How do we, as professionals in the AV industry, help small businesses recognize the opportunities that are better serving of their needs? Systems that will better serve them in the long run and, in some cases, improve the environment altogether?
As an AV professional for roughly 16 years, I have discovered that when I walk into offices, venues, restaurants and churches, I immediately check out the equipment they have (or don’t have). It almost becomes a game to me because typically, I am not with anyone who would be able to really play along or understand this fascination.
In fact, I bet you do it too. I cannot help but notice the gear of all eras, types, styles and sizes.
Can you guess what I’ve discovered? Home theater products in a commercial environment.
There seems to be a regular use of consumer or home theater products as a solution in commercial environments. Again, if it works, then why not? But is that really the best solution? Probably not. I am not about to walk up to the owner and tell them they have a bad system. But this can open an opportunity for me to explore the current solution with the owner of the establishment.
The point of this articles though is not to tell you how I would up-sell someone, but rather dig into the idea of AV in a small business environment. Depending on the space, whether it’s an office space, cubicle farm, restaurant or retail store, you will find a broad assortment of solutions. On the surface the needs of these various spaces seem different, but once inside, the type of commercial AV systems needed could be quite similar.
For example, in an office you could have lobby music or a small conference room system. Or in a cubicle farm, you might have sound masking and a digital-signage system showing company announcements. In a restaurant you might have a multi-zone music playback and TV system and a retail space may be about the same. Gear wise, it’s amplifiers, speakers, TVs and some kind of head-end equipment.
Why would a business owner do this? For a variety of reasons and excuses.
The concern the establishment owner brings up is, “Why pay a premium for commercial products and services when you can go to a local big box store or online and order something for a fraction of the price?” It’s a tough sell to convince the owner that service, reliability and quality of product actually matter in a commercial environment, not to forget a quality install.
Have you ever walked into a restaurant only to find wires dangling everywhere, zip ties holding things up and no one seems to really care but you? I bet if you asked the owners, they also care. But they might say they don’t have time, or that they tried and it didn’t work, or some other excuse to make it better.
How can you address this issue and up-sell to commercial products? Share the “Buy Once” principle.
One of the ways to approach this type of environment is to make sure the owner knows that if they buy cheap and install themselves, they run the high risk of equipment failure and having to buy the equipment a second time. Whereas hiring an AV company, you will get commercial grade equipment that will last a lot longer, will offer services and have warranties not typically found in the consumer world. The cost of buying a piece of equipment twice, plus the labor involved to deal with it, is many times more expensive than buying a commercial system from an AV company. We can ensure proper operation and installation, saving you a lot of time and time is money!
Now what? Sell within the scope of your expertise and make sure you have the right AV equipment in the right environment.
In the end, it’s possible this article will just provide food-for-thought and nothing else. It’s possible it will encourage small business owners and AV companies to look at these smaller installs differently. I don’t know! Getting the right AV equipment into a small business can be tricky and selecting the right equipment shouldn’t be. The cost of a quality product and service may be slightly more but the longevity and use of the right product will more than pay for itself.
An additional note from Tony, the AV Guy: The moral of the story is: Don’t sell home theater equipment to a business and don’t sell commercial AV to residential customers. It’s easy to sell what you know the most about and convince the customer of this. But do what is right and give them what they really need, even if it means handing the job to another company. If you don’t know and apply residential installation parts and practices in your company, don’t pretend you understand it. You will do more harm than good and likely you’ll lose your good standing in your commercial AV circles.