Project Design: Utilising the Design Process to Assist the Sale
As industry professionals it is our duty to collectively address the issues that we continually face when selling to the end-user.
In the first instance, working in an industry positioned largely within the luxury sector, I tend to find that our more educated clients endeavour to look for us. As such, this often means that pre planning for an initial meeting with a prospective client can very often be out of our control!
It is now easier than ever for diligent clients to research us, gathering information from industry standard providers in order to access and assess our professional credentials, certifications and awards before contacting a company who they think most suits their requirements. Alternatively they may have heard of us by way of recommendation from previous clients or even third-party affiliates.
Nevertheless, even with the most astute research or glowing recommendations I'm sure that we all acknowledge that the process that follows the initial meeting to the point when a job is won can be lengthy and extremely competitive.
Most well established companies develop procedures or techniques surrounding ways in which they are comfortable at selling and which drives results. However, at some point in this process most of us will have met with a common point of exasperation: The race in which we compete against others who strip the job down within an inch of its life, often to the point of compromising the end result—potentially providing a system which doesn’t function well, or a solution which has multiple or fundamental services missing.
At this point we have a decision to make based on two dominating factors: Do we exit the bidding process to avoid the failure of the project and potentially making a loss? Or do we continue that race to win the job that goes against everything we believe in just for the sake of winning?
This reality is a matter of fact, but how can we help avoid this?
We need to immerse the client in our shared vision, help them feel confident in our work, which in return will build genuine trust. We need to make them understand that the bidding war is not going to give them exactly what they require, to budget and on time—in fact far from it. Over time we have come to accept that design is one of the most important processes to an integrator, however we fall at fault when we document it poorly, or in some cases not at all.
It is important to remember that a fully documented system design is your next and best sales tool, especially at these first stages.
Stepping in to a client’s shoes, ask yourself: would you commission the build of a house based on a verbal description of what it was, hopefully, going to look like? I sincerely doubt it!
Well documented design can be seen as the living proof that you are not only capable of designing a working system, but you are also capable of planning out and delivering exactly what you are promising to your end-user from that very first point of sale. This is demonstrated in a cost effective and functional way, which not only gains their trust but also is proof of real value. Once your client has seen and understood your capabilities and acknowledged your professionalism, you can revisit with your proposed design by way of a quotation tailored to meet their needs.
Best practice will deliver the client a detailed kit list and accompanying break down of services provided by you, the integrator. At this stage it is important we endeavour to build in all of our offered services, which are often overlooked, for example, due to the need to keep costs to a minimum. When drafting this kit list it is essential to include the services to be provided—installation labour, commissioning time, project management, programming and systems design. If the total project is then over budget the correct thing to do is to lower the specification of the equipment, allowing the budget to cover all the required services as well as the equipment. Should these services not be addressed from the very beginning there will not likely be another opportunity to charge the client for them at a later date—certainly not perhaps without a very difficult conversation!
Often I see design and project management at the front of the cull, but thankfully there has been a shift in thinking and this is changing. It’s becoming a more accessible process, with the help of governing bodies providing us with training and courses to cover all aspects of system design. Software, apps and out sourcing are also ways of dealing with design and documentation and we should not be reticent to take advantage of these.
Less and less do I hear age-old preconceptions such as, "Design and documentation is great but it will cost an unnecessary fortune.”
If sold correctly to your client at the initial stages, design adds real and tangible value. Not only will your vision be easier to communicate, it will be clearer for your client to understand and act to set their minds at rest. Ultimately this brings the point of commission and approval forward based upon a well-documented plan to agree on and sign off. When this plan then changes and evolves throughout the course of the project then additional time and cost implications are easier to justify and more straightforward to address.
Design will not cost the integrator “a fortune". Design to the integrator is free as it is paid for by the client and when utilised correctly it will see you turn a healthy profit.
Kelly Ashforth is partner in designflow, a London-based AV project management and systems design firm. Awarded in interior design, AutoCAD and 3DsMAX throughout her college and university career, Ashforth gained her CCPD (CEDIA Certified Professional Designer) in 2008 when she joined a successful AV installation firm—becoming a systems designer and one of only two women in Europe with this accreditation at the time. Since then she has freelanced for numerous AV installation companies designing and project managing.