At any given time, value-added resellers (VARs) will undoubtedly work with clients representing many different market verticals, with each wanting to deploy a pro AV solution in order to address some kind of organizational need.
A swanky hotel in Las Vegas, for example, may want the latest in interactive digital signage in order to enhance brand awareness, whereas a government entity may need a sophisticated control room composed of hundreds of pieces of ruggedized hardware?all needing to be nearly foolproof and operational 24/7.
For VARs, the main concern is how to streamline the process in order to ensure the system delivers on your clients’ expectations. This is often easier said than done, because clients often have an idea of what they want but do not know how to reach their goals. And many will come to you with different technological backgrounds and comfort levels.
For example, it would not be uncommon for a retail organization to appoint a marketing manager as its go-to person for a particular project. That person may have a vision for their pro AV project that may not be practical given budget constraints or technology limitations.
It's at this point that VARs familiar with pro AV best practices can guide clients through a well-planned process that may improve the rate of successful outcomes significantly. Consider these steps next time you’re approached by a client to work on a pro AV project:
1. Schedule a Needs Analysis Meeting.
In general, the purpose at this phase of a project is to discuss, clarify, and document a client’s needs, concerns, expectations, and constraints.
During the needs analysis, a client may only be able to describe generally what he or she would like the AV system to do. VARs, therefore, should educate the client as to what pro AV solutions are available and help fill in missing information. This stage is crucial, because it dictates much of what comes later and gets the client involved early.
Compile a list of needs so that all parties are on the same page. For VARs, the list will help package a solution and cost estimate that can be presented to the client for approval or additional tweaking.
2. Assign the Right Go-To Person for Each Client.
Once a client approaches you with an outline of their project, it is generally a good idea for VARs to assign to the client someone within their organization (with a professional background) who most closely meshes with the client's market vertical.
This may be difficult for some VARs depending on the size of their company, but it is much more comforting to the client when they feel assured they are working with someone who knows their business.
At the very least, try to bone up on trends and news within your client's vertical. It may help you paint a better picture of your client's pro AV needs and what solutions you can offer them.
3. Don't Skip the Site Survey
The site survey, or "walk-through," is perhaps the most overlooked but important piece of a successful pro AV installation, regardless of whether the installation is permanent or not.
The site survey gives VARs the opportunity to observe the space and ask questions, but, most important, it gives VARs the chance to listen to a client’s ideas, goals, and concerns. It's also the best time to determine whether or not that 4x4 video wall will fit into the space envisioned by your client or whether or not sufficient power is located nearby.
In addition, site surveys give VARs an opportunity to establish a dialogue with any other vendors that might be involved with the project.
4. Put It in Writing.
Try to compile everything in a concise, easy-to-read proposal that, at the very least, describes the scope of the project, components, site blueprints, and budget requirements.
This phase may seem like it goes past the initial discovery phase of assessing your client's needs, but it's actually very important, because it will serve as the project template that your client can use in order to modify and keep the project within budgetary constraints if necessary.
Does your pro AV client interaction go through these phases?