There are over 1 billion reasons for audiovisual (AV) vendors to sell to over 300,000 churches in the United States alone; those reasons all have President George Washington on the front. And those billions of reasons are spent every single year by churches. This represents an opportunity of taking responsibility for church AV sales.
With so many reasons to sell technology to churches, AV vendors struggling to expand sales into the House of Worship market must intentionally address the missed opportunity, highlight the patterns of excuses limiting these sales, and confront their sales and marketing processes to identify excuses and embrace church market sales opportunities.
Over One Billion Dollars Spent on Church AV Sales. Every Single Year.
With over $1 Billion spent annually by churches and with multi-site and video venues making up over half of that spend, why are so many AV vendors struggling to increase sales to the house of worship market? Because most AV vendors think they must sell religiously to religious institutions.
In order to profit from those billions of dollars spent annually in the house of worship market, AV vendors must intentionally adapt their sales process and marketing content to address the unique challenges and opportunities of churches.
Most AV vendors incorrectly assume they must sell religiously to religious institutions.
There are five stages where sales and marketing fail to engage church buyers and each of those stages are completely under the control of the AV vendor. In other words, if an AV vendor makes a concerted, focused effort on improving their church sales, these excuses can be replaced by profitable revenue.
The Five Excuses for Low Church Sales
Selling to churches is not that different from selling to other vertical markets. The proverbial elephant in the room is this: When AV vendors address and treat churches differently, a gap widens between the church buyer and the vendor. For many AV vendors, this leaves AV sales and marketing professionals with the incorrect assumption that their verbiage must be religious in nature in order to reach church buyers.
To address this ‘elephant’ there must be an honest assessment of current and past marketing messages and sales methods when it comes to selling to church buyers.
The change required isn’t complex, but it does require an intentional focus on admitting what’s not working, awareness of unsuccessful sales and marketing patterns, and the ability to confront the truth in order to turn sales around in the huge house of worship market.
Excuse #1 is Denial of the Problem
“Sales to churches fluctuate greatly, so everything is fine,” is the first layer of excuses which I hear from AV salespeople. While it is true that there are certain seasons of the year where sales to churches generally increase, there are no months or seasons where churches simply do not buy AV technology because the needs of churches have the same variables as other clients: technology failure and replacement, upgrades, and new technology needs.
Marketing and selling to churches require the same level of consistency as any other vertical market. When the AV vendor is inconsistent in marketing, so too will sales be inconsistent.
Excuse #2 is Blaming Churches
The assumption is that if only churches would buy differently/faster/easier, the AV vendor’s sales in the House of Worship vertical market would increase.
That’s a lot like saying that if only government agencies would buy differently/faster/easier, then sales in that vertical would increase, too. The flaw in the thinking is obvious at even the slightest bit of introspection. It is not the responsibility of the buyers to make the sales process more effective and efficient, yet denying the problem exists within the walls of the AV vendor prevents sales from being truly effective in this (or any) market.
Excuse #3 is Justifying Low Sales to Churches
“Our sales team is better at selling to other markets,” said a sales manager at a fairly large AV integration firm. I believe her. But her team wasn’t great at selling to those other vertical markets until her sales and marketing team earnestly learned how to market and sell to corporate clients, government client, and retail clients.
To become truly effective and efficient in sales and marketing, the hard work of intentional awareness and confronting shortcomings will lead to better results over time. Anything less than a committed, iterative learning approach can always be justified and dismissed as ‘not working.’
Excuse #4 is Shaming Sales and/or Marketing
“We should sell to more churches, but we aren’t good at it.” Shame tells us that we are not only failing but that we cannot succeed. Whether personally as a salesperson or marketer, or collectively as a sales team or marketing team, shame keeps us in the cycle of failure.
However, when we identify that we have a weakness and do not shame ourselves or others but instead identify opportunities to level-up our skills, we break the cycle of failure and begin the cycle of continuous improvement.
Excuse #5 is Obligation instead of Opportunity
“We will continue to sell to churches that come to us, but we won’t try to sell to more churches.” If your lead generation and business development is so good that you don’t need any more revenue, call me, as I’d love to write up a case study on the AV vendor that is winning at everything.
The classic movie Field of Dreams is the only place I know where ‘if you build it, they will come’’really works out for everyone involved. If marketing is simply having a message which you want others (a target audience, for example) to hear or see and act upon, then even demand generation inbound marketing will have to go where the buyers are and share a value proposition which motivates action by the prospect or client.
Marketing and Sales must see vertical markets like the house of worship market as opportunities and not obligations.
If these excuses are not dealt with, the only logical solution is to quit selling to churches altogether.
Taking Responsibility for Church AV Sales
Once these five stages of excuses have been identified and worked through, the path for sales success is to accept personal and organizational responsibility to create, choose and attract sales opportunities for the church market.
For marketing, the first step of taking responsibility is to stop using religious language to sell to a religious market. For a helpful understanding and a plethora of examples of what works and what doesn’t work, take a look at these annual reviews of AV vendors marketing to churches.
Of course, marketers will need more than advertising verbiage change to fully address the needs and opportunities for AV technology in churches, but I find that it is the single best place to start, as this kind of language typically also exists on marketing documents, landing pages, conference training material and pre-sales resources aimed at church buyers.
For sales, the first step is to realize that church buyers are, first and foremost, people. They’re just like buyers in other vertical markets; the difference is that the funds spent by church buyers are donations instead of revenue.
To start winning at church AV sales, there are three important steps:
- Identify the unintentional biases of the AV vendor when it comes to church sales and marketing;
- Address the elephant in the room (which excuses are hurting your AV firm?);
- Confront the Sales and Marketing processes to improve sales to churches.
Finally, it is worth noting and sharing that I have adapted this framework for these five excuses from what is known as ‘The Responsibility Process’ by Christopher Avery, who wrote the book “The Leadership Gift.” I highly recommend his book for addressing these patterns present at every AV vendor.
What say you? Share your views and links in the comments below.