When I was the editor of CSI’s Boston Chapter newsletter, I was added to the distribution list for Ralph Liebing‘s weekly editorial, Per-SPEC-tives.  This week’s was a tribute to product representatives who partner with architects and specifiers (which I know many of us do), so I asked Ralph if I could publish it here.  Enjoy!

NO. 168


By Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Cincinnati, OH

You know, we professionals [general classification, NOT membership type!] need to take some time to speak of “those other folks”– the manufacturers’ and product representatives! We really do!!!! We sometimes “talk” a lot about them, but never really ABOUT them.

Actually we need to. They are the front door to the information we need, they carry more than websites, etc. since they have the flexibility to apply their products to our specific project situations [no computer can really do that to the depth we require]. They are links to the trove of information about their product, that while we may not need it all or at any one time, but might have a quirk where we do need it. And beyond them, the reps can further tap the full resources of the manufacturers. They [the reps] have the ability to see alternative solutions that benefit us and our projects [and owners].

It is virtually impossible for one person to know every aspect of the product itself and its use and installation. The product rep therefore, is looked upon not as a salesperson, but as a technical resource with depth of product knowledge far greater than the design professional. This is a key relationship that needs to be acknowledged and adhered too. The design professionals are not the customers, per se, but they are in a position to act in a prudent manner for their clients and in that, must make choices for the project that are sound and appropriate.

Our “true partners” in projects [the reps] are considered to be reliable experts and one who has access to even more detailed information, if for some season more is needed. What they do and how they offer information has a direct bearing on the decisions. In a sense the reputation of the manufacturer is passed down through the reps to the design professionals– who, in turn, delivers the project in a sound, correct, proper and valuable condition [which addresses the professional’s reputation].

The American way, of course, gives us a system where no two similar products are exactly the same. Hence, has a different impact on our projects, and causes us to manipulate the work and make the correct provisions. It is only the product reps who know these nuances [and usually those of their competitors] and can assist and advise us. Here the design professional looks for integrity, directness, honesty and reliability, and can ill-afford any type of “surprise” with the product.

Hence, we must rely on the reps for information, and for their interest in our projects and what services they can deliver. Too many architectural libraries are stuffed with binders from the ‘90s [or earlier?] and do not reflect the products today. So we need to establish such a relationship that the reps will updates at decent intervals and take true interest in doing business with us, in a prompt and informative manner. So in all this can we agree?

  • Be honest; even if your news or message is bad or adverse
  • Be timely; respond when requested; try to make periodic calls for updates
  • Don’t diss the competition; I want to know only about your product and what you can do!
  • Be helpful, if you can, by giving only what is asked and alternates that seem reasonable– don’t try to sell me everything
  • “Don’t know!”– Please say so and find out—quickly!
  • Don’t ooze, be professional in all things from appearance to information offered;
  • Don’t placate or pander, state your case and understanding;
  • Don’t expect miracles from me– I must be a dispassionate professional in fairness to all;
  • Don’t send me “dumb” gifts to motivate or reward me–
  • Just appreciate my position and what WE need to accomplish TOGETHER!!!!

SALUTE! To all product representatives, and our sincere thanks for being there with most everything we need. Our partnership is really and working and most valuable to both of us– thanks! You help make our projects better.

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