Product Manufacturers: Are you doing it right? Construction Education for Product Reps

I am a construction specifier.  Construction Product Representatives are vital to my work.  Frankly, I can’t do my job without them and they are my most valuable resource.  That said, I often struggle getting what I need from them, in the format and language that I need it.  In order to do my job effectively, efficiently and get it done on time – I need this to change.

It is rarely their fault.

This blog is for many of the Manufacturers that employ Product Reps to sell your product.  You are doing it wrong.

The bottom line is that there is a whole lot more to Construction Documents and design contracts than just throwing the particulars of a product in a specification.  We need manufacturers to understand this, embrace it and provide us with documents and information that we can use.

A few very simple examples:

  • A design contract stipulates that the Architect is not responsible for means and methods on a construction site. It is up to the Contractor to decide “how” the work gets done.  If I get a spec on a new product from a manufacturer at the 11th hour, cut and paste that into my documents verbatim (happens all the time, especially by those not trained to write specs) and there is language dictating means and methods, you just put me at risk.  If I put means and methods in my Contract Documents, I am taking responsibility for how that work is done.
  • Specs have 3 parts for a reason. They have 3 parts because information belongs in a particular place.  For example, manufacturers love to put warranty information in Part 3 of their guide specs.  It doesn’t belong there.  It belongs in Part 1.  We need this consistency so that when the Contractors are preparing their bids, they can count on finding the information that they need in the place that it belongs.  Otherwise, they might miss it.  If they miss it, that can result in a Change Order or dispute.  Our Owners don’t like that, it sucks immense time out of the project budget to deal with it and we all lose in the end.
  • Unless it is a very specialized system or product, design professionals and owners don’t want proprietary specs. Proprietary specs hinder competition and drive prices up.  If it is a public project, proprietary specs are almost never allowed.  If they are allowed, there is typically a detailed process to meet in order to list them.
  • Manufacturers often list products in their guide specs with proprietary information.  I am not a product expert.  I may not spot this when I am copying your spec information into my documents.  Again, this can cause all kinds of problems that all result in additional time and money spent to deal with the issues.  On a public project, an issue like this (and other issues) can cause a non-responsive bid and give a bidding contractor the right to request that bids are thrown out and the project has to be rebid.  That is never a good thing!

These are but a few examples of the many issues that specifiers encounter when trying to incorporate manufacturers specs into our documents.  One of the most common questions that I get from a Rep is “How come I am not in your Masters?” or “How do I get in your spec on this project?”.

The honest answer?  If you have a product that I can use?  It is likely your documents stink, I have other comparable manufacturers already listed and I just don’t have the time in my project budget to rewrite your documents properly in order to use them on my project.  We are not paid to do your job.  We may want to use your product.  I once spent three days rewriting one product section so I could use it on my project and comply with my design contract requirements.  Had I not needed that very specialized section, there is no way I would have spent that time fixing a manufacturers spec.

The Product Reps get the brunt of our dissatisfaction with the documents we are provided by manufacturers.  They don’t write them, typically are not allowed to rewrite them (if they know how) but yet are asked to get their products into our specs.  C’mon, make it easy for them.

So, for the manufacturers, what can you do?  You can do a lot that will make all the difference to me as a specifier.  Here are just a few inside tips to get in my door and in my Masters or Project Specs:

  • Does your Product Rep have CSI after their name on their business card? Better yet, in addition, CDT or CCPR?  If they do, they always get in my door.  Why?  Because I know they have the proper construction delivery education to know what I need to do my job.  They are going to understand what I am asking for and know how to get it done in a timely, accurate and efficient manner.  I really need that and this is cost effective education that will be INVALUABLE for your company!
  • Does your Product Rep attend CONSTRUCT coming up in just 3 weeks?  (The CSI Annual Convention) or any other products show?  I know there are tons of Reps at CONSTRUCT.  They are all working the booths and trying to sell product.  I met one last year that proudly handed me a spec written in the old 16 Division format.  A format that was discontinued 12 years ago.  Seriously?  I can’t use that nor am I going to try to fix it.  I handed it back to him and told him when he had one written in the current 50 Division MasterFormat, to give me a call.
  • I see your Reps at the booths but I don’t see many of them in the educational sessions at CONSTRUCT learning about what I need.  That doesn’t make sense.  They are already there.  Get some of them educated so they know what I mean when I ask for something.  I need your Reps to be able to tell me about your product.  More importantly, I need your Reps to understand what I do and how I need to do it.  You need to give them the tools!  You need to give them guide specs that are written correctly.  You need to get them educated and certified.  THAT is what is important to me.  IT IS NOT all about the sales pitch.  Your sales pitch is secondary to getting what I need to do my job right without risk.

We all know that AEC is a ‘time is money’ business.  The more our documents are coordinated and accurate, the more successful we all are.

Product Reps are my most valuable resource.  I have the utmost respect for the job that they are asked to do, the information that they provide and the extra mile that so many of them go to help me with what I need.  The best of the best have CSI after their name.

My challenge to the manufacturers?  The guys at the top?  Make it easy for your reps, support them, educate them and get your guide specs and documents written in a way that I can use them.  This should be first and foremost, BEFORE the pitch.

I guarantee you will see increased success.




  1. Hey there Cherise,

    Wow! What a treasure trove you’ve provided in this blog post. I work for a manufacturer and am constantly looking for feedback from the AEC community.

    Your insight and advice is invaluable to me and my team and I look forward to making these changes and more (I’ll take whatever you give me!!) to ensure you get the very best value from an architectural rep.

    Education is paramount and my team is preparing for the CDT (I’m taking the exam in December!).

    Thank you again and I look forward to hearing more from you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Michelle! I wish more manufacturers would support their reps for better understanding & education to work with specifiers so we can be an even better team. It is not about selling anymore, it is about building relationships. The sales follow naturally. Have an awesome day and thank you for your kind words!


  2. Cherise,

    My colleague Michelle Johnson shared your post with me and I’m so thrilled she did! What an insightful overview of the process and the common frustrations that we as manufacturers put you through! I’ll be at Construct and would love to connect with you in between educational sessions if you have time.

    Look forward to connecting soon!

    -Heidi Moore CSI, CCCA, CCPR

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Heidi. I would love to connect at CONSTRUCT. I am pretty active in CSI so my schedule is kind of insane but I will also be at the host chapter event and CSI night out as well. Would love to meet you.


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