As the snow continues to hammer the entire Northeast, I believe people in this area of the country have given up on life and, instead, decided to hibernate. They are not thinking about their pools or even about venturing out for dinner. According to Macroeconomic Advisers, the pounding on the Northeast and parts of the Midwest will subtract 0.4 of a percentage point for gross domestic product growth this first quarter. Any of us who have been doing this long enough, know that patterns will improve if we just stay the course, but in the meantime, the payroll will not pay itself, so how do we drum up sales when things are slow?
Plant Automation Seeds
One of the hardest things about what we do for a living is that our work should be invisible or at the very least blend well into the room. Want to sell a tire, put a picture of the tire in an ad and talk about what a great tire it is. For us, though, it is not that simple. Sure, televisions can be pretty, but we’re “solutions companies,” not TV companies (see: Are You Still a TV Company?).
What if, like a drug dealer (yes, I just wrote that) you start by giving your current non-automation clients a free “hit?” Sell your clients (or give them a 30-day trial) a Yale or Kwikset automated lock and some lighting for only one room of their house. Do not worry about fancy settings. Just program the lights to turn on at dusk and turn off around midnight. Let them live with that for a few weeks. Then call and ask how it was not walking into a dark house and not having to reach for the key to enter their home.
This is a new concept for selling automation; usually when we have a client on the hook, we want to sell them the world, and then move to the next person. Make sure that you are keeping in touch with your previous customers and introducing them to new solutions.
Becoming THE Technologist
For the clients that have an interior designer, they wouldn’t dream of painting a wall without consulting the designer first. Why should it be different with technology? Sure, maybe you don’t sell and install computers, so find a partner company that does. If you don’t service electronics, create that relationship. Know what offerings that are out there for internet service, and make yourself the first phone call your client makes.
You're no longer the home theater company or the AV guys or even a service company. You are a technologist. Dictionary.com describes a technologist as a person that specializes in technology. Isn’t that you?
If we can change the way that people think about us, we can open up a whole new world. Let the media know who you are as well. Call your radio stations and news outlets. Let them know you are your community’s leading technologist and can field all of their technology questions.
Find a New Sandbox
If you find yourself saying “we don’t do that” on the phone a few times a week, maybe it’s time to re-examine your sandbox. Last year we installed a 16-room audio system at a veterinarian’s office (yes, it's for the dogs). Not only did they go with the audio system, but we introduced them to simple digital signage that allowed them to be in control and make changes as often as they choose. These sets are an easy sell for restaurants, doctor’s offices, and beyond, as your imagination is your only limitation.
If business is slow, then find a new place to sell. After the market crash in 2008, we purchased an outdoor movie setup complete with a blow-up screen and rented it out all summer long. It was fewer dollars than a large job, but it kept us afloat until the market rallied.
As the snow continues to fall (and it is falling as I sit here in Buffalo), should you find business slow, take a step back, and re-examine your company. Create new avenues for a fruitful tomorrow.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is the president of Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.