The Three Essential Soft Skills for Selling AV to Churches

Pastors don’t need high-pressure sales, slick marketing or churchy language. In fact, these three are red flag warnings to a vertical market used to being sold what they do not need. Instead, the three essential soft skills for selling AV to churches are a helpful challenger, intentional communication and value-as-a-service. All three of these lean in where it counts most to churches: a trusted relationship.

The Helpful Challenger

When prospects visit your website or meet your team at a trade show, they’re focused on their pain point or their opportunity from their own perspective. Your products and services are what they think they need and your job is to make the connection between your value proposition and the prospect’s desired outcome. The first soft skill needed here is not a slick sales brochure or smooth-talking salesperson, but rather a helpful challenger to redirect away from what is a good idea to what is a great solution.

Asking ‘why?’ and ‘why not?’ at crucial decision-points ensures assumptions are challenged, work is in alignment with the overall project goals, and also potentially eliminates wasted time, effort, and resources. The helpful challenger understands that the client isn’t always right, but never makes the client feel wrong. Asking questions that include ‘why?’ and ‘why not?’ are powerful tools for creating alignment between their ideas and their preferred future state.

In the excellent book The Challenger Customer there is a simple concept that says your company “must break down A to get to B” where ‘B’ is what they actually need and ‘A’ is what the client thinks they need. You are, in the nicest way possible, helping the buyer understand that in order to meet their stated objectives and budgets, the solution you as the expert are providing is better than what they asked for. They’re wrong, but making them feel wrong is a quick way to push a prospect away. The right way is the challenger way, wherein the potential customer is presented with a key set of questions that wrestle with their assumptions and redirect their search towards your preferred solution.

Becoming a helpful challenger is incredibly important for church market buyers who are spending donated funds and want to make wise purchase decisions.

Intentional Communication

Companies which understand the importance of establishing bi-directional, high-value communication also intentionally leverage various channels of engaging with prospect and clients with tremendous consistency. Marketing, Sales, and Service teams that understand which communications are out of their control will build relational bridges across teams so that they have other influencers involved in ensuring communication does not stall or wane. This has two benefits: first, your firm has multiple touch points with the prospect and client (helpful in building rapport and showing support); second, your proverbial ‘left hand’ will be more in sync and know what the ‘right hand’ is doing and saying with the prospect/client. Incidentally, this means your various software tools need to share good client data (or use a unified system).

Sending an email campaign is not communicating; it is only talking at the prospect or client, not talking with them. Communication requires at least a small series of back-and-forth responses, questions and suggestions. Using marketing automation, it’s even more nuanced. For marketers, this is a both/and scenario of planning what you are going to communicate and anticipating possible responses. This applies internally between teams, managers and departments and externally with prospects and clients.

Here’s a helpful tip for church market sales: They’re not ready to buy. They are ready to investigate.

Building rapport happens through intentional communication over the life of the customer buying journey. Don’t rush pastors into buying. They need your full expertise and patience since they’re accountable for spending donated funds.

Value as a Service

Great marketers understand how to think like the customer and develop multiple ways to add value at each step of the customer buying journey. Service is not only a department in many organizations; it is the heartbeat of exceptional marketing teams. A customer-focused marketing team views their work through the lenses of their most satisfied and most unsatisfied customers.

In much the same way that marketing and sales are inexorably intertwined, so it should be with marketing and service. Even inbound and outbound marketing teams can agree upon this simple truth: When marketing adds tremendous value, we increase our promoters to include those who love what we stand for as well as what we provide.

Value as a service is both a mindset and a recurring revenue opportunity. The attitude is actually the more important of the two, as many competitors already sell similar or even the same products and technologies. Selling value as a service is not tacking on a service contract after the sale of the AV technology system; it is a holistic part of the solution itself for ongoing training, maintenance, upgrades and emergency rentals. Value as a service is key for the house of worship market since it has the dependency of 24/7 high availability for weekend services and is staffed largely by volunteers.

There are, of course, other highly valuable soft skills for selling AV to churches. These three essential soft skills for were chosen because they shift traditional AV industry thinking away from focusing on sales effort alone and instead make adding value the common denominator. These soft skills embody an attitude, a viewpoint and a belief that when we as a marketing team make adding value the top priority, much of the lesser work falls away to make room for the best work.