Construction Product Reps – NOT Just Salespeople

Denver CSI had its annual Symposium today – technically, it’s the Education Symposium and Product Show.  There were about 35 different product reps (my estimate) representing hundreds of construction products.  Unfortunately, I only managed to visit 6, because I spent a very long time with each one I got to talk to…  I always have lots of questions.  I hope to be invited by a product rep again next year, and catch up with the rest of the reps I didn’t get to visit with! 

The Product Show component of today’s event reminded me of a comment I made on someone else’s blog a couple of months ago.  The blog is written by a young architect and the intended audience is intern architects.  The post that prompted me to comment was entitled “The gentle art of product-rep self-defense.”  I’m not the only one who commented – actually, the blog post started a truly excellent discussion among commenters and the blog author.  Here’s the link to the blog and comments: http://architectureintern101.blogspot.com/2011/01/gentle-art-of-product-rep-self-defense.html

It’s somewhat embarassing to admit that only in the last few years have I come to understand the importance of the role of product reps in construction projects.  These people can be tremendous resources throughout an entire project, from schematic design through the warranty period. 

Copied below is my comment from the discussion:

“I was just discussing this issue yesterday with a product rep, and fellow Denver CSI member. I’m a spec writer, and a licensed architect, and I practiced as an architect for years before I started writing specs. As soon as I started writing specs, I realized how hugely important product reps are. But when I was working as an architect, my opinion of product reps was the same as yours.

“Product reps know their products better than anyone else could ever hope to – they know them better than architects, spec writers, contractors, owners, and users do.

“These people aren’t just salespeople – many of these people do forensic investigations on their products, when failures occur on projects. Failures usually turn out to be due to improper installation. Sometimes improper installation is a result of poor or incorrect project specifications written by the project specifier, or poor or incorrect details drawn by the project architect. We, as design professionals, may have more to learn from failures than from anything else. These product reps are tremendous technical resources for specifiers and for architects who know how to tap into them.

“My recommendations to your readers: Get to know a product rep for a product you frequently use. Ask this rep to review your project specifications and details that include their product – you may surprise yourself and learn something about a product you thought you knew well! Then you’ll see how much product reps have to offer.”

2 thoughts on “Construction Product Reps – NOT Just Salespeople

  1. I think you say it all Liz. This is exactly what we strive a a manufacturer to achieve when building relationships with building design professionals but as you state it is sometimes difficult to tackle the hurdle of being considered just a sales person rather than a resource. Thank you for writing this article.

  2. Liz,

    Good point. I’ll add that product reps also often know their competitors’ products reasonably well too, and I have had the good ones direct me toward a competitor when that’s the product that’s right for the project condition.

    And, the best way that I know to get to know product reps is through a local CSI chapter – it’s far easier to call somebody that you’ve sat at a lunch meeting with than to call somebody listed on a manufacturer’s website. But, you already know that.

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