The More Things Change…

This piece is excerpted from the AV Matters newsletter (Vol. 11, Issue 4).

Another week, another merger, a new technology that eliminates three devices, one more entrant into the crowded AV services segment, and like a half-buried boulder in the middle of the road – another old-school, commoditized AV proposal hits the streets. This is a day in the week of AV.

In the past few months I have spoken with scores of business owners from around the world and have affirmed that nothing much has changed about how AV companies do business. Margins continue to shrink and owners and managers continue to avoid the hard truth: Customer Expectations are advancing faster than our business models.

InfoComm has embraced Creating Exceptional AV Experiences as its rallying cry for industry self-improvement, but I fear the message is falling on deaf ears. The IT services industry has established a beachhead in the C-Suite while AV suppliers have to kiss-butt in procurement. It’s tough to sell experiences without access to the thinkers.

And it is not just the Systems’ Integration world that is suffering from its backward-looking view of business, the Live Events folks are also struggling with how to talk about what they do for customers instead of how they do it.

My prediction?

It’s going to get worse before it gets better. The average AV supplier will continue to commoditize offerings while allowing buyers to categorize them side by side with functionally identical competitors. The lure of transactional thinking is strong. Selling from fear is self-fulfilling: Revenue will continue to be more important than profit.

There’s good news: Not everyone is average. The right hand side of the innovation bell curve is always active and advancing their business models. They are getting ahead of the customer to meet their needs before the buyer knows what they are. They bypass gatekeepers, send peers to the executive and C-suites to do business instead of transactions, and profit from delivering dramatic outcomes instead of safe implementations. Industry leaders know how to say No to price-driven buyers. They raise the bar for average.

The new average AV supplier will write conceptual proposals instead of shopping lists. They will become procurement experts themselves as they sell services far outside traditional box to rack to wall projects. Limited capacity operational models will be abandoned for outsourcing models with unlimited resources. Transactional thinking will shift to the left-hand side of the bell curve instead of owning the middle.

Then the innovators will discover the next new thing, and the process starts anew.

Tom Stimson MBA, CTS helps owners and management teams rediscover the fun and profit that comes from making better decisions about smarter goals. He is an expert on project-based selling and a thought leader for innovative business processes. Since 2006, Tom has successfully advised over two hundred companies and organizations on business strategy, process, marketing, and sales. Learn More at TRSTIMSON.COM