Frank White – longtime CEDIA volunteer, Lifetime Achievement award winner, and someone who’s probably forgotten more about custom installs than most of us have learned – is polishing a new class he’s offering at CEDIA Tech Summits. Called “Five Ways to Get What You Are Worth,” its overriding mantra is best summed up in White’s own words:
“Your hourly rate is not what people buy, they buy outcomes.”
The five principles White’s laying out – and yes, we’re aware that this particular format only scratches the very top layer of the surface of the material – are:
Frank White will be presenting “Five Ways to Get What You Are Worth” at future Tech Summits. Find more info here.
- Always be “trial closing.” Yep, add a “T” to the “ABC” acronym that’s practically a sales cliché. The “trial close” is how you gauge customers through the process. Example: When an initial estimate is given, the follow-up question is the trial close: “Is that what you expected?” As White points out, a freakout (“18 grand? Are you kidding me?”) is better than “We’ll get back to you.” The former is, at least, an engagement.
- Control your costs, both fixed and variable. To that end, says White, one needs to understand that things like rush-hour drive time chews up billable hours of labor. Once you’ve begun to figure this out, says White, “Gear the verticals of your CI project: What has the best margins? Then bias your business to those parts of the project.” Take care to understand what part of a project will really need the most attention. “That distributed audio gear will last through five TV sets,” says White.
- Control your control tendencies. Integrators love their control systems – they’re slick, they carry an “Oh, wow!” factor, and they let a good integrator show off his closing skills. But, as White notes, it’s easy to get carried away with an aspect of the job that usually only accounts for 15% of the budget.
- Keep the proposal broad. Don’t make it granular. It’s not an engineering document. “I don’t like separating the labor and material costs of a job, either,” says White. You’re just giving the client more ways they can ‘work’ you.”
- Raise your labor prices. This dovetails back into the second item on our list. You pay each technician for every moment they work. Ask yourself the question: How much is traceable to an actual invoice? “For most firms in the contracting world, that number’s 55%,” says White. “I’ve asked some really smart people in this business what the average is in custom integration, and the number they gave me? Around 32%. We can do much better.”