The specification pipeline and process from concept to completion is quite a complicated one, with many stages and opportunities for your hard earned and respected specification to be ‘switched’ out by a competitor’s product.

The ‘switch zone’ is an interesting title. What’s this guy up to now I can hear you thinking! Many of you will be aware that Kaizen Executive has been providing estimation services for windows and doors fabricators using the estimation platform Soft Tech V6. We have been providing these services for just over two years now and have certainly learnt a lot about window and door estimating. We have also observed some practices in the market which have surprised me, particularly from a sales perspective; hence this article to share some of my learnings.

The specification pipeline and process from concept to completion is quite a complicated one, with many stages and opportunities for your hard earned and respected specification to be ‘switched’ out by a competitor’s product. Here is an example of how easy it is to be switched out:


We were asked to provide estimation services for a client tendering on one of the many schools being renovated across Sydney. They provided us with a full set of plans, not just a window schedule, which happens often, and we were asked to complete the takeoff and put the window and door products into their V6 via the cloud. As we were completing the take-off, we noticed a significant amount of façade cladding that was also involved in the refurbishment (approximately 2500 square metres) and asked if they wanted us to include this information as part of a total façade offering, which was gratefully accepted. The facade product was specified in a competitor system to our customer’s and presented a great opportunity for our customer to present their façade system. They initially presented their system to the building contractor who directed them back to the architect for further approval, which was granted. The ‘switch’ took effect, winning our customer over $250,000 of extra work. Not only did our customer win the extra work, but they are now a valued supplier that the architect specifies regularly. We see this happening every day.

As part of working in the estimation and specification field, we have identified three distinct segments in the construction process and have noticed that one segment, particularly in the window and door industry, is not being managed well from a sales pipeline perspective:

  • GENERATE – This segment is where our architectural representatives work with either the developer and / or the architect / specifier to bring to life the project concepts and specification for our products. From my perspective, we as an industry are doing this well and almost all tenders we see have a major system supplier specified (all be it ABC system or ‘equivalent’). This is switch zone 1.
  • SECURE – This is the segment where the project is secured by a builder, who then sub-contracts out to the product manufacturers for initial pricing and then the contract is awarded. This is where I see a gap or where the hard work of the specification team can be lost. We do not ‘baton change’ well to our field sales teams who work with the fabricators. Often a contract will be awarded because the builder or contractor has used that supplier before and they are happy with their supply chain; nothing to do with specification. This is switch zone 2.
  • MANAGE – This segment is where our field sales teams work with the fabricator to ensure that we, the system supplier, win the supply of a product – which can, of course, be an equivalent. Often, we see a tender that has System A specified and the fabricator requests us to use System Supplier B because that is who ‘they’ prefer. Again nothing to do with specification. This is switch zone 3.

So, what do we do to change this sequence of events and ensure that all the great work that our architectural specification representatives execute does not get ‘switched’ out? In my opinion, we need more focus on the ‘secure’ zone to ensure that we are directing the builder / contractor to the appropriate fabricator who is able to provide the specified product. I am happy to be told I am wrong and that the industry is doing this well. But I do not see a great deal of evidence to support this and see the secure sector as a great opportunity for companies wanting to hold specification. Yes, it may mean an extra pair or arms and legs to manage the secure segment, but they will pay for themselves over and over if they manage this segment well.

And now for the old chestnut – follow up, follow up, follow up. I am currently working with a client that is doing an outstanding job of getting their products specified on many large projects across the country. They have been working in the specification space for over five years now and are generating around $10 million per annum in specification quotes across the country (a very nice amount for this company). The problem is that they are generating demand but not working to ensure that the demand is ‘secured’ by holding specification through to the fabricator – ‘manage’ segment. It is often easy to lose sight of where that particular project is up to in the pipeline, but for those who master the process, the rewards will be well worth it. I assure you.

I know where I will be spending some of my time over the next few months training in the secure zone. As always, happy to take calls to discuss other opinions on what is happening in our market’s segments, but for now remember – Generate, Secure, Manage and then please, please, please, follow up!