Process, where to start?

Tom CoffinsmartPRENEUR Blog Series

It’s Monday. Did you jump out of bed ready to conquer the world? The phone starts to ring. A tech calls and is running late. You’re stuck in a traffic jam. Arriving at the office you learn the products needed for today’s work have not arrived. Your team is looking to you to solve the problem.


Businesses of all types and all over the world have Monday’s like the one I just described. Stuff happens. But, there is a way to mitigate these issues. Process, process, process.

Creating process in your business can help you plan ahead and prepare you, your team, in fact your entire Company for what lies ahead.

So what is process?

Noun: A series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.

How does one start to create process in their business? It can be overwhelming to attack this in one huge effort. So let’s break it down to specific business processes that can make incremental but powerful changes to your company’s bottom line and the entire team’s work satisfaction.

A series of actions or steps to achieve a particular end. Let’s start with “SALES” after all nothing happens until something is sold, right? Well sort of but if you do not set up a sales process in your company completing your promise to your customer can be very challenging.

Before a design can be sold to a customer, some things to consider:

  • What brands are you offering? – less is more
  • What disciplines will you support? – Are you comfortable selling security? Have you educated yourself and your team on lighting fixtures?
  • Do the products you are integrating play well with each other?

Thinking through the possibilities of how the sale should happen from finding the prospect to qualifying the prospect, presenting a solution, closing the deal, implementing your promise, servicing the solution, and gaining referrals from your satisfied client are processes that if you work them out ahead of time can be the difference between success and failure in your business.

Here is a real-world example of working out the sales process:

In my systems integration business in my past life, We spent a significant amount of time developing our Scalable Convergence concept with Bronze, Silver, and Gold solutions.

After many years of asking what the prospect wanted, which was almost impossible for them to answer as they had not experienced systems integration, We determined we could break down house size and value to an expected level of performance and integration.

We supported 14 different “subsystems” or what we now call “disciplines.”

  • Life Safety
  • Access Control
  • Information Infrastructure
  • Communications
  • Distributed Audio
  • Distributed Video
  • Home Theatre
  • Acoustic Design
  • Lighting Control
  • Lighting Design and Fixtures
  • Climate Control
  • Video Surveillance
  • Systems Integration
  • Utilities Management

Each of these was applied to a specific home size which understanding the cost per square foot of construction provided us with a home value. Based upon previous experience with hundreds of installations we set a standard percentage range for a package based upon the expected value of the house. 

Bronze, Silver, and Gold primarily described the level of quality for items such as speakers, TV’s, projectors, and other mainly audio based products. But, it also determined how and by what the systems would be connected together. For instance Bronze was based upon IR control, relays, and an HAI controller (that goes back a ways). Silver was based up, initially PHAST and then morphed into Control4. Gold started out as AMX and morphed into Crestron. We developed core platform programming with all features written into the programs and then commented them out. This made it easy to sell a feature such as all lights on or a CD list on a keypad (I know that one is very archaic now, but it was a big one back then).

Now that we had defined what products and brands fit into our designs and we knew all of the systems played well together, it was time to design how this was sold.

Selling Systems Integration

It appears that showrooms are coming back in vogue. I personally think this is great. Yes you can sell in someone’s kitchen but the demo and presentation can create a far more powerful experience and build a closer relationship between the integrator and the client.

Our showroom was designed to tell the story. At the entrance was a door station and camera. To gain entrance the prospect is already using the features we were about to show them. Once inside we had an Information Infrastructure room where we showed the Bronze, Silver, and Gold backplane to explain how the house would be wired for today and tomorrow’s technologies.

We built three rooms, yes you guessed it, Bronze, Silver, and Gold where we could show all the other subsystems in a single room.

We had a board room where the meeting could be conducted. And, we made special effort to make the back of the house; warehouse, shipping, offices part of the tour. This was important to demonstrate that we could support our clients long term through service, parts stock, and people to help handle anything that came up.

The tour and the presentation

Upon entering the facility the potential clients would be shown the facility and then sit down for some refreshments and snacks in the conference room. Typically we knew the architect or builder that was providing the prospect to us. We knew the size of the home and its approximate value.

So the presentation started off by asking questions of the prospect (Qualifying). This is done to gain insight to what is important to them and to listen for clues that define their motive to buy. When it became time to present who we were, we had a standard presentation that the salesperson would use to describe who they were, what made them tick, and why they were working at our company. Then the presentation would move to why the Company did what it did, how its processes allowed it to accomplish the level of performance it delivered.

Bronze, Silver, and Gold

Next we utilized a presentation sheet that had each subsystem and a basic representation of the feature set for each. These provided a budget range for each subsystem. As we talked through the feature sets we would ask trial close questions along the way based upon the desired features and the budget for them. At the end we would end up with a list of subsystems and a price range from low to high. This ended with the final close which typically was; “So, if we can deliver all the features that you have said you want in your home for between $x and $y this would make you happy? Because we only do business when it is a win-win situation and our goal is to have nothing but happy clients. We always achieve our goal. How about we get together next week and we’ll walk you through the design of how your new home is going to operate?”

The process works

This process worked very well for us and our clients. It worked because we thought through the whole sales process. We worked out the kinks. We experimented. But, in the end we had a replicable process that we could teach new salespeople.

What is your challenge?

Over the last few years Simply Reliable has brought together great minds to contribute to our smartPRENEUR Blog and smartPRENEUR Podcast series. If you are stuck and need some help they are out there to help you in your business. Here is a link to contact Jason Sayen or Chris Smith, two of our guest smartPRENEUR Faculty that focus on helping you with your processes.

For our part, we think we make the best business operating system focused on creating process. Whether you use smartOFFICE or designMACHINE is immaterial.

We want you to build the best business you can. We want you to be happy. We want you to Create Process.

About the Author

Tom Coffin

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Tom Coffin is CEO/President/Co-Founder of Simply Reliable. He has owned and operated companies in retail, security, Audio/Video, Systems Integration, and Home Automation product manufacturing sector.