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Earning a Place at the Table

It took weeks of calling and lots of patience to finally break through and get the go ahead for this important sales meeting. You are being ushered into the conference room of a very prestigious homebuilder. You feel a bit anxious because if you make the right impression, you could win the opportunity to work with this high-end builder. The members of the builders team assemble in the conference room and take their seats. Then the owner of the company enters and begins the introductions. He smiles at you and starts off by saying he has heard lots of good things about your company. You reply that you have been very impressed with his organization and that you would like very much to work with them.

The meeting moves forward even better than you had hoped and the builder tells you he is interested in having you bid on his next project. Your energy is peaking as he unrolls the blueprints for a beautiful new $5 million home. Then you hear the words you have been waiting for: We would like you to give us a bid for this new home. Then he continues, We want a single sub who can handle all of the audio, video, lighting, and low voltage for us. Can you do that?

Those words hit you like a baseball bat. Sweat drips from your forehead as you try to stall. Everyone in the room is staring at you and wondering why you have not answered yet. Stop and ask yourself: What would your companys answer be right now? If you answered Yes, could you back that up with a dozen successful jobs to show him? If you answered, No, We only do audio and video, could you salvage anything or would you have just blown your great opportunity?

The Importance of Yes
My point is, today it makes sense for savvy builders to consolidate all of these requirements with a single subcontractor. From the builders perspective, it is much more difficult to manage construction projects when there are eight different subcontractors involved. Each of these additional subs represents more time and effort needed by the builder to review bids, process billing, scheduling, coordination, and problem solving. Is your installation company prepared to offer the full range of products and services the home needs? If your answer is a solid Yes, you can trust us to do it all, then you can profit greatly.

How to Deliver
Lets break down exactly what is needed to provide the complete package for this builder. Your sales/design team will need the expertise to build a proposal that includes everything in a complete low-voltage package. That includes providing wiring and equipment for telephone, security, intercom, cable and satellite television, Internet, home theater sound and video, distributed audio, and control systems.

Sophisticated homes will also control lighting, HVAC, window blinds, pool systems, home automation, video distribution, gate systems, surveillance, etc. The pre-wire phase for each of these systems is similar. Many CE contractors already have much of the knowledge required to handle the installation of wiring for these systems.

But then, you would need to have sources for all of the equipment needed for each of these systems. Then you will need experience to properly design, program, and install each system and interface it with the other home systems. Finally, you will need service people who are trained in working with all the gear you sell and all of the other systems that they connect to and control throughout the home. It would be a huge mistake to deceive the builder or yourself by promising to provide all of this work if you do not really have the experience required. That would be the perfect way to destroy your future with this builder on your very first job.

Other Avenues
I am writing this column after leaving the largest tradeshow for installing security dealers. AV contractors would be wise to consider adding security installation because of the recurring revenues available there. Because of the similarities in wiring residential low-voltage systems, I believe we are moving towards consolidation of contractors in this field. As our industry matures, those installation companies who truly offer complete low-voltage packages with the expertise and skilled personnel required to deliver top-notch results will be in an enviable position to leverage growth and profits in their markets. If you really can offer the whole package, you can walk out of this sales meeting with a very sweet contract.