“Stop selling my products” — This would be my new tagline if I were to move back into sales.
This may sound like a stupid statement for a sales person to say but bear with me for a little bit. I can think of a million resellers that can sell my products exactly the way I prescribe. For example, If I sell videoconference systems, I believe that they would be sold and installed by many AV and IT resellers alike. The end result with thousands of AV/IT resellers will be almost identical. Once all of the problems with network provisioning and space planning are all worked out, the room usually ends up with a display or two at the head end of the room, a camera placed below above or even between the two screens, loudspeakers placed in the ceiling and microphones in the ceiling or on the table with a speakerphone. Of course there are subtle variations to the deployment based on some of the accessories I can offer as a manufacturer to allow for some level of customization. But, no one, almost no one, will offer a completely different solution. So why would I tell you to “stop selling my product?” Let me answer that by asking you a question: what value are you adding when you integrate my products exactly the same way that I prescribe? Are you doing anything I can’t do if I were to hire a sales force and integration team of my own?
Once this off-the-shelf videoconference room is built, what are the common complaints that the users will have?
- The local participants yell at the ceiling or the table when speaking to the remote participants instead of speaking naturally and looking into the camera
- The users can’t share documents with the other end easily and naturally
- The people on the far end cannot look around the room and look for reactions as they would if they were in the room
- Desktop sharing and remote collaboration are not seamless with remote users
- Local AV integration does not consider the remote users — there is no option for dual screen so that camera and content will be an option
- Local whiteboarding is not included as part of the remote sharing features
- True collaboration is not the overriding application
- The room is not intuitive to use and people would rather travel
The list goes on.
My point here is that, as a sales person, I would prefer my product not be sold as off-the-shelf items that are simply put in rooms as-is. I would rather a full needs analysis and program report/design phase be completed and my products be fully integrated in a completely unique way. Here is an example: what if there were an integrator that designed a videoconferencing system that treated remote users as if they were “In-The-Room.” In addition to the room videoconference system, this system could have a camera (or two — one for a full room scan/peripheral view and one for eye-to-eye contact), a microphone and an LCD screen built into a chair (or a few chairs) for remote participant(s). In this integrated solution, the local user looks at the chair (now “occupied” by the remote user “John” and makes eye contact, speaks to him with a normal voice. John can now even use the pan tilt and zoom to look at others and address them directly. His chair can even swivel and tilt to show some of the same body language he is showing on his remote end. You can even add a document camera that is mounted into the ceiling so that local room participants can slide documents across the table to John. Heck, at this point much of the local system becomes a simple matter of AV switching, so sharing a whiteboard or other local content is just another camera. If you add online collaboration capabilities similar to GoToMeeting or even free versions like TeamViewer or SplashTop then sharing the desktop and true collaboration are not foreign concepts. The last and most important feature that most certainly needs to be integrated by an AV/IT integrator is the control aspect. The control system is what will provide the ease of use and the user interface. An integrator that does such a solutions based offering is the type of partner I would want as my customer/partner. Of course, there are current robotic solutions on the market now that offer similar features. But even if I don’t sell that robotic type of product, my hope is that you will integrate my products and build a better solution than the off-the-shelf one and that you will add your value to the equation.
My hope as a sales person is that you will add value that I don’t have and that together we can meet end user needs that even the end user didn’t know that they had. Together we should know how to connect my product features and functions to how they benefit the customer and address their pains. If together we can identify explicit and implied needs we can complete this whole sales cycle instead of just pushing products. If I, in turn, provide service and support that make your unique skills and knowledge shine and if I can help your deployment and service painless and profitable, then you will choose my products over my competitors. My bottom line: “Stop selling my products and start truly integrating them.” When this happens, we all win and the biggest winner is the end user.