When it comes to technology, who ultimately decides what’s good vs. what’s good enough? What role does the integrator play?
At BLC 2014, we had a stimulating discussion on this very topic, and it’s still being discussed today. At the very core of the integrator’s identity is the debate about selling high-cost, customized, often complex and high-end systems vs. selling a larger quantity of more standardized, easy-to-use, consumer-friendly, cloud-/web-enabled plug-and-play devices.
One example is videoconferencing, with a multitude of consumer-accepted cloud providers offering mobile and small-room-usable applications enhanced by webcams and low-cost speakerphones. The truth is: These systems work. But, in most commercial, professional, and institutional applications, they don’t work very well. As an integrator, do you add a low-end, plug-and-play solution to your product offerings, or do you stand your ground and sell against it?
There seems to be two points of view:
- No way! We don’t sell anything less than the best-in-class solution, and have to do so in order to maintain our reputation.
- If we don’t offer low-cost solutions, then others will. But on the other hand, if we do offer low-cost solutions, we will compromise integrity, offer no real value to customers, and won’t build profits for our business.
But is there a third point of view? Can an integrator succeed by attaching value-added services and a recurring revenue stream to simplified plug-and-play solutions? In this scenario, the goal would be to develop a larger installed base with less upfront costs, yet more bundled services and improving the recurring revenue stream. Is it possible?
Examples of good vs. good enough exist in digital audio, digital signage, display devices, loudspeakers, media formats, network connectivity, and pretty much everything else. In your organization, who determines your position on marginal solutions? Where is the line drawn on clients that request consumer-grade technology, and how is that explained? It’s often frontline sales people making the call today and pushing for compromise. Are you willing to do that?
I would bet that your sales reps come back every day with a story about an opportunity lost to a customer who accepted a lower-cost/lower-quality solution. Can your sales team effectively advise your customers on the technical issues, and then make a business case for the good-enough and good-better-best options that exist?
What do clients already know about the lower-cost alternatives? In many cases, they are better informed than your own sales force. Your staff may be trapped when engaging in that discussion.
I’d love to hear your position on this debate. Do you stand your ground? Or do you give in and offer a “good-enough” option? Is there any merit to a hybrid options with a backend revenue stream? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.