Guest Post: Selling Digital Signage Effectively In “The Channel”

November 29, 2011 by guest author, Bas Smeets

Selling digital signage technology looks relatively easy in principle, but proves much harder in practice for a lot of companies that add these products and services to their portfolios.

It’s a display mounted on a wall, driven by a PC, it’s reasonably assumed, so what could be hard about that?

The problem for companies that re-sell digital signage technology is that it is not just technology. It’s not just gear that does something. AV and systems integrators find new elements entering into the discussion – big questions about why and how. The real issue is what’s on the screen, why and how it gets refreshed.

A sales person who is very good at identifying the best, most cost-efficient technologies to make something happen for a client, or make something a client already has that much better, has probably never had a sales discussion about programming objectives, dwell times or the merits of embedded PC vs versus standalone systems.

It’s just different. And it’s why some resellers in the downstream sales channel struggle to be successful selling digital signage technologies. They can get the meetings and show the product because there is real interest in the marketplace, but closing that business is hard.

The biggest thing to remember and embrace is that this is not a pure technology sell. It cannot be treated as a SKU in a system like rack enclosures and mounting brackets. There’s too much involved.

Instead, this is a solutions-selling exercise. The person meeting with customers needs to pry out of their clients what they are trying to accomplish with digital signage, and then help them develop a plan that will deliver on those aspirations.

We break it down to three key questions:

What are the objectives?

What does the client want to realize by putting in screens? In retail, that might be lifting sales on promoted items or driving higher awareness of high-margin “upsell” services, among countless possibilities. In health care, it might be informing and educating while people sit in waiting rooms. In public transport, it might be keeping passengers automatically informed about schedules and delays.

If the end-user cannot define what he wants, beyond putting up screens, there’s a strong likelihood the project will never get past the discussion stage. Effective selling will get them over that barrier, though, or at least provide a better signal about whether the continued sales effort with a customer is worthwhile.

What’s the strategy?

If the end-user has some well-defined aspirations, then a strategy can be shaped that that looks at the cause and effect of going forward. By putting screens in a waiting area, for example, this will inform patients about health and wellness, keep them entertained, and distract from any perceptions of overly long waiting times.

Is that something that can be measured and quantified? Will it increase satisfaction levels? Does it speed patients through the clinic by answering some questions before they get asked?

If the sales person can help the client start to shape a defined return on the investment, financial or otherwise, the client is that much closer to making the investment.

How will it be executed?

If clients know the objectives and strategy, then they can start looking at execution issues and removing the last barriers to getting a deal done.

They need to understand, at this point, what programming will be on screens, who is producing it, how frequently it needs to change and how much it will cost. Content costs are a big unknown and can stop projects in their tracks if that is not clear, and under control.

Effective selling involves understanding content implications and how software tools, good planning and existing resources can produce a manageable content programming plan that will get approval.

There are other considerations, but with a programming plan in place a typical AV or IT systems integrator can then start to play to its strengths – finding the right software and hardware tools for the project, and helping get it in place and turned on.

My company produces several hardware SKUs for digital signage, and we have several software partners with different strengths and areas of focus. They are all solid, but there is a variety of options to choose because there are reasons that go well beyond price.

To effectively sell in the channel means going beyond specs and price levels, and determining what an end-user wants to do and helping them shape a plan on how that can happen.

This post first appeared in Advantech’s iServices blog

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