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Inside the Pro AV Channel

The sales channel for professional AV products is as vast and varied as the companies within it.


Staying Close, Offering More Tools

For many manufacturers, past success was simply about providing the best technology and products. Jay Dellostretto, vice president of sales for Sony Electronics' Broadcast and Production Systems Division, points out that we are no longer doing business in simple times. "In the past, it was about winning the format war. Today, there are many formats and increased competition as well as new applications. We need to provide resellers with even more reasons to support Sony–like direct touch (sales support, training, and planning) and programs that drives sales and more profit opportunities."

Integrators provide essential field testing for manufacturers, says Dawn Meade of Advanced Video Systems, which passes along information about bugs.

Integrators provide essential field testing for manufacturers, says Dawn Meade of Advanced Video Systems, which passes along information about bugs.

Credit: Bruce Weller

Alan Stoddard, vice president of U.S. sales for AMX, adds, "The huge number of players that can influence the sale are what challenges us the most. Every person involved is savvy and opinionated, making the channel very complex and dynamic. For us, it's about becoming more cognizant of interactions and building an integrated sales team that reflects each part of the channel."

Sony employs a multimarket channel strategy that includes direct sales, resellers, integrators, and third- party resellers via distribution. Dellostretto says that training the channel about new product models is a challenge due to the rapid pace of development. "It used to be about features and benefits but that's only part of the story. Now, we field questions about efficiency and how our products fit into a workflow," he explains.

Similarly, there is channel demand for AMX to improve their tools and training.

"It is all about knowledge and training at the moment," says Stoddard. "It is hard for sales reps to slow down and get the knowledge they need. As a result, we are looking at alternative training methods to eliminate the need to gather salespeople in the same room. We are putting more emphasis into courses, certifications, and helping with sales implementation."

Stoddard says that emphasis is needed because integrators and end-users are dealing with complex issues such as networking and device interactions. "AMX provides knowledge topics on how to work with a large network, a wireless implementation, and complications or prioritization issues," he says. "These are relatively complex problems that require a level of proficiency and skill needed to use our products."

Sony has made efforts to improve the resources, programs, and tools it offers the channel, as well as deliver more efficient communications and education. "The biggest change is in our execution, for example, using the Internet to handle messaging, order management, training, and pricing," says Dellostretto.

In January, Sony held its first virtual trade show for resellers and customers that provided presentations, live chat rooms, and online product demos. "We still believe in direct touch, but we align the approach based on product strategy and customer needs," he adds. "In this economy, we have to stay close to our customers and help drive their business more efficiently. We have to listen and have the courage to change."

Linda Seid Frembes is a Pro AV contributing editor.

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