Are You Easy To Do Business With?

By Paul Starkey
Published on: April 7, 2017

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A retailer we work with was talking about the challenges of attaching labor and other systems to a replacement TV sale. “We still have customers come in who just want a TV, and don’t want to hear about all that other stuff”. In which case, it’s probably best to just let them buy the TV.

But for most integrators, a “TV only” shopper is the exception. Those customers don’t typically turn to integrators, opting instead for the easy way out – Amazon, Best Buy, Costco. But that doesn’t mean the other customers don’t want easy. They do. They always do. That’s why Amazon has become such a Goliath. And it’s why integrators need to constantly be asking themselves, “How do we make it easier for our clients to do business with us?”

Our experience is that most clients would describe doing business with integrators as anything but easy. There are too many questions, too many confusing options. They can’t get a straight answer about price. They’re asked to meet with the integrator multiple times before an exact scope and cost can be determined. In the worst cases, they’re subjected to scary technical jargon and a long list of products they’ve never heard of.

How Much Will This Cost?

You might think your client’s bottom line question can wait for an answer, especially for complex projects that necessarily require a multi-step design process. But even for low six-figure projects – and certainly for five-figure projects – we think the client’s expectation is that they will be given a solid answer, sooner rather than later.

Sooner, is sooner than you think. Our view is, if you really want to be competitive in the “easy to work with” dimension, you should have a process that can give them an answer before you end your first meeting.

There are multiple advantages to this. For one, it’s what clients expect. Second, it confirms that you and the client are in agreement as to the scope and cost of the solution you are about to design. Third, it provides an opportunity for the client to commit to giving you time to prepare a detailed proposal.

Calculating the Cost

‘Ball parking’ all but the most costly and complex projects shouldn’t require significant engineering time. Experienced integrators with focused SKU lists should have a good feel for the major component costs required for a variety of solutions. Typically, this piece of the project – what we call the Equipment portion – represents about 60% of the total project cost.

From here, coming up with a quick project total is simple math. Labor should be about 30% of the total cost, or half the Equipment total. Wire, cable, and install parts should come to about 10% of the project total, or about one-third the labor amount. Calculate the numbers, add them up, and you’ve got a project total that you can commit to with confidence.

This is vastly different than the client being told s/he must wait for a proposal draft to learn what the cost might be. Try it out next time you discuss a project with a client. We think you’ll find that “being easy” pays big dividends.

Keep it Vital

Paul Starkey

Paul Starkey

Paul Starkey is a 23 year CI industry veteran who led control manufacturer ELAN from infancy to a 150 person company. He is a visionary, keen on innovation, pioneer of on-line training, and numerous product innovations. He is co-founder of Vital Management and Executive Director of BRAVAS Group.

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