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Internal Referrals For the Win

Having subsystem champions in your company that you can recommend to clients lower the “jack of all trades…” perception.

If you’re like most CI businesses, you sell many different products and services (maybe too many?). A typical integrator might offer home theater, whole home audio and video, wired and wireless networks, structured cabling, video surveillance, security, lighting control, automation, and motorized shading. That’s a pretty conservative list and it’s over 10 subsystems long. In any other business, someone selling tube socks and earthmoving equipment might be seen as a generalist and not necessarily a subject matter expert. Why is CI different? I don’t think we are, and our customers know it.

Company Culture - Working Together
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If we’re all responsible for presenting too many options during a sales appointment, how do we fix the issue without tanking revenue? One word comes to mind: referrals. By grouping your subsystems into logical groups together (network, security, audio/video, and lighting) you can bucket most of your offerings into four key areas. Imagine each area has its own champion on your sales team and then consider creating referral opportunities for these experts.

Also by Henry Clifford: Chasing Perfection

CI business is still driven by an AV-first mindset. Most of the CEDIA world’s projects begin with some kind of entertainment angle where all the other elements are then presented as needed to grow the project and give the client a single point of contact (and wringable neck). That same AV system in the family room might need some lighting or motorized shading. Instead of the AV champion having to talk about great sound and LED fixtures in the same breath, how about shifting the narrative with a simple question: “What’s your lighting plan look like?” Most of the time the answer might draw a blank stare. “If you don’t have one,” you say, “this is a great time to pull that together while the house is under construction. I’m happy to connect you with our lighting designer if you’d like.” From there you can tee up an employee you’ve hired to take on that work or partner with amazing vendor partners like Light Can Help You. These internal or external resources then make the AV salesperson look like a rockstar and substantially lower the “jack of all trades, master of none” perception with the client.

We see the referral mindset at work in everyday life. Turn on CNN or Fox News and watch as an anchor questions a guest following a predetermined path, ultimately delivering the network’s message in a way that gives the viewer the sense that there are diverse perspectives and opinions to pick from. While that couldn’t be further from the truth, perception is reality.

Consider these easy referral examples for your sales team to adopt:

  1. Theater Designer: In-house or outsourced to vendors like Paradise Theater or Erskine Group
  2. Lighting: In-house or vendor-specific design resources from the likes of Light Can Help You, Colorbeam, DMF Lighting, or Coastal Source
  3. Motorized Shading: in-house, local shade installer, or partnering with Hunter Douglas Installation Services (HDIS)

Livewire uses a combination of all of these, but with the recent launch of Lightsource, our new lighting division, we’re relying more and more on our salespeople referring to our master electrician. Early results are encouraging. Jobs where our lighting and electrical expert is engaged are doubling in size. Just the simple act of looping in another face assuming the avatar of a subject matter expert appears to be a winner.

What are you doing in your business to help salespeople specialize and refer in outside experts?

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.