AVI-SPL Takes a Victory Lap at its Sales Acceleration Summit


This is now my third year attending AVI-SPL’s annual sales event and the big news in 2016 is success and growth. AVI-SPL enjoyed 20% growth in 2015 and entered 2016 with their largest backlog of orders in history, practically guaranteeing this year will be very successful as well.

Things were getting a little scary for the integrator community in recent years. The big shift in collaboration technology from hardware to software and services demanded serious changes. Could they transition to a more service focused sales model? Would the margins be there for the sales teams? Would the new plug and play world reduce the need for integrators? While these concerns were (and remain) legitimate, they pale in scope to the currently massive market demand for collaboration technology refreshes and new deployments.

It may be tempting to deny AVI-SPL credit for their banner year in 2015. If the market is growing, of course the leading integrator is going to have a good year. But when you consider the fact that AVI-SPL grew at twice the rate of the market as a whole, it becomes clear that they deserve a lot of credit. There is more going on here than being in the right place at the right time. AVI-SPL is not just along for the ride in this collaboration boom, they are helping to drive it by communicating to their customers that now is the time to refresh and expand their collaboration environments.

The Sales Acceleration Summit is a week long event, with one day set aside for media and analysts. The day was split into three portions, a roundtable with the executive team, the partner expo, and an in-depth personal briefing.

AVI-SPL SAS2016 Executive Briefing

AVI-SPL’s executive team briefs the analyst and media guests

Executive Roundtable

CEO John Zettel (second from the left in the picture above) and his team gave a brief presentation and took questions from a group of analysts and writers. Also in attendance were Ken Peterson (SVP of Sales and Ops, East Region), Jeff Davis (COO), Lance Bowers (SVP of Sales and Ops, West Region), Kelly Bousman (SVP of Marketing), and Dale Bottcher (SVP of Sales). There were a number of interesting takeaways.

  • AVI-SPL achieved Microsoft Gold Certification. This is a big deal, even for a company the size of AVI-SPL. This doesn’t just give their customers assurance that AVI-SPL can support their Microsoft environments, it allows AVI-SPL to actually sell and support Skype for Business licenses. This adds a completely new element to the AVI-SPL sales dynamic. Typically AVI-SPL would enter an existing Skype4B environment and help them expand through Skype enabled meeting rooms and desktop setups. With MS Gold Certification, AVI-SPL can enter a fresh environment, start by selling a few hundred, or thousand, Skype4B licenses, and then begin the expansion process. In other words, it vastly expands their potential client base, and allows them to be the sole provider for these clients. It is a complete game-changer.
  • Kelly Bousman described how AVI-SPL is winning deals based on the strength of their customer service. They may be the biggest integrator, but they do have plenty of competition. She shared an anecdote where a potential customer challenged AVI-SPL and two competitors to a customer service showdown. They called help desks from the three companies. The first company didn’t offer help at those hours, while the second company’s number didn’t connect all all. AVI-SPL’s help desk answered and was able to direct them to a technician knowledgeable about the question being asked. Needless to say, AVI-SPL got that deal.
  • Dale Bottcher described a new tool they have developed to allow customers to work hand in hand with their sales reps designing and creating collaborative rooms. This includes everything from picking out the cameras, microphones, monitors and other physical hardware, to choosing the services and infrastructure to support it all. As today’s collaboration products are far more understandable and accessible to users, it makes sense to bring them into the decision making process to ensure a higher level of satisfaction.
  • 20% growth requires expansion. The team shared their revamped recruiting and apprenticeship program. Acquiring new talent, and providing incentives for them to learn and stay with the team, is a big priority.
  • They described the balance they are achieving between providing clients with all relevant options, and creating a consistent and standardized experience. There is no “one size fits all” collaboration space. Different clients, and even different teams within client companies, have different needs. While AVI-SPL has the resources and partners to support all possible needs, they don’t want their clients to wind up with a mish-mash of workflows. While there is no “top down template” for use cases, the sales teams are taught to prioritize providing a consistent experience for client users.
  • Finally, they described a big part of their strategy to convince companies that now is the time to expand and upgrade their collaboration tools. Companies are desperate to attract new talent to drive innovation and success. A big part of enticing millennials is providing a modern workflow. If you look at recruitment materials from tech firms, you will often see them boast that they use Slack or similar tools, or support remote working. AVI-SPL is explaining to their customer base that updating their collaboration environment isn’t just about providing better meetings and workflow for today’s employees, but will help to attract the next generation.

AVI-SPL SAS 2016 Partner Expo

Partner Expo

AVI-SPL’s list of preferred partners includes dozens of our industry’s top tier collaboration technology providers. The expo itself is larger than some trade shows I have attended, with nearly 40 exhibitor booths. The exhibitors all realize the importance of explaining their value propositions to the most important sales team in the industry. Whether or not AVI-SPL believes their customers will benefit from a product can make or break the future of that product. With literally hundreds of AVI-SPL sales people at this event, it can be as important as Enterprise Connect or InfoComm to a collaboration technology provider.

AVI-SPL SAS2016 Partner Expo
The exhibit hall included the usual suspects in terms of AV heavyweights, monitor manufacturers, control system designers, and video technology providers. I spent time chatting with the product managers at several companies, who were very excited for the opportunity to directly interface with the AVI-SPL sales team.

Let’s Do Video Personal Briefing

The day ended with a personal briefing from AVI-SPL’s experts in collaboration technology and services. In addition to some of the execs mentioned above, I also got to meet with Joe Laezza (SVP UCC & Service Solutions), Lou Chiorazzi (VP UC Practice), Frank Mehr (SVP Research and Development), Daniel Rogers (VP Global Channels & Partner Alliances), and Linda Civitillo (VP UCC Solutions). I was pleased to learn that AVI-SPL is onboard with the persistent team messaging phenomena. In particular, they are selling Cisco Spark and working to help users wrap the workflow into their collaboration environments. Speaking of Cisco, we spent some time discussing the implications of the big Acana purchase. Bottom line, AVI-SPL has a great relationship with Cisco and this can only help them with their Acano based sales and services while we all wait to see how Cisco will eventually wrap it up into Spark.

We also spent some time discussing Unify ME, AVI-SPL’s own virtual meeting room (VMR) service. AVI-SPL is not looking to be a stand alone service provider. However, they stand ready to support their customers who need VMRs, but don’t want to purchase infrastructure or create their own clouds. In other words, they aren’t going to go out and compete with the service provide community for fresh VMR accounts, but they are ensuring that existing AVI-SPL customers can get everything they need from AVI-SPL.

All in all, it was a fantastic opportunity to get exclusive insight into how the biggest, and most successful, integrator in our space is not just surviving, but thriving during our current industry sea changes. I will not be waiting until the next annual summit to touch base with the team, as things are moving quickly. If you have any questions about AVI-SPL and its strategy for collaboration in 2016, please let me know in the comments and I will be sure to dig further.


About Author

David Maldow is the Founder & CEO of Let's Do Video and has been covering the visual collaboration industry, and related technologies, for over a decade. His background includes 5 years at Wainhouse Research, where he managed the Video Test Lab and evaluated many of the leading solutions at the time. David has authored hundreds of articles and thought pieces both at Telepresence Options, where he was managing partner for several years, as well as here at Let's Do Video. David often speaks at industry events and webinars as well as hosting the LDV Video Podcast.

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