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Professional Sales Skills

A module from Essentials of the AV Industry for Technical and Sales Professionals Online

Professional AV Sales Skills

Professional AV Sales Skills


A module from the online course Essentials of the AV Industry for Technical and Sales Professionals Contents
AV Sales: A Challenging and Interesting Career ..................................................... 2 Who Buys AV? ......................................................................................................... 2 Know your Clients Objectives and Interests ............................................................ 3 How to Identify Client Needs .................................................................................... 4 Effective Listening .................................................................................................... 5 Whos Who in the Client Organization...................................................................... 6 Selling to Executives ................................................................................................ 6 Use AV to Sell AV .................................................................................................... 7 Why Some Sales Dont Happen............................................................................... 8 Customer Service..................................................................................................... 9 Collaborative Ventures............................................................................................. 9 Sales Skills Summary ............................................................................................ 10 AV Sales Self-Assessment .................................................................................... 11 AV Sales Self-Assessment Answer Key ................................................................ 13

2008, InfoComm International.

Professional AV Sales Skills

AV Sales: A Challenging and Interesting Career


If you like endless variety, dealing with all kinds of people, and a highly creative environment, choose a career in AV sales. Of course, to succeed you need to understand the technology and the products. Equally important, you must learn how to convey that information to your clients in dramatic, forceful, persuasive ways. These lessons will give you a great start with lots of ideas to build your sales skills. It takes all the same characteristics to succeed that you need in any kind of sales: product knowledge, intellect, energy, hard work, good people and communications skills, passion for what you do, and a dozen others. AV can be harder to sell than some things because there are many different applications, many right solutions, and a wide range of client sophistication. It can be tricky to recommend the best approach. Unlike some products or services (insurance, pharmaceuticals, utilities) that people need, AV purchases are sometimes seen as discretionary; clients dont have to buy it. But its easier to sell AV than other things, too. Yes, it can be technical, even intimidating, but our products and services do cool things that most people like as long as you dont drown them in the technology. Folks are used to having AV around them, too - at home, at work, in the theater, at the airport - almost everywhere they go. They may not know how it works, but theyve seen a lot of it, and they like what it does. A lot of buying is based upon what they want rather than what they need. And thats the whole point: the best AV sales reps focus clients on what AV products and services can do far more than what they are or how they work. They help their clients buy, rather than try to sell them. Show them how to get what they want or need, and they will welcome your ideas. Capture and convey the drama and excitement that AV offers. If you get excited about it, so will others.

Who Buys AV?


Describe three examples of who buys commercial AV and why. Who buys AV? The most basic answer is people with a message to communicate that needs to be seen or heard. While this is oversimplified, it starts to suggest applications of AV technology which are just as important in AV sales as product knowledge. To be effective, you need to know how, where, and why people use our products and services. Here are just a few of the hundreds of possible commercial applications: Businesses use AV to reach employees, customers, shareholders, suppliers, and others. AV makes meetings more effective by helping everyone see and hear. It brings distant people together through videoconference. It crosses language barriers through interpretation. Its used to train, sell, promote, and motivate. Many professional groups and associations use AV in similar ways. Educational organizations use AV to teach or inform students, parents, the community, or the public. AV reinforces audible messages with visual ones. It helps communicate with large groups in auditoriums and classrooms. It allows wide distribution of messages through duplicated audio and visual media.

2008, InfoComm International.

Professional AV Sales Skills

Churches use AV to connect leaders with followers, to help people feel like a part of the experience even in very large settings or groups. It helps reach distant people helps create a larger-than-life perception, dramatizes the message. Entertainment venues such as stadiums, arenas, theaters, theme parks, bars, restaurants, casinos, public attractions all use AV to enlarge, enhance, or dramatize the sight and sound of their message to patrons or visitors. Broadcasting, of course, uses audio and visual technology and equipment to its fullest. Almost any large facility, regardless of its function, probably uses AV: hospitals to transmit instant images, prisons to monitor security, airports to inform travelers. Once you understand basic AV technology, you must move quickly to understanding client applications of it. When you understand their requirements and expectations, you can use what you know about the product to help them accomplish their objectives.

Know your Clients Objectives and Interests


Describe three strategies for identifying a clients objectives and interests. All good sales reps know how to link their ideas to the clients environment and express them in ways the client can relate to. It isnt difficult to do, but it takes effort and practice. Heres how to do it: 1. Make a list of typical titles of prospects you call on. If necessary, ask your manager or other sales reps, Who makes decisions to buy our products or services in our client companies? People like Facilities Managers, IT Directors, Marketing Executives, and Meeting Planners might be among them, depending upon what you sell. 2. Identify some broad responsibilities and/or concerns a person in that job probably has. A Facilities Manager, for example, wants the building to be well maintained, well-utilized, efficient and up-to-date, safe and secure, attractive, properly equipped, easy to use, cost-effective, etc. If you can list a dozen or so concerns like this for each type of person you call on, youll have an understanding of what they care about and work on all day. 3. Use this general information to get the individual you actually meet with to tell you more about specifics: how important these concerns are, or if there are some you werent aware of. (Clients will open up more to someone who already knows something about their world than they will with people who are clueless.) 4. Most importantly, make sure to connect all your ideas and recommendations to one or more of these concerns. Rather than saying, the control system is customprogrammed so everything works from the keypad, its better to say, because some presenters that use this room wont have much AV experience, all the control functions have user-friendly language on the keypad menu, so you wont get many calls about how this stuff works.

2008, InfoComm International.

Professional AV Sales Skills

How to Identify Client Needs


Give one example each of three types of questions (open, closed, and directive) you can use to assess client needs. Knowing there are many ways clients can use AV and many possible applications, how can you find out what this client needs so you can recommend the best of many possible choices in each specific circumstance? Why not just ask? Some know exactly what they wish to accomplish and exactly what they want to buy. Many - probably most - will need your help to determine that. The best selling happens in a free exchange of information between the client and the provider. When you create a good dialogue, both of you can better understand the clients goals, which should also be your goals. A good dialogue is also friendlier and less threatening.

If you want the client to give a full, informative response, or just get them talking, ask open questions that are hard to answer with a word or two. Here are a few examples: How do people here make presentations now? What kinds of meetings are held in this facility? How would you describe the current effectiveness of your training? What would you like to see done differently or better?

Answers to questions like these tell you how your client thinks, how much they know, what they consider important. If you need factual or specific information, ask closed questions, such as How many people will attend the general session? Are there any windows or columns in that room? When do you expect construction to start? When its time to bring the client to your point of view or persuade them one of your ideas will work well, ask directive questions. These are questions that suggest their own answer, usually the one you want to hear. Examples include: Can you see the added value of a maintenance agreement to protect your equipment investment? Wouldnt it be great if everyone knew how to take full advantage of this room? Would you get more use out of the plasma screen or the projector and installed front screen? Questions foster a dialogue, gather important information, get the client involved, persuade more softly than statements. Use them often, use them intelligently.

2008, InfoComm International.

Professional AV Sales Skills

Effective Listening
Name five strategies for effective listening. If you only master one skill in AV sales, make it Effective Listening! The best sales reps are always good listeners. Seems obvious, but it isnt. Many sales reps ask great questions, but dont listen to the answers and use the information that they received. Some leave a meeting without good notes and cant remember what was said. These mistakes can be very costly and are completely avoidable! If you listen really effectively, the client will almost always tell you what you have to do or say to get the order! Dont let the stress of an important client meeting or conversation keep you from good listening. Discipline yourself in every client exchange to: Keep quiet. You cant talk and listen at the same time! Take good notes. Keep them in your client record with dates, names, and other facts. Clarify what you dont understand. Ask the client to elaborate so you dont draw incorrect conclusions from what was said. Summarize key points at the end of the conversation, both yours and the clients. Dont leave a meeting or conversation unsure of what was discussed or agreed. Avoid interrupting the client when he or she is speaking. Listen and make notes. Youll get your chance to respond! Avoid distractions. Try to find a quiet, non-distracting place for your conversation whenever possible. Concentrate on the subject. Try to keep one subject at a time on the table. Avoid arguing or confronting. You can always come back to points of disagreement. As you listen, try to maintain a cordial tone. Delay your response. In fact, pause for a few moments before you respond at all to what was said. Often the client will continue and you will learn even more.

Poor listening leads to incomplete or incorrect information. That causes confusion or the need to do things twice. If you have good information, your colleagues can help you better and your clients will have more confidence in you.

2008, InfoComm International.

Professional AV Sales Skills

Whos Who in the Client Organization


Describe a strategy to identify the people involved in the sale decision at a client organization. The cost and complexity of AV purchases and many rental and staging decisions are such that several people get involved in the decisions. You need to find out who they are (preferably by name and title), what their role is, and often, how you can get to see them.

Usually, one or several people will use the equipment. Others may manage it or maintain it, and others may control paying for it. So it follows that some will care about its functionality, others about its upkeep and protection, still others about its cost. A safe way to find out how decisions are made in this client organization is to ask your contact, Who in addition to you will be involved in making this decision? This actual wording is important because it doesnt suggest that your contact has no authority and it doesnt insult anyone. Dont leave out the in addition to you phrase! A good follow-up question is, What is their primary interest or concern? This will help you target your message to each based on the part they care about the most. Yes, they all care about the whole decision, but they also have their own focus: operation, security, maintenance, financing, etc. Another good question might be, How far along are you in your budgeting process? This asks in a nonthreatening way whether the client has a budget, whether its realistic, or whether they are able to make the investment the decision will require. Itll also tell you more about this clients planning and decisionmaking process, as well as who the participants are. If you just ask, whats your budget? you appear to be prying, and the client may fear you will ask for whatever they have in the budget and then some. AV solutions are often, though not always, scalable to client needs and budgets. But its unsafe to guess about expectations because you will usually guess wrong. That not only wastes your time and theirs, it can create hard feelings and damage relationships. The basic rule is never guess about what you can find out for sure by careful questioning.

Selling to Executives
Describe how to develop your relationship with a client organization to meet executive decision makers. Chances are your first encounter with a new client will not be at a Senior Management or Executive level unless you are very skillful, experienced, or able to get an introduction. But it makes sense that the higher up your contacts are, the greater the decision-making authority, the shorter the sales cycle, and the larger the potential sale.

2008, InfoComm International.

Professional AV Sales Skills

In any account large enough to represent continued sales, make it one of your goals to get to the people with the real power. Dont be too aggressive or impatient about this. Take the time to make your contacts comfortable with you and to prove you are reliable and capable because you will need their help to move up. And remember there will always be more people who can say no to a sale (or make it harder to get) than there are who can say yes. You dont want anyone saying no. On each visit, make it a point to learn who else has an interest in AV and look for opportunities to meet them. Never go around your contacts or go over their heads. Offer to arrange meetings and introductions between your colleagues and theirs - such as bringing your technical people in to meet theirs or your senior management together with theirs. Naturally, all of these meetings need a purpose; they cant be something thats just nice to do. This is the essence of account and relationship development. If you are the Account Executive, its up to you to arrange these meetings and always to know what takes place in them. The more you can get your organization interconnected with theirs, the better the relationship, the better the information exchange, the greater the sales potential - and the more difficult it is for other providers to get in.

Use AV to Sell AV
Summarize the reason why it is important to use AV in a sales presentation. AV products and services are designed to dramatize and enhance communications. Thats what we tell our clients because its true. Doesnt it make sense we use them ourselves to dramatize and enhance our sales message? Its hard to imagine buying a car without driving it, let alone seeing it, right? Anything you can do to enable the client to experience what you recommend will be better than just telling them about it. If you sell systems or equipment, bring them to your showroom or demo room. Let them see the equipment at work - and just as important, let them operate it. Naturally, you need to check everything out in advance, you need to operate it first, and you need to show them how easy it is to use. But the best demonstration includes the client actually operating the gear, because one of the most common beliefs clients have is that the equipment is too complex for them or others to operate. You must prove otherwise! If you cant show what you need to show in your facilities, take them to another installation youve completed. If possible, do a demonstration there, or at least point out how things work. At a minimum, show pictures of other projects. If you sell rental or staging services, try to invite a future client to a similar event. If thats not possible, find another way to help the client visualize what happens at an event you stage with photos, video, or other visual representation. This lets the client sense the experience rather than just hear the story. Capture the color, the motion, the sound, the scale.

2008, InfoComm International.

Professional AV Sales Skills

Most times, what you are able to show wont be exactly what youre recommending to this client. Thats okay as long as you explain whats alike and whats different about it. It will still require less imagination by the client to picture their own event or installation after theyve seen something like it than if they have only your description to rely on. Sell the idea! Sell the experience! Sell the excitement and drama! The boxes, the specs, and the road cases are just the means to an end, not the end itself.

Why Some Sales Dont Happen


Name five avoidable mistakes that may lead to a lost sale. Selling AV is an inexact science. There will be times when you have done everything right and didnt get the sale, and probably times you made some mistakes and got the sale anyway. You may be the beneficiary of mistakes by your competitors at times, too, as clients switch to your company because of disappointment elsewhere. It happens a lot, but dont count on it. Here are a few avoidable mistakes that should help you close more deals: 1. Giving the client too many choices. Most times you are best served by making your best recommendation rather than presenting so many choices the client is confused and decides not to act at all. Never give more than two alternatives! 2. Not getting to the real decision maker. Many people will lead you to believe they have more authority than they actually do. You need to gently find out who is really involved and in what ways. 3. Getting there too late. Many times, the client has already investigated other providers, other offers, other options. By the time you get there, your only chance is to be cheaper or better, which isnt always possible. 4. Not listening carefully enough. You may not have really heard what was important to the client such that you could respond to their needs. Its always risky to assume you know better what they want than they do. 5. Making a tactical, political, interpersonal, or technical mistake. Seven out of ten clients change suppliers because of being disappointed by their present one. Trouble is, they often dont reveal thatthey just leave. 6. Failing to meet your commitments. A missed deadline, a broken promise by you or others, or incomplete performance can cost you a sale and damage a relationship. 7. Failing to identify an objection. When clients dont do what you expect them to do, theres usually a reason. Find out what it is and deal with it. Ignoring it will cost you the sale almost every time. Try to not get so busy with tasks and activities that you dont think about what you are doing and the consequences your actions could have. Doing so can make you careless and prone to one of these avoidable errors.

2008, InfoComm International.

Professional AV Sales Skills

Customer Service
Name four business habits for good customer service. Your two most important objectives in AV sales will be to: 1. Find new prospects who can buy your products and services and assist them in the sale, and 2. Keep the clients you already have happy so they dont consider going elsewhere. The second objective requires you to practice good customer service habits or client service as it should be called.

This is harder to balance than you think. Its possible to provide such good service to existing accounts that you have no time left to find new ones. Its likewise possible to spend so much time looking for new opportunities that you dont keep existing clients satisfied. Here are some points to consider as you try to reach a good balance. 1. Recognize that not all clients are equal in importance. Those that have large future potential deserve more attention than those with less. If you must cut corners, do it with the less important accounts. 2. Understand that there is no such thing as a neutral encounter with a client. Every conversation, every event leaves the client feeling either better about you or not as good. 3. Mutual loyalty is important between you and the client, but its a trap to over-service friendly accounts. You may know a client well, and always have cordial exchanges, but friendship is not the test of how much service is needed, potential sales are. 4. Make it easy for others in your company to give good customer service to your clients. Get them involved in client projects, keep them informed of activities, introduce them if possible, and always appreciate their assistance. Everybody will win with this approach. 5. Deal with problems and complaints immediately. It will never be easier than right now and problems almost never get simpler when you delay. 6. Thank the client for their confidence in you and actively show your appreciation. It may amaze you to learn that three out of four sales reps actually never say thank you to a client for an order. Be the one that does. 7. Treat clients the way you like to be treated. You can hardly ever go wrong.

Collaborative Ventures
Describe how collaborative ventures work. To properly complete some AV projects, a variety of skills and talents may be needed. Since most companies dont have every capability that may be needed on their permanent staff, collaborative ventures are quite common. At times, your company may take the lead in accomplishing a task and hire outside specialists to help do that. The very next day, some other company might come to yours and ask for help to complete one of their jobs. The possible combinations are many and varied.

2008, InfoComm International.

Professional AV Sales Skills

For example, you may have a large staging event that requires you to sub-rent certain equipment or hire freelance lighting experts, editors, riggers, or simultaneous interpreters. Also, maybe your company gets asked to install a conference room under the direction of an outside designer, consultant, architect, or contractor. Most of these arrangements work well as long as a certain protocols are observed. If they are not, disasters can occur. Here are a few things you need to know: 1. The person or company who first learns of the opportunity will usually become the project managing entity unless it is agreed otherwise. They usually have final accountability to the client for results. 2. Project-managing companies (prime contractors) who bring in outsiders (sub-contractors) to help are always concerned about controlling both the project and the account. Never get between the project manager and the client by making commitments to the client, failing to advise the project manager, or worst of all, soliciting future work from the client while working as a sub. When the situation is reversed, make this expectation clear to all your subs, too. 3. Clients generally dont object to working with collaborative teams as long as they can hold someone accountable. Often, they dont even know the team isnt all from the same company, nor do they care. The client just wants the job done right. Its generally helpful to keep this process transparent to the client, since if its done right, it really doesnt matter. 4. Take the trouble to understand at the beginning who the project participants are, what their role is, and how reporting needs to be done. Also ask if there are any special sensitivities anyone has that need special handling, then adhere to that. Many of these collaborative alliances have existed for years, have taken very careful cultivation, and have resulted in a lot of profitable ventures for all parties. Why explain this to a future AV Sales rep when most of these arrangements are handled as operations matters? Because the more you understand industry practices and protocols, the better you can manage what happens in your accounts.

Sales Skills Summary


Many people think that the AV industry is all about the gear. The industrys technology may be alluring, but your clients need more than that to do their business. The foundation of a developed AV solution is the customers communicated needs, not the available technology. The goal is not to incorporate all of the exciting media available. When technology satisfies a need, it becomes a tool. Equipment is just part of our industrys focus. To complement the equipment, AV sales professionals offer business solutions to their customers. The AV industry provides business solutions that include AV facilities and systems design, product selection, integration, training, and service. Developing the best possible answer to the clients need is the result of industry experience and an acute knowledge of AV technology. A customers satisfaction means continued business and possible referrals. Listening to the clients needs, working with the clients to satisfy those needs, and updating the clients on the status of their solution require highly developed customer service skills.

2008, InfoComm International.

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Professional AV Sales Skills

AV Sales Self-Assessment
1. Applications of AV technology are just as important in AV sales as product knowledge. a. True b. False 2. AV is desirable a. Anywhere large groups come together. b. When it's important that people hear or see a message. c. In important customer meetings. d. During an organ transplant. e. (All of these answers are correct.) 3. It's more important to get the clients to understand AV technology than it is for the sales professional to understand their applications for it. a. True b. False 4. Prospects will share their concerns and objectives are more readily if you a. Already have some idea what they do and appear to have done some research. b. Interview them aggressively. c. Tell them you need this information to be able to help them. 5. Directive questions properly used a. Suggest their own answer in the way they are phrased. b. Can be highly persuasive. c. Could help get the client to agree with you. d. (All these answers are correct.) 6. "Do you more commonly use a portable projector or a ceiling-mounted projector?" is an example of a a. Closed question. b. Directive question. c. Open question. d. Personal question. 7. All of the following are good strategies for effective listening except: a. Avoid interrupting the client when he or she is speaking. b. Never admit that you don't understand what the client is saying. Asking the client to elaborate will make you appear incompetent. c. Summarize key points at the end of the conversation, both yours and the client's. d. Try to find a quiet, non-distracting place for your conversation whenever possible. 8. Emphasis on good listening results in a. More and better information the first time. b. Not getting to make the points you wanted to make. c. The client's perception that you lack confidence. 9. It's important to word probing questions carefully to avoid insulting or intimidating the client. a. True b. False

2008, InfoComm International.

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Professional AV Sales Skills

10. To ensure your contact has a budget for an AV purchase, it is best to ask, "What is your budget?" a. True b. False 11. A good way to meet senior people in a client's organization is to a. Ask your contact how to get more of our respective teams acquainted. b. Call them and schedule a meeting. c. Send some of your colleagues to meet some of their client counterparts. d. (All of these answers are correct.) 12. It is always important that your contacts are informed of others you are talking to in their organization. a. True b. False 13. The best sales demonstration includes the client actually operating the gear, because many clients believe that the equipment is too complex for them or others to operate. a. True b. False 14. The best way to communicate the AV sales message is to a. Compare product specifications to build the client's confidence in AV. b. Find a way for the client to experience AV results personally. c. Show the client some literature on the equipment. d. Talk about other client's needs. 15. It is possible to do everything right and still lose the sale. a. True b. False 16. Some clients will lead you to believe they have sole decision-making authority when in fact they need further approvals. a. True b. False 17. You should be the sole provider of customer service to your clients from your company, because to them, you are the face of the company. a. True b. False 18. Not all clients are equal in importance. a. True b. False 19. Collaborative ventures should be transparent to a client to maintain contact with a single accountable party. a. True b. False 20. A company could be a prime contractor on one project and a sub-contractor on another. a. True b. False

2008, InfoComm International.

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Professional AV Sales Skills

AV Sales Self-Assessment Answer Key


1. a 2. e 3. b 4. a 5. d 6. a 7. b 8. a 9. a 10. b 11. a 12. a 13. a 14. b 15. a 16. a 17. b 18. a 19. a 20. a

2008, InfoComm International.

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