Product Mfr’s Out, Design-Builders In

Posted on April 25, 2011

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One core sales tenet is to establish yourself in the eyes of the client as a consultant, rather than a vendor. A vendor sells a product (commodity); a consultant provides creative input on the product (value).

Product rep’s come by our firm all the time for ‘lunch-and-learns’, so I see a lot of different products and hear a lot of pitches. What I have noticed lately is an increase in manufacturers offering more than their product. I see companies selling their product as well as design services. In some cases, manufacturers design, engineer and construct their product as a service—in other words, manufacturing companies are assuming a design-build mentality.

Design-build is all-inclusive and single-source responsibility, and this is what savvy manufacturers are offering. This is where they offer the most value to consumers. Some common products I have seen this work with include companies selling water features, exterior signage and structural canopies.

More and more companies are selling custom solutions instead of inventoried goods.  This means design services upfront, which free the architect from producing detailed documents about products and systems (with connections and materials) he knows very little about. The companies take a concept and often produce construction documents or field-quality shop drawings to build from. In many cases they will custom engineer the product with in-house engineers to clarify what can, and cannot be done with the product. This set-up relieves risk from doing things wrong on the manufacturer’s end. And some companies even do installation.

A vendor sells a product at a markup.  A consultant sells a total solution that wraps the product with valued service at one price. As an architect, I am calling the person providing an integrated deliverable.  In which company do you place more confidence?

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Posted in: Design Zeitgeist