Have you ever visited a website, seen a “news” article from 10 years ago, and then bounced? Or perhaps you were told by someone you’re doing business with that they’d get back to you, and they never did? Do you choose to do business with those vendors?
Probably not, because first impressions are everything. There’s an art form to communicating and projecting a professional image, which is directly linked to building and retaining client and trade partner loyalty and confidence. With the new year about to unfold, it’s an excellent time to re-evaluate your approach and image. Here are some things to consider.
Tamp Down the Tech Talk with Trades
In the AV industry, we love to talk tech and have essentially created a unique language derived almost entirely of acronyms. When talking to designers, builders, and architects (and their clients), it’s far more effective to lead with design and tangible benefits rather than technology or performance — no matter how passionate you are about these things.
Instead, talk about how your firm can conceal technology or make it a centerpiece, and have high-quality photos and videos available for show-and-tell. Discuss how you, your company, and your team — not your products — will deliver simplicity and efficiency to a project and convenience, comfort, and enjoyment to a household. As you do, make it clear that you and your team are there to support them at every turn.
“We used to say to designers and architects, ‘Your clients want automation, so why not let us give it to them?’ It ended up being a complete turn-off,” says Ron Wanless, owner of Technology Design Associates. “We found a statement such as, ‘We can take the experience you create for your clients and integrate it to make their life simpler and your design more spectacular,’ resonates much more positively with architects and designers.”
The last thing trades want to hear is, “Step aside, we’ve got this!” They want technology integrator partners who will work closely with them, educating them along the way so that they can continue to be trusted advisors to their clients. They’re not trying to be the tech expert, but they do need to have confidence in delivering information and integrity of their design work.
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Monitor Your Mannerisms
You want your customers to feel comfortable around you — to perceive your firm as friendly and approachable, not overbearing and intimidating. Your audience should always feel that you will be open to hearing their ideas, concerns, and questions. Little things — like unfolding your arms, looking people in the eye, listening more than talking, and speaking clearly (no mumbling) — are subtle shifts that anyone can execute. Be aware of your volume, tone, and cadence (slow down), and take time to stop and ask your audience if they have any questions.
Physical positioning is also critical. Where you choose to sit during meetings, where you stand when you present to a group, and how you address the audience can impact how people perceive you and your company. “We make sure our clients sit at the head of the table, with direct access to the door,” Wanless says. “It gives them the sense of being the most important person in the room without feeling as though we’ve trapped them into a situation they can’t get out of.”
Jamie Briesemeister, CEO/sales & marketing director for Integration Controls, agrees. “There’s nothing more off-putting than to feel trapped in a room,” she says. “I feel very uncomfortable when seated with my back to the door, without easy access to an exit, or when people — men, especially — position themselves between me and the door.”
Stress Solutions Not Brands
The brands you carry mean a lot to you and the success of your business. Customers and trade partners, on the other hand, often really don’t care. “Shift the conversation away from individual product brands,” suggests Eric Thies, of DSI Luxury Technology. “An iPhone contains about 50 different manufacturer parts, but nobody cares what’s in it because Apple creates the total user experience. The brands we use are just ingredients to a big recipe. Therefore, I try to stress that the chef is more important than what brand of flour or salt is in the dish.”
As a trusted home tech advisor, discuss how your company offers complete solutions to relatable household demands — stronger Wi-Fi connections, an easier way to manage lights, high-quality home entertainment, improved heating and cooling efficiency and comfort, etc. Be ready to talk about all of this in plain-speak, but always with the experience in mind.
Finally, put your money where your mouth is. Customers gravitate to companies that exude confidence without coming off as cocky, so having a guarantee as part of your pitch never hurts. “We offer a Happiness Guarantee to new customers,” says Constantinos Sandoukas, owner and lead technician at frayednot. “We won’t accept the last 10 percent of the project payment unless the customer is 100 percent satisfied. It makes the customer more comfortable working with us.”
There’s a saying, “A rising tide raises all ships.” The more we all consider the above, the better our industry will appear to the trades and their clientele we seek.