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What Your Lighting Manufacturing Partners Are Saying About You (Behind Your Back)

What Your Lighting Manufacturing Partners Are Saying About You (Behind Your Back)

By Scott Costa, Publisher, tED magazine

Remember that time you received the results of a survey and you didn’t like what you saw? Your mind quickly goes to one of two places.

  1. That doesn’t apply to me, or
  2. That survey is so wrong

And maybe this one fits one of those categories. But maybe it doesn’t.

I tracked down a number of lighting manufacturers, and let them talk with me, off the record, about how their distributor partners are doing when it comes to selling not just lighting, but next generation lighting that may be connected or “smart” in the future.

Keep in mind, LED lighting in general is a massive industry with millions, if not billions, of revenue potential over the next 15-20 years. The Department of Energy expects LED sales alone to reach more than $63 billion a year by 2020.

That’s a lot of money. I don’t need to remind you about this, but you should get in on some of that money.

Here’s one of the quotes that really stood out to me.

“If we think a project is complicated, we’ll just use a lighting specifier and leave the distributor out.”

Despite the emergence of many lighting specialist teams being formed by many distributors, the manufacturer still does not feel confident in the knowledge or expertise of those teams on some projects. So distribution is skipped, leaving countless dollars for others to earn.

Another quote.

“The young guys, especially the counter guys, are great when it comes to connected lighting.  We do the training and provide marketing materials. But we just are not seeing any results from the outside sales guys, so we are doing a lot more on our own.”

There’s that millennial thing again. The young guys are embracing the technology, and using the apps to control lighting, maybe even in their own homes. So they are finding it easy, and dare I say “fun,” to sell. But while I did tell this manufacturer that their connected lighting system seems complicated, he pointed out that it’s as easy as using any other app and was actually able to talk me through it while we were on the telephone. This might be a good time to dig that reverse mentoring playbook back out and see if you can get those young guys to show the older generation how the connected systems can be a successful sale.

I followed up by asking if this manufacturer preferred working with younger sales teams, and while it stopped short of saying that, the company did say it is moving into the future, is in the planning stages of its next generation of smart lighting, and would like to see its partners grow together.

The next quote:

“Our distributor partners can’t explain the energy efficiency savings, even though we have an easy way for them to find it.”

That one is pretty much the reason LED lighting exists in the first place. But that’s what I heard, and that is easily fixed. It’s never good when one of your partners is complaining. So don’t give them a reason. Look it up online, and keep it with all of your sales people all the time.

One more quote:

“Our customers want to see more than just the next generation of lighting. They want us to jump ahead three or four generations. I’m not sure all of our distributor partners are ready for that.”

I actually had to track down some contractors to see what they had to say about this. And, for the most part, they agreed. Many contractors said they aren’t looking ahead to 2018, they are looking ahead to 2020 and beyond with the products they want to buy and install. Admittedly, many of those contractors who agreed with the quote were Generation X or millennials, but they all made the point that they are looking to the distant future for products and not the immediate future.

So what happens now? You had the opportunity to see what lighting manufacturers are saying. You can’t walk away, because there is too much money on the table to be made.

This is a good time to re-assess your lighting specialist team. Make sure they are aware of the opportunities. Also, here’s a simple one: Demand the training you need. What are the nuances to the app? What will it do today and in the future? What are the money savings? How do you want me to sell this stuff?

I am going to give this a while. Then, next summer, I’ll track down some of the same (and some other) lighting manufacturers and we will see if anything has changed.

I figure if dozens of millions of dollars are at stake, we might as well work together to get some of these problems solved.

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