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Making The Leap

Making The Leap
  • Cultivating Relationships Puts The Wind In Cory Schaeffer’s Sales At Listen Technologies

SCN: Your earliest role within the AV world was national sales manager for Gentner Communications from 1988- 1997, where you managed the distribution channel for the pro audio and teleconferencing markets. What did you discover about this industry that made you so dedicated to its progress from the very start?

Schaeffer reaps the rewards of a challenging paragliding solo flight at Tiger Mountain in Washington.

Cory Schaeffer: Opportunity! I discovered really great people in the industry that were “open and willing” to give you an opportunity. I was fortunate that many people in this industry were willing to step up and help me right from the very start. Some I asked to help me, and others just stepped in and helped me without me even realizing it. People were very willing to share and give their experience to me so that I could learn more quickly. There was so much to know, and sometimes I felt like I was drinking from a fire hose. The passion I have for this industry was sparked by the passion I could feel in others. I feel that many people supported my passion because it also fueled theirs. I saw nothing but opportunity when I first entered into this industry, and I still see it today.

SCN: Following your years at Gentner, you went on to manage five rep firms and 400 resellers in the western states region for Bassett Sales Corporation. Then you continued your involvement in growing the communications industry by becoming a founder of Listen Technologies Corporation in 1998. What changes have you seen within the sales process as our industry evolves from a hardware-centric model to that of more comprehensive service provider?

CS: I do see a shift in focus off of hardware to a process of consultative selling. Consultative selling can be done in person and on the internet. It used to be just about person-to-person. Now we have many tools to help us sell, and I find that exciting.

SCN: As a member of the InfoComm Board of Directors, what challenges would you say that our industry faces, and how can we begin to find the solutions required to continue business growth?

CS: Education—at all levels. Education to the end user about our industry and the value our consultants and dealers bring to projects. We have a great deal of knowledge and experience in our consultants and dealers. Our industry needs to do a better job at communicating this and we need to do a better job of understanding our own “value.” I’ve heard from others that are troubled when they hear that the IT industry is coming into AV or when end users get on the web to buy product and/or services. The end users are using the tools they are comfortable with and what they know, which tends to be the IT industry and Google. We need to first understand and believe our own value, then we need to get better at letting IT and end users access it.

We need to embrace that we are professionals and that we market and sell ourselves as professionals. Instead of resisting it, we can embrace it and learn how they work and learn to work with them. To be viewed as a more professional industry, I think this will require our industry to create and embrace standards. Standards are common in most other industries. InfoComm sees this and we are working on creating standards. We recently received our first ANSI standard for The Audio Coverage Uniformity Performance Standard. This is just the first of many standards that are being worked on by the InfoComm Performance Standards Planning Committee. This committee has worked hard to achieve this. They do it because they want to improve the AV industry. I want to encourage everyone in our industry to get involved in creating the standards, as it will take several people to pull this off. The committee work is volunteer and very rewarding. The networking that happens in these committees is also a huge reward.

Cory Schaeffer helped found Listen Technologies in 1998. She currently serves as vice president of sales and marketing at the company..

SCN: How would you complete the following statements?

Sales is about more than... just getting a purchase order. It’s about building a relationship that can last a career. Roy E. Chitwood of Max Sacks International says that a good salesperson helps a customer to “buy now and wear well.” This means that our job as sales people is to help our clients make the right choices, not just the least expensive choice. We would be doing a disservice by talking a client into something just because it’s less expensive and fits the budget, if it really won’t work for them over the long run. Conversely, if a client’s needs are really short term, there is no sense in selling them the most expensive version of a product. Customers remember when you do right by them. They become more than just a customer— they trust you. Trust is the single most important part of any salesperson/client relationship. Building relationships is the most rewarding part of sales.

Technology is more than... building new products. It’s about giving people something that will enrich their lives and make them more productive or more comfortable. Often it’s bringing them technology that they didn’t even realize they needed.

Paragliding through the air, scuba diving in the sea, and skiing through the snow makes me... feel completely free and amazed at all I can see. It invigorates me and can scare me to death at the same time. I love doing things that push me outside of my comfort zone.

Kirsten Nelson is a freelance content producer who translates the expertise and passion of technologists into the vernacular of an audience curious about their creations. Nelson has written about audio and video technology in all its permutations for almost 20 years; she was the editor of SCN for 17 years. Her experience in the commercial AV and acoustics design and integration market has also led her to develop presentation programs and events for AVIXA and SCN, deliver keynote speeches, and moderate and participate in panel discussions. In addition to technology, she also writes about motorcycles—she is a MotoGP super fan.