Sunday, July 26, 2015

Adding to Your Winning Team

Who is the best person on your integration team?  Where are you getting the highest value?  Is it the engineer who can design a flawless system and bring it life through a detailed program report and drawing package?  Is it the project manager who manages time, scope, and cost with incredible resource management skills and business acumen?  Can your key player be the sales person who went through the entire needs analysis processes and gathered all of the site survey information needed to execute a perfect proposal and win the project?  How about the installers, services team and support people who act as the glue to hold everything together and truly keep your customers happy?  Can you pick which of these is your most important player on your integration team?  Well, I say it is none of them.  The most important person on your team is your customer.  If you can engage your customer on a level where they “join your team” and are considered one of the resources that you can utilize and manage then you have truly found (or created) a winning situation.    

The best example I have of this scenario is when I was a younger sales person and I was working closely with a customer on a very large project. Before we won the project, I was preparing to give a presentation with our customer to some of his management team.  He had invited me in to help present to his bosses to assist him in getting approval for budget and scope for the proposed project.  In this situation he embedded himself into our team and invited us to present to his bosses so in turn we became embedded into his team.  The result of this relationship was quite the learning process for me.  In one instance I was talking to him about certain features and benefits to our solution.  I was giving him a great presentation in rehearsal for the presentation that we would eventually give his bosses together.  I was really on it, presentation-wise, and even though I was covering every piece of information marketing had given me about the products and solutions, he stopped me in the middle of my presentation.  When he stopped me he said, “You’re solving a problem I don’t have.”  I was blown away that this customer took time to teach (or remind) me about uncovering pains and value mapping.  The customer took the time to teach me because he was on my team.  Had this been a different type of sales relationship, instead of one where the sales person and the customer are on the same team, I do not believe the customer would have been in a place where they would have been willing and able to help the sales person (me) learn and grow.

Another illustration I have for this is when I was working in videoconferencing sales.  I was working late at night (or early in the AM) on a project with a customer.  This particular customer was assisting with the install.  To get this assistance we included it in the contract and we added him as a team member for the install.  We even had an agreement where he formally agreed to follow the direction of the PM while working on the job.  I have done this in other instances when non-profits such as churches, need to reduce the cost of a project by providing their own labor.  This is a difficult thing to manage but when it is well documented and has a strong agreement behind it, it can be a great solution.  Getting back to my story…we were up in the rafters together, under the conference table and staging equipment in the warehouse.  In this situation, I was able to have the customer act as a tech on the job and he had a lot of skin in the game.  When we ran into issues with IP addresses or other contractors, it really helped to have this champion embedded in our team.  As a side note, this particular customer is now one of my best lifelong friends.  This is another great example of how business and personal relationships are built.  Once you become a trusted advisor and prove your sincerity in what you do, you build a personal and professional preference above many others..

By having your customer on your team, you are illustrating one of the most useful tools in sales.  The acronym for this very useful too is: RADAR - Reading Accounts and Deploying Appropriate Resources. I learned RADAR from a very good book, Hope is Not a Strategy – The Six Keys to Winning the Complex Sale from Rick Paige.

When you use RADAR, you are maximizing all of your resources to include using the customer as a resources (when appropriate).  I have a saying, “when a sales person is at the top of their game, they are doing the least amount of work.”  Jokingly, I would say that the best sales people are the laziest people.  Now that is a joke, but what I do mean is that the most effective sales people sales are the ones that utilize ALL of the resources that are available to them and manage those resources accordingly.  This allows the sales person to focus on managing their sales instead of design, support, project management or many of the other things that can bog down a sales person.  When you use RADAR you are deploying a team of experts and a wide range of resources that are best suited for each aspect of the project.  Sometimes the customer is one or many of those experts and can be invaluable resources.  The customer knows more about their application, situation and usage model than anyone else on your team.  Use them and learn from them.

Customers want your project to succeed.  In many situations their job depends on it.  If you have the chance and the situation is right, have the customer on your team is a great resource and can result in a lifetime friendship.

The author:
Max Kopsho, CTS-D/I, PMP, CQT, CCNA R&S and Security, CompTIA Network+ and CTT+

Max has worked in the AV industry for over 17 years in various management and technical roles.  Over the last 28 years Max has acquired an extensive background in supporting AV and IT  systems, computer networks, telecom, and VTC systems.  Max developed one of the industry’s first networked AV solutions and that product is now deployed in a single network with over 15,000 network attached AV devices.  Max has made considerable contributions to the InfoComm Education area in AV/IT and CTS preparations.  He was awarded the 2010 Educator of the Year for InfoComm and has prepared over 1000 candidates for their CTS exam.  The views in this article are strickly the views of Max and do not necessarily reflect the views of his eployer or business partners.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sympathy - Is it a Sign of Weakness in Sales?

(an exerpt from the book - Da Vinci Sales - The 7 Keys to Selling Like Leonardo -

Sales is a dog eat dog world.  In sales you don't have time to care and you can’t be weak…or can you?  Should you?  Does sympathy pay off in sales?  If so, which should you be, sympathetic or empethetic?

While many say it is more important to be able to empathize with people than to sympathize.  There is such beauty in sympathy.  When you are sympathetic you are willing to try to see through someone else’s eyes even when you have not experienced the same experience they are currently in.  In the case of sympathy, you are trying your best to understand and connect as closely as you possibly can even if the situation does not concern you personally.

The need to be able to be sympathetic in your daily life is somewhat self-evident.  When you are driving home from work and someone cuts you off a little sympathy can change your whole reaction. You have a couple of options:

Option 1:  You can remind that person that you have just as much right to the road that they do and they have no right to endanger your life by cutting you off in traffic.  You are even within your social rights to use an expletive or gesture. 
Option 2:   This option not only requires the use of sympathy, but also the use of a paradigm shift.  This paradigm shift allows your sympathetic approach to change the way you think and believe about the situation and in turn the way you react.  In using this paradigm shift and sympathetic approach you can decide that this person may have just come off or of a double shift that they were working to earn extra money for their family after recently losing their spouse a few days ago.  You decide that you too would be a bit distracted if you lost your closest loved one a few days before this incident. You also decide to believe that they are in need of extra money to raise the four children this person is now left to raise alone.  You further develop your paradigm and sympathy scenario to see that one of these children has special needs.  Your cut off offender is in a bit of a hurry to get home and relieve the nurse that cares for this child while they are away and this nurse charges extra if they show up late.  You are now able to let that cut off go and better yet, you hope that the person who cut you off gets home quickly, safely and has better days to come. This is because you have this ability to create a scenario and in turn sympathize and change your paradigm. 

There is beauty in sympathy, even if you have to create the need for it so that it can change your paradigm.  The concept in option 2 is paraphrased from Zig Ziggler – I expanded on it a little to help make my point and I can’t give a direct quote or reference the exact source, because I am getting old and don’t remember where I heard or read it.

Is this important is technology sales?  Is there beauty in sympathy in sales?  That seems like a no brainer.  Of course it is important in technology sales and when it is used there is beauty in the sympathetic sales process.  But, all too often we talk about ‘side of the table’ and the ‘games we are playing’ in negotiations and even in needs analysis.  A passionate sales person who is convicted in what they sell (because they believe in the products and solutions they offer) does not have to view the world of sales as sides and games.  For people of conviction and passion the sales world is full of opportunities to solve problems and this can best be done when seeing the world through the customer’s eyes.  If a sales person can use sympathy to see the things they have never experienced and do their best to understand how these things make their customer feel even when there is no personal impact to the sales person, they gain insight and the ability to see the whole problem (including explicit needs and implied needs – read SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham for some great information on explicit and implied needs).  Another beautiful side effect of this approach is that the sales person can use their ability to create scenarios and a situation to sympathize with even the most difficult customers.  This can help a sales person change their paradigm and connect with people who often don’t get connected with.  Sometimes customers can be difficult because they have a lot of tragic things going on elsewhere in their lives, why not just create that scenario for all of the difficult customers and have a new paradigm for them all.  Who knows, this approach may actually build a relationship that goes far beyond the sales cycle and gets into a partnership and trusted advisor status for decades to come.
Here are some useful hints on how to focus your observations about your customers and business partners to become more sympathetic to their situation.  Using the Acronym RIVER, you can determine some of the key elements to focus your efforts toward in order for you to be better in tune with your customers.  The RIVER acronym and concept comes from the book Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service from Performance Research Associates.  RIVER = Roles, Interests, Values, Expectations and Requirements.  Each of the terms in RIVER is self-explanatory and by using these categories you can make sure that you look at many angles of the person, business or group of people to help gain more perspective to be more sympathetic.  By adding some key questions and key points and taking time to get these questions and points answered and understood you can better put yourself in a place where you can be truly sympathetic:

  • R – Roles = what are this person’s roles in the organization, home, church and other areas of life?  Are they a leader, follower or somewhere in between?  Can you help them with their roles and can you play a role in their life beyond the typical business role.  In business development I find this an easy place for me to be actively engaged because I can use my role as an educator to help develop other people’s roles at work and in life in general.
  •  I – Interests = understanding what this person is interested in will help you frame your discussions around their interests.  You will engage them on new levels if your analogies and references have to do with things that they are interested in.
  • V – Values = if you can understand someone’s value system and RESPECT it (not necessarily agree with it) then you will be well on your way to earning the mutual respect.  That respect becomes trust.
  • E – Expectations = knowing what people need and want from you up front will go a long way.  This will keep “the dance” short and the work productive.
  • R – Requirements = the bottom line, can you provide this person what they need.  If we refer another book that I love (the Complex Sell by Rick Paige) there is a key reference to the Shark Chart of Pain where the requirements (Pains) are identified in a hierarchy of Strategic, Political, Financial, Cultural Organizational and Technical.  Can you meet these requirements and can you hit them high in the hierarchy?
I have the luxury of traveling around a lot and doing a lot of teaching.  One thing that I have learned during all of this traveling and training is that I know that I am at my best when teaching when I am in tune with my students and when I am truly sympathetic.  I train my best when I view my own training from the student’s perspective.  I believe that sales is exactly the same.  We sell well when we connect and understand (sympathize) with our customers.  We sell better and solve problems better when we truly look at these problems from our customer’s perspective and then apply our available resources to solve those problems with the customer.  We do better yet when we engage the customer and use a lot of their resources along with ours.  That is what I will talk about next week is engaging the customer at a level where they become part of the solution you provide.  You almost get to sell them back their own expertise when you project manage their team properly and sell the stakeholder engagement aspect and entire process.  So stay tuned…

The author:
Max Kopsho, CTS-D/I, PMP, CQT, CCNA R&S and Security, CompTIA Network+ and CTT+ 

Max has worked in the AV industry for over 17 years in various management and technical roles.  Over the last 28 years Max has acquired an extensive background in supporting AV and IT  systems, computer networks, telecom, and VTC systems.  Max developed one of the industry’s first networked AV solutions and that product is now deployed in a single network with over 15,000 network attached AV devices.  Max has made considerable contributions to the InfoComm Education area in AV/IT and CTS preparations.  He was awarded the 2010 Educator of the Year for InfoComm and has prepared over 1000 candidates for their CTS exam.  The views in this article are strickly the views of Max and do not necessarily reflect the views of his eployer or business partners.

Friday, July 10, 2015

What is in the VALUE SWEET SPOT in converged AV and IT?

What is really the return when you combine AV and IT?  To answer this question you have to better define what AV and IT convergence is.  AV and IT convergence is when AV and IT can be deployed where collaboration, control (ease of use), connectivity, conferencing and sending content can all be enhanced by integrating both leveraging the features and benefits of both AV and IT.  The convergence part of the definition is key.  The convergence means that these technologies coexist and enhance one another.  In my definition convergence is not when AV is taken to the IT side, but is running on a separate physical network.  At that point, you are merely having AV leverage the value of IT.  In a truly converged application the two completely coexist and are fully integrated.  As I stated a couple of weeks ago, using HDBaseT as the last mile for extension is one thing, but further integrating it to leverage the IP capabilities to control devices and use all that HDBaseT has to offer to fully integrate AV and IT is true convergence. If you are using HDBaseT and IP Based video and audio together all the better.  It can be done with some engineering prowess and forethought.

The results of completely converged AV and IT systems address the pains that every customer has. These pains are addressed through an incredible series of interrelated key points. The major interrelated points really have little to do with AV or IT:
·        The first two points are when the MESSAGE and the MISSION are completely aligned.
·        The next two points are where the intersection of importance of the MESSAGE is shared between PEOPLE who have the message and the people they want to share it with.
The following points show how AV/IT converged systems can take the major interrelated points and drive them forward:
·        The next two points are when the TECHNOLOGY can enhance the PHYSICAL SPACE to increase the productivity of the user to best match the application and usage needs .
·        The technologically enhanced PHYSICAL SPACE can enhance and impact how MESSAGE is shared and relayed.
At which point the TECHNOLOGY enhances the PHYSICAL SPACE to drive the MESSAGE, MISSION and PEOPLE.  (Check out the Infographic at to get a better understanding of the 5 equations that show the complete interrelationships in converged AV and IT solutions.)

The overall message is that as an integrator or anyone working in the AV/IT industry we are in a unique position.  For the first time in a long time, there is an industry that there is a solution that transcends all of these:
·        MESSAGE
·        PEOPLE
·        MISSION

In working in converged AV/IT we have an opportunity to improve and drive our customer’s organizational character by helping to propel their mission.  Converged AV/IT helps people to better get their message across and to truly connect on many levels.  When we converge AV and IT, we can impact the heart and spirit of an organization.  We can help our customers to be more productive, more profitable and to help people better connect and collaborate.  It’s simple math.  You have to love AV/IT.  I know I do.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Why So Many Certifications? - It’s all about the Bas(s) - The (BAS)ICS) that is!

I often refer to myself as a certification junkie. The truth of the matter is I am an education and learning junkie. I love to learn and all of the certifications are a side effect of that wonderful disease. That addiction to lifelong learning is probably why I teach. In teaching, I learn more than I could ever teach. Yes, I said it, teaching is a selfish business for me. When I teach I get much more than I give. When I am in the front of a class and when I am facilitating the class properly, I learn so much more than I could ever teach. Look at it this way, if I have a room of 25 students and the average experience of the student is 10 years then the collective student experience is 250 years. Compared to my 27 years of experience, I am the weak link in the class. My job is to draw out the unique experience from each of these students and make their experience, knowledge and skill part of the collective. During this process, I can’t help but learn. Of course, I develop an follow curriculum that works toward a learning and/or performance goal and share information that I have gathered from classes and experience that I have, but I can guarantee that the information transfer goes both ways. This is definitely a win-win situation.

So, the question are, why do I have so many certification? Is there value to these certifications? Can there be value in such a broad range of such certifications? To answer these questions I would put together some rules for certifications and education goals for technologist and sales engineers in AV/IT:
  • Begin with the end in mind - (one of my favorite quotes and based on seven habits of highly effective people – Stephen Covey) – What is the end game? Is there a promotion, target job, target company, target degree or similar goal that a certification or education path will lead you to.
  • Determine the disciplines that you want to follow – Technical, Project Management, Design, etc – or do you want to head towards multiple disciplines and be a renaissance man (or woman) –this was my goal and why I took so many certifications, my goal was to be multi-disciplined and be as much like Leonardo Da Vinci as possible (read more about this at my site for my book (
  • Set a plan – The concept here is to ask yourself, how do you eat an elephant?...One bite at a time. Don’t try to do it all at once. If someone told me I had to have all of these certifications, I would have said that would be impossible, but I took it all in small bites.
  • Use all of the resources available to you and barter where you can - you have some skills and knowledge you can trade. Do it. Someone out there needs to know what you know and they have what you need. Share. I have lived my educational life based on that core belief and that is why I teach and learn to this day. The number one reason that I am by any means successful at what I do (teaching wise) is because I believe in what I do. It is about sharing. Do it!
  • Stop Procrastinating - Take the test or class– so what if you fail? Failing is learning. I will not say if or how many times I have failed certification test…YES I WILL. I HAVE! And I still have my certifications. Failing can be a study method. If you take and fail a test, you have then seen the test and can better study for the test to take it again and pass.
  • Enjoy your win – celebrate and brag and help others win to – that is part of sharing too.
  • Keep going – don’t lose your certs. It doesn’t say much when you put on a resume’ r discuss how you used to have a CTS or whatever certification. As a hiring manager, I put very little weight in expired certifications. Keep them renewed. Some of the certifications I have are just to keep other certifications renewed. Sometimes it is a vicious circle, but it is a fun one.
I know I talk a lot about certifications in the blog, but in this blog if you replace the word certification with classes or education or other synonym for learning, it would all hold true. The certifications I currently have could not have been achieved without learning and that is what it is all about. That is why I believe certifications is all about the BASS. ALL ABOUT THE BASICS that is. EDUCATION and LEARNING is the most basic aspect of certifications and I have never encountered an instance where education and learning is not a good thing.

By the way, I guess I should actually answer those original questions about why I went and got so many certifications:
  • Q. Why do I have so many certification? 
  • A. With the goal of lifelong learning I can’t help but constantly set my own goals for some form of a metrics to make sure that I can prove to myself that I am constantly learning. My certifications are confirmation to myself that I am constantly learning.
  • Q. Is there value to these certifications? 
  • A. Absolutely – I have received promotions and new jobs that relate directly to some of my certifications. They also help with credibility with some of the customers I deal with.
  •  Q. Can there be value in such a broad range of such certifications? 
  •  A. This was one of my goals. I wanted to target having a very broad range of technical and business certifications. This also helps with dealing with customers in business and with helping to relate the technology and the business needs.

In business, in home life and in life in general, education is one of the greatest freedoms one can have and this weekend most of all we can celebrate the freedom of education.

Max Kopsho
CTS-I/D, CCENT, CCNA R&S and Security, PMP, CQT, CompTIA Network+ and CTT+
Lean Six Sigma Green Belt
and a few more, but they stopped fitting on the business card...

More Than a Bridge – HDBaseT and IP - Not a Bridge and Not Competing

HDBaseT Technology is often referred to as a bridge between traditional AV and IP based AV.  This bridging reference is often used when people are comparing HDBaseT to IP encoders and decoders that are often used for audio and video transport over campus and metropolitan area networks.  

When I hear this comparison being made the term “apples and oranges” comes to mind.   This comparison makes almost no sense to me.  These technologies are not mutually exclusive and are not competitive and are quite to the contrary, the opposite is true.  These technologies actually complement each other.  Comparing these technologies is like comparing wired and wireless Ethernet.  I say this because wireless has applications and wired has a completely different set of applications as well and we typically do not need to compare or make it sound as if these technologies compete.  The two technologies work together in well designed and well architected systems for a world of incredible possibilities (secure government facility considerations aside).

I believe this type of bridge reference extends beyond just the scope of comparing the HDBaseT versus IP Video.  Here is why I think that: I am not sure why, but I often get the feeling that the AV industry tends to look at many situations with an EITHER/OR mindset.  My examples for such an observation are as follows: we live in a world that we view as it having to be Crestron or AMX for control, Extron or Crestron for distribution, HDMI or DVI for digital signal, and then as I already stated IP or HDBaseT for distance, add in JBL or QSC for line arrays and the list goes on and on.   But now, I think the recent acquisition of SVSi by Harman and the subcategorization of the SVSi brand within AMX shows us that HDBaseT and IP Video (and Audio) will truly coexist in solutions, branding and channel sales/solutions. And maybe, just maybe we can look at many other categories in that same light.

THE CHALLENGE: expand your approach to design and solutions providing to include “the last mile” and interface connections with HDBaseT and IP Video for enterprise solutions to leveraging all that networking has to offer at Local, LAN and WAN levels.  Each of these technologies has their benefits and their pitfalls.  It is up to the solutions provider to apply the right technology, to weigh all of the pros and cons and give their customers the best solution for the application at hand.  Heck, don’t take my word for it, I am just a manufacturer – you are the solutions provider.