Old People Are Irrelevant

old-iphone-lady-1010As a kid, I was taught that I should respect old people as they have the knowledge gained from experience.

At seven years old, I hadn’t a clue what that meant.

But, I did it. I had to.

Whenever I went over to my grandparent’s house, I ate whatever was served, I never complained that half the rooms in their house smelled weird (a smell I would later learn was moth balls?!?) and their TV only had two channels. I never complained that I was relegated to the floor when everyone was hanging out in the living room or that I had to sit at the kid’s table — even when I was in college. And, I endured the cheek squeezing, slurpy kisses and bosom-burying hugs only a grandmother could give — my grandfather hardly ever spoke and barely knew who I was.

But, when they spoke, they did have amazing stories — stories about decoding messages in World War II, stories of losing their house after the depression, growing their own food, playing outside all day making up games I’d never heard of and all sorts of firsts — the first televised baseball game, the moon landing, their first airplane flight, etc.

I remember asking my parents and grandparents about everything — school, work, how to buy a house, how to open a checking account, how to make money, how to buy tickets and even how to appreciate watching the evening news. When I was taking Driver’s Ed, I realized I already knew all the road signs since my parents had showed them to me at some point while growing up. When I got to college, I already knew how to calculate a mortgage, how to buy stock, how to budget to make it through four years of school, and how to cook and how to clean. I even knew how to shave, thanks to some old relative.

I was surrounded by old people who knew the answers to anything and everything I ever asked.

Not any more.

Ever since I started traveling with a laptop back in the late 1980s, my parents seem to think I’m a technical support specialist for all things computer-related. I am asked about everything from how to open WORD to how to get “email from AOL now that there isn’t an AOL button on the computer screen.”

And, I regret recommending an iPhone to my mom. Apparently, it’s the most complicated thing she’s ever owned. Just the other day hers was stolen (i.e., misplaced) and when I told her how easy it would be for her to be back up and running by just connecting up and syncing her new iPhone to her computer, she asked me what I meant by syncing. Ugh!

It gets worse. Read on…

With the average age of the ProAV salesperson being 51 and the average age of our clients being 38, is this logical?

We are on the verge of a major chasm between what we know and what they expect us to know. We may know a lot about AV geek speak now, but as we move more towards a networked AV world, they (the customer) WILL know more about this stuff than we will. Is anyone paying attention to this?

I am.

I don’t want to be irrelevant. So I’ve rigged up all sorts of failsafe ways to make sure that I am relevant — at home, at least! For example, I am the only person who knows how to turn everything on in the home theater when we have a power failure in the house due to the occasional giant storm. Ha!

However, it dawned on me while writing this that my daughter asks me nothing. Nothing. She already knows how to calculate a mortgage (she learned it from Wikipedia), she already knew the street signs when she started Driver’s Ed last week, (she had Googled them and saved them as images on her phone), she produces videos, re-edits songs and she set up her own bank account, although she did ask me to go with her to co-sign when she realized I HAD to be there.

Chalk up a second victory — I’ve got my signature and my home theater!

So, what can we do about the chasm between what we know now and what we need to know later? Well, if you’re already adopting IP-enabled AV products, you’re well on your way. If not, prepare for retirement!

IF, however, you want to still work and/or NEED to still work, do this:

1.    Get Educated: NSCA and InfoComm have tons of educational curriculum available on networked AV. In addition, Crestron, Extron, AMX and a dozen other powerhouse manufacturers have some of the best networked AV technical and sales instruction out there – and it’s free. Get educated.

2.    Stop using the old technology: Are you networking all your AV systems yet? If not, you NEED to be. You can’t sell proactive support and service contracts if the gear ain’t connected. It’s not profitable, otherwise. In addition, it allows you to sell managing their systems as a service, too. Old, stand-alone analog-only systems can’t do that.

3.    Embrace New Sales Techniques: Social media is basically nothing new. It’s relationship sales in the new millennium. It’s the same principals we’ve used for managing relationships before, just repackaged using technology rather than golf as the tool. Learn it, master it. My company even wrote a totally free guide on integrating social media marketing (again, it’s free), at: http://www.ravepubs.com/smb

4.    Learn from your kids: You’d better look at how they communicate (my daughter uses her cell phone as a texting machine – not a phone). The20-somethings are entering the workforce having grown up meeting people on Facebook and doing deals over eBay — without personal contact. You’d better learn how to, too.

Or, of course, you can just become irrelevant.

Reprinted with permission from Sound & Communications. Founded in 1955, Sound & Communications is the premiere magazine for AV systems integrators, contractors and consultants. To subscribe or read sample articles, go to http://www.soundandcommunications.com