Builders Don’t Like You

bad-experience-0415Like any business, AV pros face many challenges. Margins, product availability deadlines — all the ones you might expect. I want to focus on just one for this column: Your prospective customers don’t like you.

This is not a challenge that’s unique to the AV channel by any means. I don’t like car dealerships, their salespeople or their sales managers.

The locus of disdain amongst AV customers is primarily with builders. While I would agree that some end users and homeowners also dislike AV companies, the bigger challenge in selling to end users is, for the most part, that market segment barely knows you exist.

It’s a different problem when trying to market yourself to the builder channel.

They just don’t like you.

They have their reasons, and they parallel my own thinking on car dealerships: They had a bad experience.

I’ve seen plenty of survey results reported over the years by the likes of both the National Association of Home Builders and CEDIA over the years to have noticed a clear trend in the results.

The common arguments builders have are that the selection of AV to choose from is baffling and confusing. They don’t “get it” and they presume, with some accuracy, that their homeowners won’t get it either.

Fair enough — at least on the surface there’s more to choose from when it comes to sight, sound and control than when it comes to different kinds of stone or tile. Tied into that confusing array of technology options is the perception of cost. It’s an unfair perception; home AV is generally no pricier than some of the more outrageous design options available as luxury upgrades. And let’s get real here, when a development is marketed as, “Homes starting from the low $400s” we all know the final bill for the homeowner to get everything they want is going to be much, much more than $400,000.

Then there’s the perceived burden of after-sales care. Builders want to cash their completion hold-backs as much as you do. Their sleepless nights are spent haunted by endless call-backs over everything from the plumbing to the electrical. They’re terrified that your AV system is going to ruin them.

See related  Communications and Client Management 

One of my AV pro friends related to me how a builder said to him, “People can’t figure out how to set up their cable box to record their shows. Do you think I want to get phones calls for that?”

None of this is news to any of you, and they’re all objections that are reasonably simple to overcome with the right portfolio presentation, handouts, plus facts and figures at your command in your discussions with builders.
There’s still one more objection you need to overcome, though.

I can guarantee that any homebuilder who’s been in business longer than five years has already been burned at least once by an outfit calling themselves an “AV pro” or an “integrator” who, for one reason or another fell apart and left the builder holding the bag with their customers. Those same predecessors who left a bad taste in builders’ mouths had portfolios and handouts that were at least as slickly printed as yours and their sales skills were at least good enough to get them the job. Of course as I’ve said before, selling systems is easy, the real work comes in completing them on time and on budget.

The good news is that the period from 2008-2010 saw most of those clowns close their doors. In my own city, the fallout of the economic crisis was like a domino effect as firms that had sprung up like mushrooms during the housing boom collapsed with clockwork-like regularity.

The bad news is that builders have long memories and carry grudges. If they don’t have an AV contractor working for them, that’s likely the reason.

Impressing them is going to be a long row to hoe, but if you’re smart and competent and can demonstrate that, unlike those last guys you actually know what you’re doing, you have a shot.