My KNX training

My business partner and I recently attended the KNX Sales and Specification course at Ivory Egg. Our trainer for the day, Mark Warburton made what could have been a pretty dull training course into a very enjoyable day where the learning was achieved through a light, jovial presentation.

We attended the course for a number of reasons: we had wanted to get a better understanding of KNX for a few years. We had recently worked on a project with a fairly extensive KNX system and we felt that we needed a deeper understanding of the KNX ecosystem and inside knowledge of the general dos and don’ts (for example who knew that KNX cable should be run alongside mains cable?). We also found out, from someone who attended this course earlier in the year that Mark had included us in his presentation, as a way to deliver design documentation through outsourcing. Obviously, this was a major incentive, so we could see what our name and services were being presented as. I have to say the end result was very pleasing indeed and it was nice to see that Mark had a very good understanding of what we are all about and what separates us from our competitors.

One element of the course that we particularly enjoyed was the part about the sales process, where Mark introduced a concept called SPIN:

Situation – understand the background
Problem – establish there is a problem
Implication – consequence of the problem
Need-payoff – benefits of solving the problem 

SPIN selling was developed by Neil Rackham after a 12 year research project based on 35,000 sales calls in 20 different countries.

SPIN is all about asking the right questions and establishing that there is a problem that exists that needs solving, what the consequences of the problem are and the benefits that will come with the resolution of the problem. We hadn’t come across SPIN before but we were so impressed by the concept that we have already started to implement it into our own sales process. Previous to being introduced to SPIN, our selling method was usually all about presenting what we do and ensuring people understood what it is we do and how we can help them. Now we are far more interested in what problems people experience within their businesses and how we can help them by resolving these problems. Perhaps you can use SPIN to improve your sales process?

The course went on to talk about the different categories of influencers and how you can influence them:
  • Client/Owner: Design led, typically struggle with the complexity of KNX, so when talking to them you should focus on features and benefits.
  • Architect: Design led, easy to convince if you focus on the holistic building control that KNX provides.
  • Electrical Consultant: A key influencer as they need to approve the use of KNX as a system, they are easy to convince in a similar way to architects, as long as they are willing to learn.
  • Mechanical Consultant: Need assurance that KNX will work as required, often specify their preferred BMS.
  • Quantity Surveyor: Driven by price, can lead client away from KNX if they are unaware of all the possibilities available.
Another great aspect of the course was that it talked about the importance of design documentation, one of our favourite specialist topics. Mark not only discussed the importance of design documentation but went into how crucial it is to get all the project stakeholders to buy into the documentation and actually make good use of the information within. After all, design documentation is only as good as its implementation. You can draw up the best of plans but if they are poorly executed or even ignored (not uncommon) the end result can be as bad as having no plan at all! 

So what did we learn about KNX?  

It’s an open and standardised protocol (ISO/IEC 14543) that was designed to control all aspects of a building. It works in a decentralised way so individual devices can communicate even if they are controlling different parts of the buildings. And because of the almost 500 manufacturers, there is a product to control or sense any part of a home or commercial building.

The entire system is programmed from a single software (ETS5) and the system can be run over a twisted pair cable, IP, RF or even power cables. With 80,000 trained integrators worldwide and thousands of product solutions it is a much bigger world than I’d ever realised. 

In a nutshell KNX is a great way to automate things in a building be it residential or commercial, from comfort and pathway lighting, through comfort heating all the way down to automated shading, even automated opening and closing of windows!

The best takeaway from this course is that we now get to put what we learned to the test as the integrator whose KNX project was one of the reasons we attended the course in the first place, has given us another project for which we get to specify the equipment. KNX specification, here we come!

How can you get started with KNX?

Easy – KNX Association has made all the information available on a single platform called “Start@KNX”. Pointing you in the right direction, it is up to you to choose from free online training and literature, all the way to certified KNX Training. All information can be found on https://start.knx.org.


About the Author:
Keith Jones studied Product Design at Central St. Martins where he graduated in 1996. He has had a successful career working in numerous high end audio outlets, culminating in owning his own successful AV installation company from 2001-2008. After a career break he started Jones designs in August 2009 which morphed into limited company designflow, in 2015. Designflow aims to increase awareness of design in AV and help installers win more jobs and create proper documentation for them.
 

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