Recently, a product rep friend of mine posted a tweet with the hashtag #justasalesperson. Because this individual is a CSI member and a CDT, the hashtag should have read #TrustedAdvisor. She exemplifies what a product representative should be, and therefore, qualifies as a Trusted Advisor.
What qualifies a product rep as a trusted advisor? To begin with, a product rep that holds a CDT or CCPR knows what the design and specifier communities are looking for: expertise. They know their product, construction documents, and they understand the construction process. A good product representative makes the effort to know her/his competitor’s product as well. They meet regularly with their clientele and thus forge an ongoing relationship. Occasionally, they may need to advise that their product is not the appropriate one for the job and need to send me to their competitor.
It is out of this long-term relationship that trust emerges. As a design professional and a specifier, if I don’t know the product I’m specifying, I will contact someone I know that has experience with the product. Preferably, this would be the company’s local representative, but I don’t always know who this might be (shame on you absentee reps that never show up). Chances are that I know someone with a connection to the product I am looking at through my connections made over twenty-eight years of CSI membership. Often, that contact may be in another part of the country. I know I will get a correct answer through this network. Additionally, they will usually put me in touch with the local rep and I am able to forge yet another relationship.
In general, if someone comes to see me with CDT or CCPR on their business card, I make an effort to make time for them. They will usually be knowledgeable and know where to find answers that may not necessarily be on the tip of their tongue.
So, for those readers that are product representatives that are not CSI members, you need to join. Being active in the organization puts you in contact with a large and professionally diverse pool of potential customers. You can further step up your game by sitting for the Construction Documents Technologist (CDT) exam during the examination windows each spring and fall. Obtaining this credential indicates that you possess knowledge of construction delivery methods and processes, construction documents, and building life cycle activities and needs. The CDT is also a prerequisite to all CSI certifications including the CCPR (Certified Construction Product Representative).
All of these things qualify you as a trusted advisor, and assuming you are active in the organization, you would likely be the first one I would call for product information and advice. With that said, when registration for the Spring Certification Exams opens in January, I would strongly encourage you to sign up. After all, you don’t want to be just a salesperson.