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How to Sell to Engineers: Strategies for Engaging and Analytical Audience

This guide will equip you with the strategies needed to captivate engineers and set your building materials apart in a competitive market

by Beth PopNikolov

Engineers play a critical role in selecting and specifying the structural materials used in construction projects. Their expertise in analysis, design and regulatory compliance makes them key decision-makers when it comes to choosing materials like concrete, steel, timber, masonry and composites for their projects.

As a building materials supplier, being able to effectively communicate the value of your products to engineers is crucial for sales and marketing success. This requires an in-depth understanding of how engineers think, what motivates their buying decisions and how to craft compelling messages tailored specifically for their needs.

This blog will provide actionable techniques for selling to engineers within the building materials sector by exploring:

  • The typical roles and mindset of building materials engineers
  • How to demonstrate your product expertise and authority
  • Strategies for transparent communication and building trust
  • Tips for emphasizing sustainability and compliance
  • The importance of professional relationships and networking

Follow these strategies to make your technical presentations more convincing and drive new business growth.

Who Are Materials Engineers in Construction?

Materials engineers working in construction hold various specialized roles related to structural material selection, analysis and integration.

Typical responsibilities of engineers include:

  • Evaluating building materials for mechanical properties, durability and cost-effectiveness.
  • Performing structural analyses to determine appropriate materials and specifications for strength and safety.
  • Assessing compliance with relevant building codes and regulations.
  • Developing technical specifications and documentation for material procurement and quality control.
  • Overseeing materials testing and inspection at construction sites.
  • Providing recommendations on material substitutions or modifications.

Most materials engineers have at least a bachelor's degree in materials science, civil engineering or mechanical engineering. Advanced degrees in structural engineering are common as well. Licensure as a Professional Engineer (PE) is required for oversight and approval on public works projects in most regions.

Engineers see pieces of building projects that many other players don’t. Often, they are with the project from its conception; they offer their expertise on design, structural soundness and functionality.

When selling building materials to engineers, it’s important to remember their birdseye view of their projects. The materials used in constructing the building are only one piece of the puzzle and, often, the engineers already have an idea of what the building materials need to offer.

Other core traits among materials engineers to remember when selling include:

  • They have strong analytical and problem-solving abilities
  • Their impeccable attention to detail and precision
  • Their extensive expertise in technical structural analysis
  • Their focus on safety, compliance and risk reduction

What Factors Do Engineers Consider When Purchasing Building Materials?

Every engineer is different, so it’s important to ask questions before you pitch your product. Some engineers may value environmental sustainability and impact more than others. Other engineers may value novelty and innovation in the building materials they use to construct their projects.

As you get to know engineers, you’ll find the following values to be relatively consistent:

  • Material durability and long-term performance
  • Material structural strength and capacity
  • Cost-effectiveness and life cycle value of the materials
  • Constructability and ease of installation
  • Compliance with applicable standards and regulations

Gaining a deep understanding of these motivations and decision drivers is key to your building materials marketing success. Let’s explore some psychological factors that influence engineers' choices and how you can craft your marketing materials and sales pitches more effectively.

How Materials Engineers Think and How to Expertly Market to Them

Engineers tend to approach decisions in a meticulous, analytical manner, carefully weighing risks versus rewards. Their specialized expertise also means they often have strong opinions on technical matters that cannot be overlooked during the sales pitch.

This has several implications for sales discussions. Not only must your products meet the precise standards of building engineers, you and your sales team must be able to market them and communicate them effectively.

When selling to an engineer, adhere to the following best practices:

1. Demonstrate Extreme Product Durability

Long-term material durability and resilience are top-of-mind for engineers, given safety risks and liability concerns. Emphasize longevity, backed by long-term field data or case studies.

Engineers are foremost concerned with safety. As you know, everyone involved in the building materials industry is constructing offices, homes, businesses, charities and beyond. These are places where real people live and work and play and product durability and longevity are paramount for a safe society.

2. Highlight Compliance

Extensive knowledge of building codes precludes any “fudging” on regulatory issues. Be prepared to provide detailed compliance documentation.

Ensure your products are up to code year after year as regulations may change.

Additionally, if you’re selling to engineers in another state or area, take extra time to understand their area’s compliance rules and how your product stacks up.

3. Beware of Overpromising

Engineers can sense false hype and are wary of claims lacking sufficient technical justification. Avoid overselling and back up any assertions with ample supporting data.

Remember, by the time engineers are ready to purchase building materials, they’ve already been part of an extensive team planning the construction. That means they have an excellent idea of what’s needed and aren’t necessarily looking for empty market-shine.

4. Showcase Innovative Technologies

Engineers tend to appreciate innovative solutions, particularly technologies that provide a genuine performance edge. Showcasing proven R&D advances that offer added structural benefits builds trust and signals that you’re an authority in the building materials space.

Remember that just because you may be selling a product that’s the most advanced on the market, doesn’t mean it will automatically resonate with every engineer you market to. Always ask engineers questions to get to the heart of their values and what building material characteristics are important to them.

Keep in mind that what’s important to one engineer on one project may be less important to them on a different project. Strive to meet their current and specific needs each and every time you pitch.

5. Speak Their Language

Use technical engineering terminology correctly and provide specifications in engineering units. Getting the details right instills credibility and speaking their language lets them know you understand their unique needs.

If you are new to selling to engineers, pay attention to what questions consistently surface and which selling points resonate and which do not. Over time, you’ll learn to speak their language and how to sell to their unique pain points.

Earning Engineers’ Trust

Now let’s look at specific techniques to demonstrate expertise and earn engineers' trust. Building trust with engineers can result in repeat customers and long-term business relationships and even valuable referrals.

Odds are, your business isn’t the only one trying to sell its products to engineers. Trust can be the pivotal factor in being chosen time and time again and gaining an edge over your competitors.

Prove Your Authority in Structural Materials

When selling to skeptical technical audiences like engineers, establishing authority is essential. Several strategies can help position your company as a trusted resource.

1. Highlight Relevant Certifications

Any accredited certifications related to product testing, manufacturing processes, quality control or sustainability should be front and center in sales pitches and marketing materials. These accreditations and certifications signal flawless adherence to strict industry standards.

2. Share Case Studies from Similar Projects

Detailing successful prior applications helps prove real-world viability. Include measurable results like improved structural capacity, efficient construction or cost reductions.

If you can provide evidence supporting why and how your product outperformed another similar product. Showing engineers real-world implications of which building materials they choose can make their buying decision crystal clear.

3. Emphasize Ongoing R&D

Engineers appreciate suppliers focused on advancing materials science and technologies. Discuss new innovations underway in your labs and real-world testing facilities.

Even if you’re not selling your most advanced products in the moment, discussing how your business is involved in cutting-edge industry innovations lets engineers know that you and your building materials business are committed to finding and creating the best of the best products.

4. Encourage Site Visits

Offer to arrange site visits to your manufacturing facilities, R&D centers or current projects utilizing your materials. This firsthand experience builds credibility and shows engineers that others are successfully using your products with positive results.

Transparent Communication for Materials Sales

Honesty and transparency should be cornerstones of your communications strategy with engineers and are foundational to building trust. Here are tips for forthright messaging that builds trust:

1. Be Upfront About Any Limitations

Provide balanced information that covers potential weaknesses alongside strengths. When you share how your product might not be the best for an engineer’s specific project, you’re letting the engineer know that you’re more concerned with their construction success than making a sale.

Even if one sale doesn’t happen because of a product limitation, the engineer will remember your honesty and transparency and will be more likely to return to your business when they have another need that you can fulfill.

2. Offer Robust Warranties and Support

Be generous with warranties, maintenance contracts and technical support. This cushions risk for cautious adopters like engineers.

Outstanding warranties and customer support can set your business apart from other building materials businesses and manufacturers and help retain customers and build lifelong business relationships.

3. Highlight Compliance Details

Thoroughly document how your materials meet relevant building codes, environmental regulations and safety standards.

Make sure your sales and marketing teams are well-versed in these product details as they could mean the difference between making a sale and being passed over.

As mentioned earlier, if your building materials business sells in multiple markets, ensure your products meet compliance guidelines in each and every territory.

4. Share Independent Product Reviews

Point engineers toward positive case studies, client reviews, media coverage or awards. Third-party validation carries weight and helps engineers trust that the building materials you’re selling truly stack up in real-world scenarios.

5. Invite Feedback

Ask engineers directly what information could increase their comfort level in specifying your materials. This shows responsiveness and care that they are satisfied and that their project goes well.

When selling to engineers, you’re really selling to their entire teams. Asking about any questions or concerns that could arise from different departments shows respect and a deep knowledge of the stakes engineers are working with.

Now let’s look at messaging approaches that align with engineers who value sustainability and environmental impact.

Sell Sustainable Materials With Life Cycle Data

With rising demand for green building, engineers seek materials that offer environmental savings without sacrificing performance or cost-effectiveness.

When selling environmentally friendly products, make sure to highlight how the product will have a positive impact on the environment and how it will perform and make construction smooth.

Strategies for making the sustainability case with your products include:

1. Getting LEED Certified

Meeting criteria for credits under the LEED rating system can incentivize specification. Become familiar with applicable categories and certify whatever materials can be certified.

2. Highlight Energy Savings

Reduced maintenance, extended service life and higher efficiency lead to long-term energy and emission and monetary savings. Provide life cycle data that shows how much the engineer will benefit long-term from investing in a sustainable product.

3. Offer Healthier Material Options

Many engineers now consider human health impacts when planning out their buildings and choosing materials. Advertise low-VOC, nontoxic products that promote better indoor air quality and healthier conditions for construction workers.

4. Leverage EPDs and HPDs

Share verified Environmental Product Declarations and Health Product Declarations to disclose material contents and impacts. If engineers are unfamiliar with the EPD and HPD standards, walk them through what they mean and how they are beneficial to the project.

5. Support Circular Design

Discuss recyclability, recycled content and sustainable plans for possible deconstruction. Circularity is a growing engineering priority and showcasing how your products fair in circularity can signify innovation and forward-thinking.

6. Advertise Sustainable Materials

If your building materials business offers sustainable products, be sure to mention them in your sales pitches. Because sustainability has taken on so many meanings in recent years, be sure to clearly define how your materials are sustainable.

Does your business support reforestation efforts? Are your materials naturally biodegradable? Are they made from fully or partially recycled materials?

Sustainability isn’t just about charitable acts or feel-good purchases. Engineers want to understand how a sustainable product will benefit their needs more or just as well as a non-sustainable product.

When pitching and marketing, be sure to highlight every feature of the sustainable material and not only its environmental benefits and impact.

Now that we’ve discussed various marketing methods to meet different types of engineers, their needs and how they think, let’s explore where to find in-market engineers.

Professional Relationships Are Key

For complex B2B sales, relationships and trust built over time can unlock deals and loyal customers. Consider these spaces for finding and building trust with in-market engineers:

1. Network at Industry Events

Conferences and symposiums provide access to key decision-makers. Develop rapport through thoughtful follow-up.

It’s tempting at events to only think of the value you can gain from networking. However, to get a competitive edge and be memorable, focus on how you can add value to each person you meet, even if they don’t end up becoming a profitable connection right away.

Finding ways to add value to everyone, despite what they can add to you and your building materials business, builds trust and establishes a positive reputation. Down the line, engineers and other key decision-makers may remember how you helped them and look you up to do business.

2. Publish on and Contribute to Engineering Forums

Active involvement in niche communities, reputable news sites and building materials blogs and video channels can build valuable brand awareness.

Sharing your knowledge in these communities also sharpens your sales skills and refines your pitches as you answer diverse questions and share multi-faceted information.

3. Co-Author Articles or Case Studies

Collaborating on professional publications is powerful. Offer your expertise to develop authoritative content and establish your name and brand among the building materials experts.

4. Speak at Universities

Lectures at engineering schools paves the way for early relationship-building with students. Maintaining contacts as they progress into industry careers can lead to longevity with customers and businesses.

5. Partner With Complementary Suppliers

Co-marketing, cross-promotion and lead-sharing with related vendors leverage existing networks and help you break into otherwise unknown or difficult spaces where engineers frequent.

Offering to guest blog on complementary building material suppliers’ sites can help build brand awareness and a trusted referral network between your contacts and their contacts as well.

Final Thoughts

Marketing building materials to technically rigorous audiences, like engineers, demands strategic messaging targeted to specialized and evolving needs.

Follow the roadmap in this blog to optimize your marketing’s messaging, media and activities for engineering decision-makers. Refine your sales strategy through feedback and demonstrated success. Soon, your building materials business will become a go-to resource when engineers need structural materials they can trust.

Venveo is a marketing agency that proudly stands in the gap between building materials businesses and construction companies and digital sales success. Our proven digital growth processes guide your business in finding and connecting with your audience online while compelling them to take action. Contact us to learn more about how Venveo can help your building materials business’s online presence.

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