Like it or not, integrators are in the business of selling labor.
There came a point in my 40+ year professional sales career when I stopped whining about how “I can’t sell labor for that” due to burdened internal costs. This happened once I understood the need to create a response to the dreaded customer objection,
“Why is your labor rate so much more than your competition?”
Here’s the deal.
Unless you’re able to use lump sum proposal pricing, which, by the way, doesn’t include most public works projects, Google made it challenging to add meaningful margin to the “parts” on a proposal. Therefore, any Account Executive (AE) unprepared to persuasively articulate the value of their labor and commensurate cost faces a significant uphill battle.
Conversely, AE’s who understand, differentiate, and can confidently communicate their value proposition surrounding the labor portion of their proposal stand to significantly increase project close rates, increase average project values, and close larger deals. It should also generally make the overall sales experience more enjoyable.
Here are five suggestions to help integrators sell more labor, at a higher price:
Replace “labor” or “installation” with the term “professional services”
With due respect, an electrician “installs” a new lighting fixture.
It may just be semantics, but an organization capable of designing, engineering, and integrating various widgets to create a sensory experience, by using diverse specialized products, which are aligned and programmed perfectly, to enable a user to seamlessly control the system, is not merely performing an installation.
Become an expert at articulating the extensive time and complexity involved during the implementation of # 1 above
This takes practice.
Moreover, be proficient at outlining the implementation minutia when appropriate.
Tell you customers about the role of the project manager, certified AV design engineers, certified and highly trained programmer/s, and CAD drawings including elevations, single lines, block drawings, etc. And, most importantly, the role of your experienced lead technician who interprets the project needs and supervises the workforce to complete the project on time and within budget.
BTW, ask if your organization has an “on time” installation completion percentage. This can be VERY powerful info.
Customer’s will forget about the great price they got when their project is delayed and/or was completely hosed up.
Spend a day in the field as an installer to appreciate the rigors of this work
It will help you feel less timid when discussing the hours you’re quoting.
Also, the hours used are most likely based on many hundreds of projects. In other words, your goal is to close as many projects as possible and to provide reasonable project pricing versus the contractor who cuts corners on the proposal then tries to make up for it by squeezing change orders out of a job.
That’s not how lifelong customer relationships are built. And you want your customers for your entire career and beyond.
Highlight industry certifications
Perhaps your company emphasizes industry certifications. If so, highlight that during all customer conversations and proposals.
ProAV organizations normally stress industry certifications for design, sound, video, programming, and the physical installation of the project.
And Navigate Academy is the best industry resource for CTS and PMP certified training on project management, business management, process improvement, leadership, and culture.
Use your company references when possible
But make sure to alert your references, so they expect the call.
I referenced earlier that selling professional services was my most powerful tool over the years – as it should be for any professional Account Executive. It was rewarding when one of my references would tell me about a prospective customer inquiry.
It was almost always the same from my references –
“The company you’re asking about is expensive (insert long pause here) but…they were worth every penny. Sure, problems sometimes arose, which is the nature of the AV business, but they never disengaged and gave us more than we asked for.”
The moral of the story, become the very best at understanding what makes your company great – and develop an authentic cadence that communicates that to your clients.
There’s no better feeling when you close a deal knowing you were the highest priced vendor. That’s when you know you’ve mastered the art of truly selling the overall value of your services.
And when a job is lost to a low-balling contractor, just figure you’ll let that guy go out of business first.
Labor burden increases are a fact of life. Everyone has them , so stop whining, because –
you can sell labor for that!
By Bart Moran, Founder, VP Sales, Digital Networks Group