your enterprise.
- We’re not talking about someone who goes off at a tangent with every gimmick and glitzy digital doodad that flashes by. Level-headedness and careful assessment is the name of the game.
- Also, it’s that individual’s responsibility to know of groundbreaking tech changes in construction as a whole. It’s part of the listening process outlined above.
Thoughtful technology detection may create the opportunity for you to connect to it with a bump up in your ROI.
Thing #3 – Don’t believe all that stuff about tradition
The suppliers that believe the construction industry is permanently old-school and moves slower than a snail, better think again. That closeted mindset will put you on the path to nowhere. Stay updated on the latest construction techniques, because frequently they give birth to new product generations. For example, the introduction of the laminated beam was an early signal that the prefab and modular evolution was about to take the market by storm. A few caught it and profited. Many still don’t know how it happened. Suppliers on their toes don’t cease building a stable of manufacturing partners that can keep pace with or stay ahead of the altering construction curve.
Thing #4 – Very close to Thing #3, but different
Never take your eye off the product range you have on offer. When the options in your showroom meet with unenthusiastic responses, don’t push it aside as just one of those things. It isn’t most of the time. A competitive supplier knows that four things keep the wheels turning:
- Providing a range of alternatives that meet the latest stylistic trends head-on.
- Aligning closely with technological advancements in the manufacturer and customer fields.
- Cutting the supply line shorter as much as possible to create pricing benefits without giving up on quality.
- Knowing everything there is to know about product use. Subcontractors and architects can’t get enough education on bringing new products on stream as quickly as possible.
It involves meeting directly with manufacturers that make sense in terms of your customers’ needs. The closer you are to them, the easier it is to construct solutions that the market will see as meaningfully different.
Thing #5: Define your competitor’s moves – or non-moves – and go for the gap
Competitors are thinking all the time, searching for new ways to get an edge. For example, say there’s an introduced maintenance service on a new installation. It’s a small thing like that which generally flies under the radar. Still, it works exceptionally well on products where fashion differentiation has no potential, and price leverage is limited. The point is, it can make the difference between the customer signing on the bottom line, or not. Alternatively, you may notice that your competitor is losing credibility on a poor warranty policy. Either way, it calls for you to jump on these things to turn circumstances in your favor. Competitor monitoring is a formal aspect of sales enablement, and letting it slip can be quite costly over the long run.
Thing #6: Shorten the supply line and pass the benefits to your customer
Cutting prices where it cuts into margins is a one-way road to disappointment. Conversely, dissolving expenses, maintaining margins, and giving the developer a lower price is a win-win. Wherever you can erase middleman involvement is a big step toward creating supplier value. Of course, it’s a complicated road because it generally means disrupting the traditional distribution chain made up of importers, distributors, and warehouses. Manufacturer direct is the new way of thinking, so get with it.
Thing #7: Look after the team
The value inside a construction supply firm rests with its employees. Contributing team members are hard to replace, most notably when they’ve been with you for years and know all the ins and outs. Did you know it costs $15,000 – at least – to go through a staff replacement exercise? The cost climbs much higher if that employee goes over to a competitor. All that said, astute suppliers nurture their crucial team players to establish internal stability.
A model company in the construction supply space
Look no further than Global Construction – better known as GCSource – the supplier entity leading the way in most of the above “7 Things.” Here’s why:
- They are firmly in the manufacturer-direct space, having cut out the middleman and all the complexities the latter drop on the developer’s plate. As a result, they can sustain price discounts up to 58% (i.e., Thing #3, and Thing #6 above).
- They also offer a highly professional installation service if the construction client is within a 100-mile radius of Chicago. Extra services of this type invariably turn new prospects into new customers (i.e., Thing #5 above).
- Their headstart of 500 partner manufacturers in China, offering only top-class quality products, is a formidable obstacle facing the competition operating without these resources (i.e., Thing #6 above).
- Their backup service is second to none, mostly because the GCSource team takes the time to listen to their customers’ needs (i.e., Thing #1 above).
- You’ll find nothing but enterprise-class products on the GCSource showroom floor, thanks to technology-centric thinking (i.e., Thing #2 above).
- Finally, something only a committed customer support team can deliver on (i.e., Thing #7 above): Clients get VIP attention from the minute they inquire, until the goods are delivered on-site.
Focus on the seven things. Dispense with the weaknesses as you detect them, and insert the new ideas that connect to creating strength in your offer. No one pointer is more important than another – they’re all massive contributors to an optimally operating supply company aiming at architects, developers, and general contractors.