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What Job Are You Really Being Hired to Do?

Knowing and understanding the needs of your client is a vital part of the sales process.

I recently attended an all-day workshop led by business guru Verne Harnish. Part of his presentation showcased a 3M engineer peeling back the challenge of what job a product or service is truly being hired to do. The example he gave showcased the Wendy’s Frosty. You know the one — tasty, yet maddeningly difficult to consume through a straw? So challenging, in fact, that they serve it with a spoon? 3M found out the Frosty is very popular for certain commuters because of its high viscosity. What do milkshakes and the custom installation have to do with each other? Plenty.

Getting hired with clients in their home.
Getty Images

Our industry would do well to contemplate the “What job are we really being hired to do?” question. Sure, maybe we’re awash in projects like media rooms and security systems, but what job did the client have in mind when picking up the phone in the first place?

At a macro level, we’re being hired to, in the words of one of my clients, to “be brief, be brilliant, and be gone.” The solutions we offer all cater to customer pain points rooted in ego. Behind the veneer of the shiny objects we sell, patterns begin to emerge. Here are the most common jobs CI installers are really being hired to tackle:

Save Me Time

Most CI businesses working in the residential world have a segment of their customer base who places a premium on time above all else and will spend large sums to save it. Why else would private jets exist? If you can offer your customers any sort of time savings or efficiency gain while assigning a dollar value to it, you’ve got a winner.

How do we save time for our customers? First, we should place time at the top of the priority list when considering our vendors and project types, especially in the realm of wired and wireless networks. We must also evaluate how easy we are to do business with. Are you live-answering your phones? Do you offer clients the ability to text? High-net-worth individuals are becoming increasingly used to concierge services like American Express that offer 24/7 SMS live chat. If you can’t match this level of service, that’s a liability that might bite you down the road.

Also by Henry Clifford: Pick a Customer Issue and Follow It Down the Rabbit Hole

Make It Easy for Me

If your solutions aren’t easy, it’s time for a change. Consider how much technology you live with in your own home. If you’re selling solutions you don’t live with, it puts you at a serious disadvantage when it comes to conveying value. Clients love stories about how simple your solutions are. Anecdotes about a remote that the babysitter can use or guests who intuitively understand the lighting control system go a long way toward building value and trust. Your existing clients are a great source of social proof when it comes to helping close the deal. Consider asking your top clients to go on camera and talk about what challenges your company helped solve. Post these videos on social media and let your raving fans become de facto members of the sales team.

Make Me Look Good

There are countless stories of botched home technology installations, DIY attempts gone wrong, and other corner-cutting efforts that all began in the same way. Nobody starts a project expecting it to fail, but it happens all the time. In 2023, we’re now dealing with a savvy client base well acquainted with technology, and they’ve potentially been through a few homes where they did or (more commonly) didn’t like the installation. Those experiences color future projects, and you may be talking to someone who’s sworn off lighting control because of a bad experience at the hands of a poorly trained integrator or well-meaning DIY spouse. Some of these battles are tough to engage in, and it’s best to find common ground quickly around where you can help your client look like the hero. Maybe they have teenagers with high bandwidth and streaming needs? Maybe they like to entertain and you can design a killer multiroom audio system? Maybe they hate visible technology and you can hide everything in the walls and out of sight?

Whatever the “make me look good” requirement is, rest assured every client has one. It’s your job to uncover it and use that as a springboard for the rest of the conversation.

Help Me Relax With Family and Friends

Many of our clients are well-off because they have high-stress jobs. They spend a majority of their time working and home time is precious to them. By focusing on ways to help them relax and de-stress, we’re immediately catering to an acute pain point.

Nothing’s more relaxing than reclining in a comfortable chair while being immersed in a killer audio/video demo. If you have a showroom or design center, figure out what your clients wants and needs are prior to their visit. What do they like to eat or drink? What’s their favorite music or movie? If you have their favorite things laid out for them during their appointment, they’re going to be in a great frame of mind to fall in love with your solutions because they’re experiencing the benefits firsthand.

Also by Henry Clifford: They Ask You Answer — Why Doesn’t Livewire Offer Free Estimates?

Give Me Something No One Else Has

Sometimes wealth and ego go together. Your client may be motivated by nothing more than wanting to make sure that his TV is bigger than his buddy’s, who referred you. Make no mistake, this competitiveness is very real and is fun to leverage as the de facto “arms dealer” selling to both sides. Keep abreast of new technologies and make sure your clients know about high-end shiny objects like $2 million video walls, nano-film LED technology, Blackdove moving art video installations, and the latest in immersive sound first from you before they hear about it somewhere else. Venues like the soon-to-open MSG Sphere in Las Vegas and the Beacon in New York City are showing a new generation of live music fans cutting-edge immersive sound experiences they’ll want to re-create at home.

Whatever your client’s motivations, make it your business to uncover their true motivations early on in the conversation so you can personalize the rest of the relationship. They’ll thank you by buying more, telling their friends, and becoming your best salespeople.

The next time you meet a potential client, ask yourself, “What job am I really being hired to do?”