2.2.21 – CI – Zachary Comeau
This Ontario-based integrator has developed a new strategy that helps it get valuable face time with the end customer early on in the process.
When responding to request-for-proposals, integration firms are typically bidding on systems that have no design. To bid for the audiovisual work, integrators have to design and create a system just to formulate a quote.
If the integration firm wins the job, the time creating and designing the audiovisual system was well spent. If another firm is selected, then that’s valuable time that could have been spent elsewhere.
Hindsight is 20/20, but that’s how the competitive bidding process works.
However, what if you could engage clients on the front end with consulting and design services to put them in a more accurate and competitive bidding situation while also managing their expectations of system function and budget?
That’s the approach taken by DMI Technologies, a two-person integration firm in Northern Ontario, Canada that leverages partnerships with architects and other AV integrators to help build its client base and form deep relationships. The firm partners with AV consulting firm Forte Technical Consultants, which handles the design work.
Getting in front of the client early
According to Travis Olding, owner of the company, this helps ensure that the company is paid for its knowledge while also creating a relationship of trust that generally leads to being awarded the installation work without going to bid.
“We try to partner with architectural firms, construction management companies and places that already have clients instead of going direct to client,” Olding says. “We then get looped in under that architectural firm to sell our consulting services as an integrator designer, but also kind of an overall business consultant.”
That puts the end customer in a position to bid on the designs that the company creates.
“We try to put ourselves under the banner of a larger company that’s doing the selling,” Olding says.
For example, when a company moves into a new space, Olding and his company take the architectural plans before the construction phase and engage with high-level executives on the design and their budget.
“From there, we actually just design the systems in high detail right down to the schematics and do a scope-of-work document write up to get them to endorse the design,” Olding says.
Creating trust breeds more clients
This whole process is one that fosters a relationship of trust and transparency, Olding says.
“It creates a trust relationship where we have their best interests in mind when we’re doing the design,” he says. “We basically are very open saying we do the design and the integration, but we can also only do the design if you don’t want us – because of conflict of interest – bidding on this project.”
Olding and his firm offer a reduced design fee for prospective architectural partners so they can see how their service works. That eventually leads to the architectural firm offering these services as a subconsultant of sorts.
“That lets us get our foot in the front door with them,” Olding says.
Olding’s firm targets large architectural and construction companies with which to partner, including firms as large as Turner Construction. To foster relationships with those firms, Olding and his company does “a lot of cold calling.”
But once those relationships are established, architectural or construction partners “do the selling for us.”
“This gets us in the door to get a bit of a reputation to be working on these larger-scale projects, even though we’re dealing with a group of maybe three people on the client side,” Olding says.
Make efficient use of your time
When you bid on a project and you don’t win, you’re not only wasting valuable time, but also giving away a lot of proprietary knowledge, Olding says.
That can help your firm make efficient use of its time, especially if the customer isn’t ready to buy and was only interested in getting pricing.
“This has allowed us to get only get paid for our knowledge of the products and the installs and the overall system, but also allows us to vet clients that aren’t really interested in making a purchase,” Olding says.
How to implement similar practices in your integration firm
To implement similar processes in your organization, Olding suggests:
- Forming relationships with architectural and construction firms.
- If you already have a good reputation and relationship, introduce this new method to clients.
- Developing a skilled design team.