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AV Tips for 2017: How to Speak to Customers’ IT Departments

Experts from Axis Communications, Kramer, QSC, and Media Vision share advice on how to form trusting relationships with customers’ IT departments.

The role an IT department plays in purchasing technology has greatly changed over the years.

IT directors now have the purchasing power that facility managers once wielded. Because of this change in technology purchasing roles, integrators are challenged with learning how to work with, and sell to, customers’ IT departments.

We took the opportunity to ask a handful of integrators and manufacturers in the industry for some advice as to how AV integrators can speak to their customers’ IT departments in a way that will build credibility and help AV integrators make a sale.

Here’s what they had to say:

Scott Dunn, senior director, business development solutions & services, Axis Commutations, Inc.:

“Given their audio video knowledge, AV integrators have many opportunities to act as a trusted advisor especially as security and surveillance enter the world of IoT and the need for intelligent sensors to be managed.  As IT Departments become more integral to the selection process of security and surveillance solutions they are looking for experienced, knowledgeable integrators to help them with their decision and implementation process. AV integrators should be prepared to understand the capabilities of the solutions available including but not limited to their connectivity to networks, bandwidth capabilities, cybersecurity options and storage impact.

“The last tip I recommend is to research downtime between failures to better understand the reliability of the products under consideration from various manufactures. You should also get to know and test their technical support responsiveness. Then you’ll be able to select a quality product with top notch support so when things get tricky for you, the integrator can count on support that is always with you.”

Clint Hoffman, chief operating officer at Kramer Electronics:

“It used to be that IT departments use to say, “not on my network” when it came to AV gear.  Now, they say it is OK, but you have to offer them an enterprise management solution.  You need to be able to offer them a piece of software that will allow them to see and manage all the devices on their network from one location.  If they can also push out firmware updates to all the units over the network using that same piece of software, that is important too.”

TJ Adams, director of installed systems products management, QSC:

“The biggest thing AV integrators can do is to increase their knowledge of how IT departments work and what drives them. Getting informed about their business model, current technology environment, and industry or vertical trends in an essential first step. To do that, we would recommend gaining knowledge of network configuration and IT work flows and garner IT-related professional certifications like CompTIA and Cisco CCNA. Like any customer, IT wants to work with people that understand their needs and speak their language.

“Also, learn about the types of relationships IT has with their vendors and how you can emulate that to give them something they are familiar with and understand. But one step further, learn how to become their strategic partner. At the end of the day – integrators really need to take time to gain the IT perspective.”

Curtiss Singleton, VP of sales, the Americas, at Media Vision:

“When working with any IT department, find out who is responsible for AV and discuss in detail what their knowledge base and skill set is around AV and what certifications they may have. Then, take your time in finding out what solution needs are important today and what could be important in the future. The adage “you don’t know what you don’t know” is important to remember when working with any customer that is not familiar with the complexities of AV integration. An integrator with good listening skills and that asks questions to help future proof the customer’s purchase will keep that customer happy for many years to come.”

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