Making the Sale… or Not

Copyright Ted Goff. Used with permission.

Copyright Ted Goff. Used with permission.

In his annual year end post this past December, my rAVe HOW colleague Anthony Coppedge presented his analysis of the advertising to the HOW market he though represented the best and worst of the numerous marketing messages he reviewed.

His column is well worth your time whether you’re a buyer, seller or just curious.

The points raised in that column are so important that I think they are worth another look at the topic, albeit from a somewhat different perspective — that of the sales professional trying to serve the market.

Back in November 2018, I chaired a seminar at the WFX (Worship Facilities Expo) Conference in Orlando and had a chance to chat with both a large number of HOW AV (the sales target user group if you will) folks and a number of exhibitors at the show about the whole process of selling to the HOW market, specifically, selling AV hardware and systems.

Now, I’ve been doing this for a long time and I thought I had heard all the reasons why manufacturers think they are not being successful in the HOW market.

I was wrong. As Mr. Coppedge points out, they not only don’t have a plan for this customer base, they don’t have a process either, it seems.

Certainly, there were suppliers who did have a clear plan and process; however, all of those vendors were in non-AV categories like seating, furniture and other similar product types. In fact, probably the best presentation I saw of a new product for the HOW market was from a seating vendor who really had thought it through, organized the sales pitch and tightly focused their information and application data on the potential buyers.

Now here’s where the difference between being successful in reaching the potential buyers and failing to do so stood out like a bright light in a dark room. This company concluded their presentation for each group of the several I watched with a, “How can we help you plan your new seating system?” offer. They ASKED FOR THE SALE!

To put it another way, they followed the age-old mantra of successful sales training programs and went ahead and actually made a solid attempt to close the sale. The common phrase you will find in dozens of presentations on this topic usually goes something like this, “If our proposal is agreeable, when would you like to proceed with the project?”

The frankly astonishing thing to me was how many of the AV exhibitors either didn’t make any attempt to close their potential buyers, or worse, they just let people stand around and then walk away without even asking them what they wanted or how they could help. Then they wonder why they are not having a “good show” or not being successful in the market in general.

Ummmmmmmmmm — really?!

Now, as a consultant, I’m not a true “buyer,” just a specifier, so I can to a degree understand if a vendor wants to spend their limited show floor time talking to real buyers or makes me wait or just doesn’t have time for me at a show. I don’t consider it a negative, just reality. I would always move aside for a supplier if they had a potential customer they wanted to speak with and come back later or follow up with them afterwards.

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What sticks out to me is when that’s not the case and the people in the booth are simply not doing the job for which they came to the show — present/sell/explain/position their product for potential users.

When I can stand in an aisle and watch people who I know were seriously interested in a particular product category (because they had asked about it during the seminar earlier that day) be allowed to walk away from a supplier’s exhibit without anyone making an attempt to help them, or even establish eye contact or shake their hand or do anything to acknowledge their presence is disconcerting at best.

To hear that same company complain later that they can’t effectively reach the HOW buyer is just plain hard to believe. Frankly, I just want to jump up and ask: WHY DIDN’T YOU EVEN TRY TO TALK TO THE PEOPLE WHO WERE STANDING THERE?

Am I missing something here? Is it now considered inappropriate to ask for a sale, or try to establish a connection with a potential customer? Did the rules of engagement change when I was not looking?

Please tell me if they did because that is the only explanation for what I witnessed, however improbable it may be.

Back in October 2017, I wrote an article, “The 500 Million Dollar Mistake,” pointing out the significant revenue opportunities within the smaller HOW market space. Mr. Coppedge puts the potential market size for the HOW space at least 1 BILLION dollars and I would tend to think even that number at might be slightly underestimating the available opportunities.

Any way you calculate it there is a LOT OF MONEY out there for AV suppliers, but you must have a plan, a process, a clear focus, and you need to actually ask the potential buyers for their business. It is perhaps oversimplifying things but it would seem that somewhere along the way that critical element of the whole sales effort got misplaced by an awfully large number of companies. Is yours one of them?

Manufacturers, ask yourself: Did my team actually try and sell my product or did they just show it and stop? You might not like the answer, but you need to find out!

To those manufacturers who are supporting the HOW channel — THANK YOU! The consulting and HOW Technology buyer community will continue to support you as well. To the rest — we’re here! Come talk to us and ask us how YOU can help.