Commercial AV integration pros are needed now as much as ever before, although admittedly for different reasons than in years gone by.
The following is a passion-fueled email I received from the current VP of technology at a Mid-West based AV company with a rich heritage dating back to the 1970s.
He started out inquiring of me (rhetorically): “How many people know the level of knowledge that must be obtained to provide AV integration correctly?”
I could feel the pent-up frustration building as he followed up with: “There are just too many clients who have no idea what goes into our jobs as professional integration firms.”
He asked me to put my retrospective hats on:
“Just for a moment, think of all the different areas of knowledge — electrical, acoustical, electronic, visual, audible and communications just to name a few — that need to be understood for our technology to be properly integrated.
“IR, RS232, RS422, Contact Closure, RS485, Midi, TCP IP, UDP, Hi-Z, Low-Z, 70v , direct voice coil, HDCP, EDID, CEC, Digital I/O, Single Mode Fiber, Multi-Mode Fiber, mechanical engineering, electrical engineer, programming, commissioning, audio DSP, these are just a small portion of the things an AV integration pro handles on a daily basis!”
My guess is that some of you could even add to his list.
He then asked a basic question that we should all ask ourselves:
“How many other industries have job requirements that have this broad spectrum of knowledge necessary to do something that appears as simple as hanging a TV on the wall?”
He recounted a recent AV integration success story:
“After many months of work and a successful on-time and on-budget completion, I was speaking with the supervisor of the excavation company who was on site with us at all times, and he made the most interesting statement:
“‘From what I have seen, I drive a bulldozer, and the average person knows they cannot do my job, but since everyone has a TV at home, they all think they can do AV integration.”
I could almost see my friend of many years take a deep breath, and he admitted that he was probably “biased because I do all of this, and then some on a daily basis for the past 30 years.” But who in reading this can blame him or find fault with what he said?
Finding ‘Art’ In the AV Integration Sales Pitch
His plea for understanding sets up the central theme about our need to convey value. He noted that it takes a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise in many engineering disciplines as well as the untold part of AV, the “Art” portion.
Yes, as you know, AV is both a science and an ART. Everyone can purchase AV equipment anywhere, but who integrates it determines the outcome, and that is the ART.
From my friend’s passionate plea and our own experiences, I hope we can all see the need for telling our story in a more compelling manner.
“You need to actively listen to their challenges and be nimble enough to adapt your operations when you detect major shifts,” Heidi Voorhees
This is where value identification and articulation come into play. It is not enough to just say we are bigger or better because we will be falling victim to what is known as the “bigger/better syndrome” of marketing.
Research shows that this simply does not resonate with end users and is rarely, if ever, a differentiator.
Drinking your own Kool-Aid is a fool’s game and we need to find ways to transfer your sense of value to the end user in terms they will understand.
Keep top of mind that different clients, different industries, and different approaches/understanding relating to value requires a different value approach. This is where many integrators fail. If the end user does not see the value, then for them it does not exist.
Alternative? Buy it online at CDW, B&H, PCM, etc. The list is getting bigger as we speak. Where is the value in that?
The answers is price alone, and rest assured that can be a lonely and potentially dangerous place for end users to be. We need to let them know that and substitute value for price and in the end, a better TCO.
Why Is Active Listening So Hard?
Heidi Voorhees, the COO of AVIXA, is quoted as saying, “In order to stay relevant to your customers, especially in a quickly-changing marketplace like AV, you need to actively listen to their challenges and be nimble enough to adapt your operations when you detect major shifts.”
“What delivered success in the past may not bring you future growth.”
I can only add to what Heidi said by pointing out that this begins with addressing their sense of value and translating what you do into their language.
Being memorable is the result of communicating value in a meaningful manner.
The ongoing challenge we all face is finding ways to stay relevant to our existing customers and effective ways to communicate to potential customers who you are and what value you can provide to them.
Meeting these challenges will grow your sales and services in the face of me-too products and margin compression.
Read Next: The History of Pro AV: Part 1
Differentiation and value articulation with translations to end user’s “language and culture” are significant pieces to the puzzle.
When I am asked to speak on the topic of business development, one of my punch lines is to “give them something to remember you by”. This flies in the face of what I call “polite happy talk.” Being memorable is the result of communicating value in a meaningful manner.
As my Mid-Western friend above concluded his lengthy email to me a few weeks back, he proudly, and in my opinion, rightfully, noted:
“AV integrators are the heart and soul of this industry. NONE of this would be possible without us, the AV integrators. If the AV integrators did not exist, what would all of them do?”
My immediate and certain response to him was that if AV integrators did not exist, they would have to be invented!