Who is the best person on your integration team? Where are you getting the highest value? Is it the engineer who can design a flawless system and bring it life through a detailed program report and drawing package? Is it the project manager who manages time, scope, and cost with incredible resource management skills and business acumen? Can your key player be the sales person who went through the entire needs analysis processes and gathered all of the site survey information needed to execute a perfect proposal and win the project? How about the installers, services team and support people who act as the glue to hold everything together and truly keep your customers happy? Can you pick which of these is your most important player on your integration team? Well, I say it is none of them. The most important person on your team is your customer. If you can engage your customer on a level where they “join your team” and are considered one of the resources that you can utilize and manage then you have truly found (or created) a winning situation.
The best example I have of this scenario is when I was a younger sales person and I was working closely with a customer on a very large project. Before we won the project, I was preparing to give a presentation with our customer to some of his management team. He had invited me in to help present to his bosses to assist him in getting approval for budget and scope for the proposed project. In this situation he embedded himself into our team and invited us to present to his bosses so in turn we became embedded into his team. The result of this relationship was quite the learning process for me. In one instance I was talking to him about certain features and benefits of our solution. I was giving him a great presentation in rehearsal for the presentation that we would eventually give his bosses together. I was really on it, presentation-wise, and even though I was covering every piece of information marketing had given me about the products and solutions, he stopped me in the middle of my presentation. When he stopped me he said, “You’re solving a problem I don’t have.” I was blown away that this customer took time to teach (or remind) me about uncovering pains and value mapping. The customer took the time to teach me because he was on my team. Had this been a different type of sales relationship, instead of one where the sales person and the customer are on the same team, I do not believe the customer would have been in a place where they would have been willing and able to help the sales person (me) learn and grow.
Another illustration I have for this is when I was working in videoconferencing sales. I was working late at night (or early in the AM) on a project with a customer. This particular customer was assisting with the install. To get this assistance we included it in the contract and we added him as a team member for the install. We even had an agreement where he formally agreed to follow the direction of the PM while working on the job. I have done this in other instances when non-profits such as churches, need to reduce the cost of a project by providing their own labor. This is a difficult thing to manage but when it is well documented and has a strong agreement behind it, it can be a great solution. Getting back to my story… we were up in the rafters together, under the conference table and staging equipment in the warehouse. In this situation, I was able to have the customer act as a tech on the job and he had a lot of skin in the game. When we ran into issues with IP addresses or other contractors, it really helped to have this champion embedded in our team. As a side note, this particular customer is now one of my best lifelong friends. This is another great example of how business and personal relationships are built. Once you become a trusted advisor and prove your sincerity in what you do, you build a personal and professional preference above many others..
By having your customer on your team, you are illustrating one of the most useful tools in sales. The acronym for this very useful too is: RADAR — Reading Accounts and Deploying Appropriate Resources. I learned RADAR from a very good book, Hope is Not a Strategy – The Six Keys to Winning the Complex Sale from Rick Paige.
When you use RADAR, you are maximizing all of your resources to include using the customer as a resources (when appropriate). I have a saying, “when a sales person is at the top of their game, they are doing the least amount of work.” Jokingly, I would say that the best sales people are the laziest people. Now that is a joke, but what I do mean is that the most effective sales people sales are the ones that utilize ALL of the resources that are available to them and manage those resources accordingly. This allows the sales person to focus on managing their sales instead of design, support, project management or many of the other things that can bog down a sales person. When you use RADAR you are deploying a team of experts and a wide range of resources that are best suited for each aspect of the project. Sometimes the customer is one or many of those experts and can be invaluable resources. The customer knows more about their application, situation and usage model than anyone else on your team. Use them and learn from them.
Customers want your project to succeed. In many situations their job depends on it. If you have the chance and the situation is right, have the customer on your team is a great resource and can result in a lifetime friendship.
Max has worked in the AV industry for over 17 years in various management and technical roles. Over the last 28 years, he has acquired an extensive background in supporting AV and IT systems, computer networks, telecom and VTC systems. Max developed one of the industry’s first networked AV solutions and that product is now deployed in a single network with over 15,000 network attached AV devices. Max has made considerable contributions to the InfoComm Education area in AV/IT and CTS preparations. He was awarded the 2010 Educator of the Year award for InfoComm and has prepared more than 1,000 candidates for their CTS exams. The views in this article are strictly the views of Max Kopsho and do not necessarily reflect the views of his employer or business partners.