The hiring announced in late March of Keith Esterly, former Walmart and Tweeter executive, by HTSA (the Home Technology Specialists of America) as its Chief Learning Architect was a strategic move by the A/V specialty and custom integrator buying group, the rationale for which was detailed for its membership this week at its Spring Conference at the Sheraton Grand Wild Horse Pass Resort in Chandler, Ariz.
“Many of our members got into the business as salespeople,” HTSA Executive Director Jon Robbins remarked. “Now, the business has become more techno-centric,” he said – and with that, “the whole industry has lost the science of selling.” He told media in attendance that the newest goal for the 85-member, 47-vendor group is “to elevate our sales performance to the level of our specification skills.”
“We want to take learning beyond sales training into the human interaction sphere to make members as good at that as they are with design specifications,” Esterly said. “Once people get on board, it’s an order of magnitude change – internally and externally.”
Instruction will be administered in different forms, including at the group’s Regional Master Classes in Chicago and Philadelphia, to which members can send staff, and through presentations at individual members’ locations.
For members who sign on for the three-day sessions, Esterly will craft for each a highly customized, interactive and immersive training experience based on data learned from the business owners at the front end of the process about each’s unique business model. During the information-gathering process, he will also ask for profile information on each participant in the event.
The hoped-for ultimate result? A re-shaping of approaches to customers. “They don’t want tech talk; they want experiential contact - with the technical language living behind the scenes,” said Esterly. Training is oftentimes viewed by staff members like a stretch of jury duty, he said; this program will strive to make the training experience engaging, indelible and meaningful by introducing “relationship science” curricula and by teaching “the power of influence,” informed by “an understanding of custom integration.”
This 2019 initiative follows on the heels of some healthy 2018 business results for the group. According to Robbins, overall group purchases from vendors were up 23 percent in 2018 over 2017, and 73 percent of HTSA vendors were up in volume sales with HTSA members in 2018 over the previous year. Conference attendance, at 326, broke the previous Spring record of 317 last year, he added.
“We’re trailblazing,” Robbins said. “We will continue to make significant investments along with our vendor partners to elevate the performance of our membership.”
Robbins alluded to this program as a worthy successor to the group’s ongoing and highly successful approach to the lighting fixtures category. That program, initiated in 2017, is spearheaded by Tom Doherty, HTSA’s director of new technology initiatives.
Stay tuned to Dealerscope for more reporting about this event in the coming days.