23 Mistakes in CI Sales That Cost You Money

Selling technology in the custom integration industry is challenging.

23 Mistakes in CI Sales That Cost You Money

By Mark Sipe, developer STX SolutionTM, Salez Toolz Expanded

Customers have a hard time understanding our offerings or even what they want. We explain complex systems and often only confuse them more. We attempt to get them to give us a budget when that’s our job. After gathering some information from a meeting, we then make them wait for us to find time to get the proposal out. Is that really a good plan? As you read through these mistakes, it will become more apparent that efficiency and process work. These are some tips we’ve found over the decades that helped us avoid costly mistakes and resulted in more profit. 

1. You ask them their budget, really, you think they know?

They don’t know their budget, and they don’t even know what’s available; that’s why they came to you. This question typically puts your customer on the spot and starts the presentation focusing on price and can close their mind to their project’s right solution. It’s better to present them with pricing options giving them the information they need to make an informed decision based on their values.

2. You made them wait for an estimated budget, what could go wrong?

Each day your customer waits, the more they forgot, and the more opportunity they have to get distracted by other priorities or competitors. All they were looking for initially was an estimated budget, so why are we so surprised when our customer skips over pages of details it took us hours to assemble to see the bottom-line price then says, “you’re pretty expensive.” Do the work it takes to pre-engineer your solutions so you can present them with a reasonable estimate, then request a deposit to complete the engineering. You’ll save yourself time and profit too.

We spent way to much time generating bids in my former integration company. Here’s how we made STX Sales™ display a picture with an estimated install price that helps your customer create a budget in the sales meeting; huge time saver.

3. Giving them a free parts list, called a shopping list by your customer.

Giving them a list is the fastest way to lose margin as your customer compares your competitors’ pricing. Additionally, you’ve reduced your value by focusing your customer on price rather than on performance. Your “free” quote should only give them the numbers and save the full proposal when they pay you to engineer it.

4. Not qualifying the client, by qualify, I mean educate them enough to make a buying decision, customers who don’t understand, buy less or nothing.

If you’re tired of creating multiple bids, then this is the mistake you’ll want to avoid. This type of sales meeting usually involves you throwing out some prices to see what sticks. You may have the impression that their head nodding implies a buying decision, but from your customer’s perspective, they’re just being polite as they wait to see your actual price. Try replacing your price range with three to five engineered packages. Add a picture and description for each and watch as your customer makes a real purchase decision. Stop telling them that you can do anything and showing them nothing; this confuses the customer and will cost you time or the sale. Don’t see this as limiting what you sell; think of it as clearly communicating what you can do for them.

We created an award winning client-facing interface that presents your options with beautiful lifestyle pictures and creates a budget your customer can approve in your first meeting. Our Users have tracked a 20-50% increase in sales from this.

5. Talk specifications, that should end the meeting quickly!

Sure, you’ll impress them with your knowledge, but that doesn’t help them make a buying decision in fact, you may scare them away because you’re making it sound too complicated, and they don’t want to “waste their money” on more technology than they can handle. Instead, focus on the benefits, giving them examples of how their life will be better with your solutions.

6. Failing to document project details during the meeting, the fastest way to hobble a project from the start

We’ve all done this, and then we try to make up for it with job-site meetings. If you want to understand why your jobs are running over on time, this is the mistake to pay attention to. The solution is to give yourself a format that prompts you through the same set of questions, preferably digital. We know you remember all this stuff, but to get profitable, you’re going to need to turn this into a process that sets the standard for you and your team.  And it will be worth it as you measure the success by tracking your estimated hours versus what it took, including client training. You’ll also be surprised how this will speed up your sale and assists with training new salespeople.  Stop Job-site engineering and watch your profit grow.

Remote Selling while it isn’t how we sold last year or the only way to sell today, it will be with us in the future. Remote Selling can be more productive, and for some, their favorite way to engage with clients. Starting the day, and first meeting, without driving around town means you can schedule more appointments leading to more sales. Stepping a client through TVs and then moving right into mounts, soundbars, and power options help sales quickly build the budget around a fully designed system unique to that client while selecting from your standard offerings. Grouping complementary products help both sales and the client see the value and association.

Want to try out STX? We offer a free trial, and who knows, you might be like one trial User who closed a $500K job during his trial period – we’re that good. STX TRIAL REQUEST

7. You showed up to a technology meeting with a pencil and paper, works until you can’t find it, or read it!

You might as well ride up on your bike; while it will get the job done, you’re working too hard, taking too long, and coming back with limited data on the project that you now have to pull together. Keeping it digital will make it easy to manage when you create the budget while walking the job live or remote.

8. Not charging for engineering or design, clever, how is that working out?

We’ve all done engineering in hopes of securing the job, and it is typically the way that we identify the budget, but there are two major problems with this. First, you’ve devalued your services by not charging for them, and second, you’ve wasted time by not having an approved budget before you started engineering.

It is better to start with a sign-off on the budget and request a $200 – $1000 deposit (depending on the scope of work) for the final engineering. Remember, if you don’t value yourself, why would your customer?

9. The images you took didn’t adequately detail the job, every job is different, just like clients, details sell jobs as clients feel ownership.

It’s great that you took any pictures at all; however, an image without context can leave you scratching your head when you look at it two days later. Use a program that allows you to add lines, text, and location to explain exactly what you had in mind.

STX SmartData™ assigns an icon to each product, and when you move to Design View, it displays the icon for the approved product ready to be moved onto a floor plan, a job site image, or Google Earth pic. You can even create a quick layout from scratch with our unique SmartShapes™ feature.

Easily take or import a picture and move the icons, auto-generated from the bid, onto a floor plan, job-site photo or Google Earth image. I’m proud of what we created with STX Design™, and how it’s been a game changer for our Users.  (learning curve around 15 minutes)

10. You’re not ready to take their money, why, because you’re going to drag them through a long-drawn-out proposal process?

This may sound funny, but how prepared are you?  Do you have the capability to produce the proposal for their review?  Can they sign it?  And do you have the ability to take a credit card?  The real question is “Why don’t you expect to close the sale, or get an engineering deposit?” We’ve found that CI Salespeople just assume this will take days or weeks to close the sale but that’s not the customer, that’s you.  When you give your customer the information they need to make a buying decision, they generally will.  Prepare yourself and watch as your customers start signing-up in your first meeting.

11. You think a handshake is as good as a signed agreement; up until your customer stops paying.

Maybe you’ve been “lucky”, or maybe you don’t have one, either way I guaranty you that a customer will make you wish you had one when they change their mind and don’t want to pay your restocking fee or argue about the additional labor time you’re billing them. Having our Contract Terms in place saved our company from writing off labor and helped our customers understand what they could expect and control our programming and support. Show them you’re a professional and get yourself a short and industry specific contractual agreement that states client and service expectations; otherwise, they’ll define it for you!

Want us to send you our $150 Client Contract for free? 
Docusign© now available as part of your sign-off process in STX.

12. Your payment schedule places a burden on your cash flow, better to have more of their money than they have of your products and services.

Are your terms 50% down, 50% upon completion? These terms are common, but after the first 50% runs out, you’ll have to utilize your credit lines or credit cards to finance your customer’s dream. It’s better to have a little bit more of their money than your product and services, which gives you leverage. Remember that the average net profit is between 7-15%; net profit is what you have left after the expedited freight, labor overages, and missed change orders. Better to have multiple smaller progress payments leaving no more than 5-10% as retention, due upon Substantial Completion.

Substantial Completion the stage when a construction project is deemed sufficiently completed to the point where the owner can use it for its intended purpose. (to get paid faster, include this in your Client Contract)



13. Not offering Service Contracts and Warranties, put your ear close to the screen; do you hear those dollars rushing past you?

All systems need service, and if you’re not offering it or waiting until later, you’re definitely making a mistake that’s costing you money. Service contracts also help establish what your warranty covers and when it ends, which can help you bring the job to a close, minimizing the number of no-charge service calls we tend to provide when we don’t have our service defined.

READY FOR MORE? See 10 more Mistakes on our blog

These aren’t the only mistakes you’ll make, or that I’ve made, but it’s an important list of mistakes that are costing you money.  The bigger message here is that the absence of a deliberate sales process, is costing you money.  None of these mistakes were initiated by your customer.  These are all mistakes that you make and that cost you money.  So, if it hurts when you bang your head against the wall, then stop it.

The best salespeople sell the same experiences using different products and budgets to match the customer. Salez Toolz was developed specifically for Salespeople, providing an engaging experience for the customer, and making it easy for the salesperson to sell. Over the last 15 years, Salez Toolz has seen our concepts go from theory to reality, contributing to the success of large and small System Integrators, Security Contractors, and Electricians. Fancy multipage proposals are impressive but don’t make up for the lack of a good Sales process. Please take a look at the glowing testimonials on our website, or better yet, try it out with a customer. We had one trial User close a $500K job within the trial period; spoiler alert, he bought the software.

Thanks for reading and now you know why we created STX Salez Toolz Expanded, now in our 15th year. We hope this helps you avoid mistakes and make more money. 

Try STX for yourself and start closing more profitable sales; STX TRIAL REQUEST

Mark Sipe, developer, inventor, and
recovering systems integrator
STX SolutionTM,
Salez Toolz Expanded