Selling AV: Everything Is Amazing and No One Is Happy

Image via Flickr user Nick Webb

Everything is amazing and no one is happy

Image via Flickr user Nick Webb

Comedian Louis CK once said: “Everything is amazing, and no one is happy.” In the neverending quest for the technology that makes everyone happy, no one is happy because the expectation is often that all technology should be perfect by now and that any issues with current technology (or lack thereof) could be fully remedied with new technology. Nevermind the fact that it would take an electron-scanning microscope to notice the intricate details that make much of our AVL technology work, which is mind-blowing if you sit and think about it too long (so don’t). We have become conditioned to somehow expect instant, lag-free, high-resolution, app-controlled goodness at our fingertips.

But no human-made technology works perfectly every time, forever. It’s ironic in a way, then, that the very first step into technology is a step into a black hole of time, training, technology and budget because it will never, ever be enough. And not because there isn’t a point where technology can’t meet the technological requirements (I think we’ve exceeded that point for most audio, video and lighting technology), but because adding technology adds complexity to the human element.

Identifying the pain points of a client/prospect is correct, but being able to step back and ask, “Why are those the pain points?” is a part of the sales process few ever dare to tread. To choose any AVL technology that does more than address a pain point, the above question must be raised in order to frame the purchase decision as something that will truly solve the problem they’re facing.

Listening to Make the Sale

When you focus on the people using the AVL systems, it helps your firm understand what makes each technology application unique. As you begin to listen and understand their uniqueness — their DNA — and understand their unique vision, you’ll help guide the conversation to fit their narrative. This approach has the best chance of presenting buyers with the right application options within their context.

When a buyer starts with the tactical (“fix this” or “solve that”), the purchase decision is binary (“this” over “that”). But by listening and repeating back what you heard in the form of a question (“It sounds like your need to not have that happen again is high, so what would you like to have happen instead?”) you get to help reframe the buying journey away from features, benefits and price points to an additive solution that goes beyond not doing something to actually positing a preferred future state as the narrative.

Lead to the Outcome, Not to the Price

Though it comes across as counterintuitive, the best way to win a sale is to not lead with your product or solution, but to your product or solution. A sales narrative such as this will help to define the problem they are trying to solve with your technology solution. The solution isn’t really about solving the problem they think they have, but to bring them to a place where they’re addressing root cause issues and solving not only for what they don’t want but also solving for what they didn’t know was possible.

In sales, the limiting factor is rarely the salesperson’s ability to get the buyer to agree to a solution. More often, it’s about listening and framing the narrative to identify what the problem really is and inviting the buyer into the dialogue to solve for the root cause. The challenge is to tactfully help the client/prospect see their idea about the problem as being incomplete or incorrect and then solving the issue by first identifying why the issue exists and what is possible with a complete solution that both addresses the issue and creates a new way to operate with greater effectiveness and/or efficiency in their venue. In this way, you’re not starting off as a vendor pushing for a particular technology but instead starts with the customer understanding their own pain points and building consensus to agree upon a way to move forward that adds value in addition to addressing an issue — and to do so ideally with your solution.

Listening and reframing conversation is the opposite trying to “make the sale”; it is applying empathy to the process and art of sales so that the people making the buying recommendations and purchase decisions are drawn into the narrative of their preferred future.

When Everything Is Amazing, Value Beats Price

The AVL industry has some of the most eye-popping, helpful technologies around. Driving home the reframed narrative towards a preferred future can and often should, include the fact that everything is, in fact, amazing. It’s OK to say that and invoke awe at the impressive technologies of audio, video and lighting; it’s simply not enough to focus on the features and benefits when the race to the bottom is one that no firm should ever want to win.

There are simply too many opportunities in AVL sales to limit the customer buying journey to mere problem-solving moments when active listening and asking narrative-based questions can lead to solving for future outcomes.

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