Money. Price. Budget. These nouns tend to put the emphasis on the bottom line instead of where the emphasis has the most effect: the desired outcome. A dollar amount will always be a sum of the outcomes and needs of a church, so why do salespeople in the House of Worship vertical tend towards the total amount when the value is always more important?
The average AV salesperson expects churches to be dollar-focused, not stewardship focused. This is a huge sales mistake.
Spend some time with church leaders and you’ll hear what they’re actually talking about when it comes to spending money: stewardship. Churches receive their income from the donations and sacrifice of congregants. As such, the church leaders are not the owners of the money but are instead the stewards who want to spend it responsibly. Like all of us, being wise with finite dollars is always a consideration, but it’s not the point of discussion that a manufacturer or systems integrator should focus on with this vertical market.
Money Well Spent
Church leaders want to know – because they’re accountable for their decisions — that money spent is good stewardship, money well spent.
How churches allocate finances for AV is directly proportional to how the technology is applied in correlation with the vision and objectives of the church when it comes to how they want to utilize audio, video and lighting technologies.
The audio, video and lighting market needs to address church buyers from this point of view if sales are not only going to be possible once but repeatedly to a growth market that is currently expanding venues, In fact, about a third of all new church venues exclusively use video of the sermon from another campus location!
This also means the opportunity is ripe for upgrading video technology from high operational cost projectors to the far more efficient options available today. In both cases, stewardship is the perspective of the church, whether it’s upgrading to be more efficient (and with far greater picture quality) or expanding to a new venue. The same can be said for new audio and lighting systems in these video venues where the sermon may be streamed on a screen, but the congregational singing is very much live and in the room.
Sell the Value Proposition
The keys of success when selling audio, video and lighting to churches come less from the bullet list of technology improvements at the manufacturer level and are instead aligned with the overall operational value that the church buyer can easily associate with their pain points. Chief among priorities in all local churches is the keen focus on operational cost-per-service. The most advanced technologies won’t matter much to the typical church buyer unless and until the scope of the technology is explained as an investment in consistent operation. Sunday comes every seven days, so consistency to a church is a very big deal indeed. Breaking down the cost-of-ownership across a number of services per weekend/month/year is an attractive way to deal with sticker shock and contextualize the return on investment value of big-ticket installations.
A good way to start the conversation is for manufacturers and systems integrators alike to offer technology efficiency assessments of existing church venues. In doing so, not only is it easy to point out older, inefficient technologies that require greater maintenance and more frequent consumable/replaceable parts, but it also helps the church begin to think of the technology as a dynamic system that is only as strong as the weakest links. It’s easy to absorb the cost of these assessments into the cost of the upgraded system, especially when there is a buy-back program for viable technology that may be outdated for their venue, but a good fit for another.
The church market’s need for high availability, consistent operation and reduced ongoing cost of ownership are ways that make it easier than ever to position your products and services in contrast to their existing system pain points. In a very real sense, this is less about an ‘upgrade’ and more about streamlining operations and reducing ongoing costs. All churches understand these needs, but may not have ever considered it when it comes to their tech arts department. As with all new ways of thinking, it is important to first identify what isn’t working well so that a better solution can be implemented. For many churches, AV tech spending is simply a black hole for money (as is all technology to some extent) and the thinking of “it’s always been this way” is prevalent and 100% addressable by the savvy companies serving this huge vertical market.
Any manufacturer or systems integrator not leading with a strong value proposition (what’s in it for the church) and a perspective of good stewardship is missing the very point of view from which churches make their purchasing decisions. This is entirely avoidable. Make the most of your existing church prospects as well as your existing client database by shifting away from the features and benefits of your latest whiz-bang technology to the value proposition that addresses the personas within this high-growth vertical market.
What are ways your company can engage churches with a focus on stewardship instead of price? Comment below!