Are You Getting What You’re Worth?

Ed Wenck | Apr 29, 2019

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.”

  5. 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.”