I was at an InfoComm Roundtable the other day here in Irvine CA. The keynote speaker was a man named James Feldman and his company and theme of his talk is “Shift Happens“.
By all standards he was very engaging. His goal was to help integrators re-evaluate their strategic plans to brave this new world of AV that we are faced with today. I am friends with two fairly successful business coaches here in OC, so much of the content I found very familiar. That’s not to say it wasn’t good, (I find my friends’ content very well thought out), but it’s just to say that I’d heard much of it before in one way or another. However Mr. Feldman dropped a couple phrases that perked up my ears and made me put pen to paper during that talk.
One of those phrases was that today . . .
“People are no longer willing to pay for knowledge, but they will pay for wisdom.”
This may sound like just some fancy “vocabulization”, (my word), but if we reflect on it for a moment, I think we all know this is becoming true.
Jay McDowell, one of the business coaches I referred to earlier, always mentions at the beginning of his workshops that. . .
“There is nothing you will hear today that you could not go and find on the internet with some creative Googling.”
The first time I heard him say it I thought it was a little brash and perhaps even potentially detrimental to his prospects of signing up new clients later that day. But he signed up a new client that day anyway. The reason being, is that he was able to articulate that the value he offered was not in the knowledge itself, it was in the correct application of that knowledge as well as in the accountability he provided his clients in making sure that it was implemented properly.
Is AV integration ANY different?
I would argue that today the integrator’s value lies exactly in those two things.
The Correct Application, Implemented Properly.
I’m also pretty sure that if you are selling the above, it’s pretty hard to price shop it on Amazon or BestBuy.com.
Later in the roundtable, Duffy Wilbert was espousing the new mission statement of Infocomm and a large part of that conversation revolved around the phrases thought leadership and exceptional experiences. I would argue neither of these two things can be accomplished with product alone unless it is applied correctly and implemented properly as well.
As a part of that conversation, Duffy made a point to say that AV has for some time flown under the radar and that the systems we have sold have relied a lot on Smoke and Mirrors, (Gary Kayye said this at his Krystal Ball as well). He referred to the times when we could sell products no one outside the industry knew anything about at whatever price they could afford. One participant yelled out. . .
“Don’t you miss those days?!”
I have always been a little uncomfortable with embracing the term Smoke and Mirrors.
In one way it can mean to rely on customer ignorance to sell them something not overly complicated by disguising the activities in techno-babble and then quoting proprietary products at high margins to do the job. I have always tried to avoid selling that way.
It could however also mean that the end user is not really interested in learning all the ins and outs of system design and the technology, but wants to come in and have it work “magically” with the touch of a button. In that case, the Smoke and Mirrors are really wisdom and ability to deliver a working system. In that scenario, the term sits well with me.
The point is that there are still some that haven’t transitioned for definition 1 to definition 2, and are hoping somehow to avoid the fact that James Feldman is right. Shift DOES happen.
I am afraid that wishing for the past to return, and “missing those days” may be a stumbling block to our industry if we cannot let go and move forward.
It’s like carrying around the picture of an ex-girlfriend in your wallet, and every time your new girlfriend does something differently or that you don’t like, opening up your wallet and comparing the two.
Can you really develop a valuable relationship in the present, if you are emotionally tied to the past?
It’s just a question and I’m not sure that I have the whole answer to it honestly. My gut tells me if we want to excel today, we need to realize that yesterday is gone. As my other business coach friend Mike Dorman says. . .
“You have to meet people where they are at.”
We have to approach our customers in the way they want to be approached. We must present value in the way they understand it, and not in the way we want to sell it. We have to understand that just like in the meetings we all hate to go to where the presenter turns around and reads you the PowerPoint, that our customers don’t want us to regurgitate speeds and feeds and cutsheets. They can get those on their own.
They want us to understand their business, apply our wisdom from previous system design and installations, and then provide a fully implemented solution tailored to their need. THAT is worth paying for.
Energy spent persistently chasing a past that is gone is ill spent. Turn and run the other way. . . toward a bright future.