The Covid crisis has presented me the opportunity to think more deeply about our industry, where we are at, and where we might be headed. My thoughts today are about the current AV business sales environment: how we have previously approached customers, and the new reality (non-pandemic related) that changes all of that.
Historically, we led off our commercial AV approach with technologies that were unknown and for want of a better word, they “sizzled”. The customers were wowed, excited, inspired, etc. and in many cases the technologies sold the projects for us.
Fast forward and ask yourself when the last time a customer was blown away by something you showed them.
Where once our technologies might have been unique, disruptive, and even awe inspiring, now they are (for the most part) incremental improvements of existing models that at best may bring a smile or a nodding head from our customers.
If manufacturers (integrators) are lucky enough to have a disruptive technology to sell, then for a time you can break all the rules of effective sales behavior. Overwhelming demand will drive sales no matter what.
The bad news is that demand at abnormally high levels is rarely sustainable and most things revert to incrementalism.
Flying in the face of disruptive technologies is the plethora of products that have become commodities. I love the word fungible, meaning products that appear to be the same to the casual observer become interchangeable and the main differentiation then becomes price.
For example, all XYZ products are the same, so let’s buy the one at the lowest price. We see this with generics versus name brands all the time. Think about all the products sourced out of Asia with the only differentiation being the label.
At trades shows (live and virtual), we see this illustrated at every turn. I challenge you to tell me even a few things that were disruptive or “game changing”. In terms of “new” product introductions over the last couple of years, the leader in sheer numbers in commercial AV was signal distribution with >150 items.
Displays were second, with approximately 100 items, and so on.
Were these actually new products, or rather modifications or updates to existing products? I suggest that more often than not many manufacturers simply add a new feature (or even a few) and call them a new model.
I hope you see where this is going. We live increasingly in a commodity world. For the most part product improvements and even so called “new” models are incremental in nature.
Our customers have access to a plethora of information online before we even make the sales call and they are rarely wowed by the technology. Of course this begs the question of what we are to do.
Let’s be clear that we still need to know, sell, and support all the technologies that are used in the systems we design, integrate, and support.
What we need to come to grips with though is why customers buy today. In our seminar entitled “Analyze This and the 5Ps” we emphasize the final decision on purchasing is rarely on the product alone because there is so much parity out there.
It is not the price because of the ability to “meet comp” by everyone, and it is not program because everyone tends to be a copycat. Prodcut, price, and program are a given.
What it boils down to is process and people. Process refers to how good (easy, efficient, and supportive) a company is to work with.
People refers to you and your behavior. This is a combination of what you say and what you do.
There is no better comparison for what we need to do than what I call the farmer model. Here is the comparison and things to consider:
- To farm you need a land or a field. We need customers.
- The fields need to be tilled. We need to cultivate customers.
- Seeds need to be planted. We need to plant our seed of trust and become a partner not vendor.
- The fields/seeds need fertilizer. We need to provide input in the form of knowledge and advice.
- Water allows the fertilized seeds to grow. This is our assessment and needs analysis stage.
- The farmer must wait for all the elements to work. We need to do the same thing.
- Harvesting is the end result. This is final sign off and payment and a happy customer.
If any of the elements above are missing for the farmer then the crop will be insufficient and perhaps not harvestable at all. The same step by step process relates to the journey toward success for us today.
The decisions to buy or not buy will be different for everyone. Some will certainly buy on price alone. The point is that you need to give your potential customers a reason to buy from you beyond product, price, and program.
The added value you can bring today perhaps more than ever before is process and people. You need to make your AV businesses so easy and worry free.
On a personal note you need to make yourself invaluable to their project and future projects they may have. Today the “sizzle” we need in order to sell is your company and you