Meeting with Your Modular Sales Team: Q&A with Dave Fetzer and Jerry Schultz
So you’ve made the decision to move forward with a modular construction project, but it’s a process that you’re not really familiar with. We talked with two of Vanguard’s Area Sales Managers to find out how they work with their clients as the first point of contact on a modular building project.
Jerry Schultz covers the Gulf Coast region, while Dave Fetzer works with clients in New Jersey, New York, and Maryland.
What’s the first question you ask a client when starting the modular construction process – their space needs, their budget, or their timeline?
Dave: Those are all important to know but I also try to get a little more background on the proposed project. I want to know about know the history of the project and understand the challenges they’re facing. This will allow me to help them see beyond their preconceived ideas of what they have to be doing.
Jerry: I like to start out by asking, “How much space do you need for ___________,” whether it be a classroom, office space, or medical exam space. I like to speak to their industry so that that it sounds familiar to them and they can start picturing the space. I also ask how long their need is for, because there can be instances where we’re not the right fit for what they need.
Can you tell me what order you think clients prioritize – floor plan, cost, schedule – in their decision making process?
Dave: A lot of people come into a project feeling like this the low-cost solution, so they can be surprised by the costs. In these instances it’s important to explain the other benefits of modular and that can move them away from cost. They start to see the advantages of speed (cost to market, faster occupancy, quick revenue generation) and flexibility of design.
Jerry: Floor plan is definitely #1. They have something in mind and that matters. They have to fill this need and that trumps all. Then they evaluate the cost and maybe at this point they realize they can go with a used building instead of custom-built.
What are common misconceptions or questions that clients still have about modular buildings?
Here both Jerry and Dave whole-heartedly agree!
Jerry: There’s still a misconception about modular being a trailer vs a true building; also the fact that modular buildings meet the same International Building Codes (IBC) as traditional construction. This was not always the case but was adopted in the mid-2000s.
Dave: I still see a stigma that modular means trailers, and that the cost should be reflective of an old-fashioned trailer. I find the best way to fight is to share projects and photo galleries so clients can see how far modular buildings have improved.
Can you name a few industries where the use of modular buildings is really growing?
Jerry: In the Southern areas I cover, I work with a lot of medical clinics. Also RV camps, bunk houses and off-site job living. Modular is popular in RV camps for creating the necessary public areas like showers and laundry facilities.
Do you find that clients are putting more importance into the “modernity” of the modular buildings, whether its modern finishing and aesthetics or technological upgrades?
Jerry: They are, and a lot of that goes back to avoiding that trailer look and feel. There are still clients who are going to care much more for the functionality over how it looks. But there are also people who want something to look nicer, when their business or industry calls for it.
Jerry also points out that much of the customization is available for clients who are buying their modular building, as opposed to leasing.
Dave: Yes, but it’s dependent on how you sell it to them. I have a background working with design centers so I try to focus on new products, new finishes, and showing them a new way of doing things.
What is/are the primary driver(s) that cause(s) clients to consider modular (cost, speed, flexibility, etc.)?
Dave: Some of it is cost and some of it is timeline, but it can also be the attention they receive from the sales team, and knowing we have the ability to get it done.
Jerry: It’s the total package. While not everyone is in a time crunch, the cost savings are always a nice advantage.
How informed are most clients about the permitting procedures and the effect they can have on the project schedule?
Dave: A large number of clients think the building can simply show up and don’t understand permits and approval process. Many are shocked to learn they have to get permits, they don’t view this as construction. We tell them that modular building has to be viewed and handled as a construction project.
Jerry: Most are not informed at all and we teach them along the way. We also need them know that permits can be the biggest hold up in their timeline.
Are there changes you would like to see in the way modular buildings are currently built or operate industrywide, to improve customer experience?
Jerry: I’d like to see more sensor activated technology, like sensor control lights or sensor control sinks. It would also be great to have on-site services from our partner factories. For example we hired out the installation of sprinkler systems or stone facades. I think there would be more consistency if the factory installed.
Dave: More specifically, I’d like to move to floorless/slab-on-grade modular, which eliminates the need for a basement crawl space. Very much like how a Starbucks is added to local strip mall structure. Overall, I think there is still opportunity to elevate the quality of our materials and our standing in the construction industry.