First of all, my pet peeve about questions and comments at trade shows like, “Have a good show!” “Did you have a good show?” “It was a great show!” was practically a non-issue last week in Orlando. Replacing the caffeinated feeding frenzy and hype-fest product one-upsmanships typically associated with trade shows of the past was a more subdued and cooperative spirit that is a welcome change in these days when neither unrealistic spin nor a paralyzing attitude of gloom and doom will serve us well.
Instead of bemoaning the lack of foot traffic or dissatisfaction with “quality leads,” everyone seemed to be making a concerted effort to make the most of their situation. The message was, “We paid to be here, so let’s be as productive as possible and talk about the future instead of dwelling on the negative.”
During my two days at the show, every single person I spoke with expressed their optimism about turning the page on the last six months, choosing to focus on fresh ideas for assisting their dealers with education and innovation, rather than sitting back and waiting for an economic turnaround.
This new spirit was profoundly refreshing for me, especially after the mostly sobering tone of the prior week’s CEDIA Management Conference, a well-designed event where “tough love” seemed to dominate the three-day event.
In contrast, my impression from EHX was that all of us have been beaten down enough already by the overwhelmingly dire situation that our country (and much of the world) has faced, and we’ve all chosen to take charge of our own destiny going forward. Many manufacturers at EHX were touting the need to return to Sales 101, in a market where business leads are no longer handed to us on a silver platter. One concern was that in a channel that always has depended on referrals from past clients, builders, and architects, ESCs were never really forced to become great sales people. But as times have changed, we must all learn to present technical solutions and value, while painting a picture in the minds of homeowners who may never have considered hiring an integration professional in the past.
The message was a simple one, to be sure, yet it wasn’t Pollyanna-ish in any way. Everyone acknowledged the harsh reality that many ESCs have faced as they have been forced to cut payroll or even close up shop altogether. Manufacturers, in turn, have reduced their investment in marketing and advertising or even gone bankrupt.
A renewed focus from manufacturers on business and product education for their dealers seems to bode well for the sustainability of our industry. Success will always require hard work, but an optimistic and more humble attitude can’t hurt as we all work through challenging times.