By Erika Anderson

To specifiers, projects aren’t just work – they’re legacy. Each one is driven by a vision far bigger than any single product. Manufacturers that stand out are those that can think in the same way: creative, passionate and focused on the big picture.

Being a like-minded partner - the holy grail for a relationship with specifiers - isn’t something you can fake. It takes real investment and empathy. Invest in those early stages by spending time with them to understand the project as the complex vision that it is. Empathise by asking what it means to them personally, and to their career.  

There’s no need to match their level of passion for their projects. Instead, show you have an equal passion for your own work. More importantly, take the time to understand how your passion can add value.

“Understand the design studio – their style, interests... don’t waste time or patronise with products they’d never use.”

If you can be a partner who shows pragmatic expertise and conceptual vision at the right times, your value as a supplier will only go up. If you’ve taken the time to understand them, reflect this in how you communicate with them.

Of course, you can’t forget that it’s their legacy and their idea. But there is absolutely room for you to be creative. When asked to describe the biggest opportunity to add value, specifiers answered loud and clear:

“Creative problem solvers.“

“Creative solutions”

“Innovating together, taking risks together.”

“Innovating is the name of the game – not repackaging.”

This isn’t about you out-designing the designers. It’s about seeing how you fit into their big vision, and how you can work with them, instead of trying to fit specifiers into your narrow customer categories.

“We often work on projects with tight deadlines 
and complex specifications. This means we need to maintain a network of highly skilled suppliers who can deliver bespoke furniture/accessories/finishes within a tight timeline and work with us to achieve what begins as a very conceptual vision.” 

Take away: to think big picture and make a big impact...

  1. Invest time up front
    Prepare to start broad and conceptual to understand their vision, and where in their process you can have the greatest impact. Become more detailed and technical as the specification journey continues, and they’re reassured you have an eye on the big picture.

  2. Mirror their process
    Reflect their mindset through how you communicate. As their priorities change over the course of the project, adjust your delivery, language, tools and behaviour.  If they’re in a concept phase, for example, use emotive language and ask open questions to get in sync with their process.
  3. Support creativity with creativity
    Specifiers are open to innovation as long as there is clear value for them – such as tracking samples real-time or creating an interactive showroom in VR.
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