The Secrets of Selling to Houses of Worship
If you play your cards right, churches can be among your most loyal customers. Many of them are in continual expansion mode, and if they feel like you take good care of them, you stand to be their go-to firm whenever they’re upgrading their facilities or building new ones. But while houses of worship may seem like a good bet, not all AV companies are cut out to work with them. For one, if you’re not into church, chances are that churches won’t be into you.
“A lot of people want a quick decision: I want to sit down with you, I want to tell you the plan, I want to tell you how many millions of dollars it’s going to cost, and I need a deposit,” said Andrew Stone, production manager at Church on the Move in Tulsa, OK. “And a lot of [churches] are like, ‘Whoa! We haven’t even been to dinner. What’s your wife’s name? Do you attend church? Do you have children? Do
“Churches know instantly if you’re a company that lives and breathes church, and [if] you’re involved in your own church, and [if] you believe in ministry—they know right away, they sense that,” said Doug Hood, president of AV design and integration firm Custom Sound Designs (CSD Group). Hood said that he leads worship at his own church, and that his employees are all involved, at some level, in their own churches as well. “If you’re involved in your church and you’ve got a real heart for helping them, and you’re sincere in that, then it’s great. But it’s not the type of business where you, as an AV contractor, can wake up one morning and say, ‘Hey, these churches are buying a lot of stuff—let’s get in on the action.’ It’s quite a bit deeper than that.”
Know Your Client
At CSD, Hood and his team document what is known internally as a New Church Profile, which tackles questions such as: What is this church all about? How does it communicate now? How does its leadership envision its church communicating in the next five to 10 years? Are all communications happening on just one campus, or are there multiple sites to consider? Does this church stream its services to a worldwide audience? “All of those answers then directly impact the type of technologies that we need to design for them,” Hood said.
To gather this information, the CSD team is usually in contact with various members of the church. From senior pastors and worship leaders, the AV firm can gain a high-level perspective on the church’s vision, while conversations with the people who are actually going to be operating the AV technology can help systems designers understand, for example, how tech-savvy the end users are (which, in turn, influences things like system programming). Finally, to hammer out the nitty-gritty details of what specific equipment will go into the facility, CSD generally works with church tech directors.
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