I am integrator at heart; I did it for over 20 years. As a result, I love meeting with integrators all over the world and talking with them about their successes and challenges. In this regard, I am also very fortunate to give presentations all over the world and have the great honor to meet with a few hundred integrators every year.
Over the years I have heard from many dealers that they can’t sell X, Y, or Z (remote controls, distributed audio, hi res audio, better quality speakers, etc.). It is usually followed by this comment: “Pete, you just don’t understand our market.” This is despite the fact that I may have extensive history with the given market.
You may recall a few years back when the industry was buzzing about the death of the remote control; that apps had killed the remote control industry. It was during this period that I remember being at a dealer event in Canada. I was at my table, proudly displaying many shiny new remotes. The first dealer approached me and asked if I had anything new to show him. I replied, “Yes, we have all the new remotes here.” He said, “Oh, we can’t sell remotes in this market. Nobody will buy a remote control here, they just want to control everything with an app.”
This sparked some interesting banter back and forth, but eventually we agreed to disagree and he moved on to the next table. The very next person to approach my table was a dealer who was delighted to see all the remotes on display. I asked the dealer if he sold remote controls, and he said, “Yes, we put one in every single project.” I was obviously intrigued by this, so I asked, “Do you have any challenges selling remote controls in this market?” He said simply, “We insist that every project have at least one to ensure the system will be easy to operate.”
What was this? Two dealers in the exact same sales context with completely different conceptions about the consumers in their market? Unfortunately, this story is not just isolated to remote controls or Canada. Most recently the comments have been related to centralized distributed audio systems and the fact that “nobody in this market will buy a distributed audio system.”
Please understand that I love streaming audio devices and using my app to control some elements of my home automation system. I am also no stranger to objections from consumers regarding price, technology, or investing in wiring for their homes; I have literally met with hundreds of consumers over the years. However, I have a very firm belief that we, as experts in our profession, have a responsibility to guide the consumer in making the best decisions to enjoy the technology in their home. As an example, when I owned my integration company, I would include at least one ($500-$1000) remote control in every project. This would very often be the first item the client would want to scratch off the proposal, stating, “I am NOT going to spend $1000 on a remote control.” To that I would reply, “I understand that this is a significant investment for you. In my professional experience over the past decade+ I can tell you that, without a proper user interface, you will not enjoy this system. You and your family will be upset with me for selling the system to you, and it will be a waste of your time and money.” I would continue with: “I know you may not be sold on this remote control thing, so I will program the remote control and put it on your coffee table. Let you use it for one month. I will come back at the end of one month and if you are not convinced or satisfied, I will take the remote back and it won’t cost you a penny. If, however, you enjoy the user experience with the remote, then I will charge you for the device.”
Moving back to the story about the two dealers. I believe the major difference with these two dealers was: “passion + conviction.” One dealer was passionate about providing the best possible user experience and convinced that his clients must have a dedicated user interface device to control their system. This conviction was clearly translated in the conversation with each of his potential clients. I believe passion + conviction promotes belief in others. If you have confidence in what you are offering or selling, embrace that feeling and express it in conversations with future potential clients.
It is very tempting to follow the path of least resistance. Often with heavy competition it takes tremendous courage to stand your ground and recommend the opposite of what your competition may be suggesting. However, I believe this is also an opportunity to differentiate and separate your self from your competition. We are all consumers, and we like investing our money with people we trust and have confidence in their professional ability. Think about it: would you be willing to invest a little more in a doctor, lawyer, or other professional who exhibited some confidence (not cockiness) in their profession? I would! I want to work with someone who is confident and exhibits great pride in his or her profession.
I am especially concerned when I hear from dealers that they are no longer selling distributed audio systems. This means they are no longer selling (audio) wiring, flush-mount speakers, in-wall control devices, etc. More importantly, this means they may be de-valuing the importance to have them involved in the project. If the consumer can drive to Big Box Electronics and buy the item off the shelf, why do they need you? It is important to remember that the wiring and technology investment the consumer makes into this home will add value and marketability to the home. Additionally, the technology should be used and enjoyed every single day. When you consider these facts and amortize the investment, over daily use for X years it is much easier to appreciate the value delivered by the professionally installed technology system.
As an integrator, I always enjoyed recommending things that my competitors may not think about. Some examples today might be high-res audio, shading, energy management, premium outdoor audio, or elegant floor-standing speakers in one room of the house. You never know, that one thing you suggest could be the differentiator and deciding factor why they went with you. I have had many clients over the years who told me, “We are going with you because you suggested so many great ideas that no one else discussed with us.”
Don’t let your competition win the creativity award. Avoid the temptation to follow the flow; think of ways to differentiate and add value to your business. Don’t sell like your competitor, differentiate from them! Sell Differently!
Please let me know if you have any comments or questions. I really enjoy hearing from readers. You can reach me directly at [email protected] bigcorp.com. Think BIG!