AVI-SPL Finds Bringing the Stakeholders Together is the Key to Selling Solutions

Turnkey systems that match technology and furniture are seen as long-term,
high value investments.

Shaun Barkman, Global Account Manager with AVI-SPL sat down recently to talk with our Chris Discotto, Salamander Designs’ Director of Sales.

AVI-SPL has been a highly acclaimed expert in AV technology for over 40 years. Coupled with Salamander’s nearly 30 years of experience in the field of superior quality office furniture, the synergy between these two visionary companies has created multiple successful business practices that they share in detail with fellow colleagues.

Shaun began his career in retail selling high quality 2-channel stereo. He transitioned into the commercial world and now stands as a recognized expert in this arena. His entire work life has been centered on selling AV and communications equipment, but along came a spark—more like a Big Bang—that required him to shift gears and consider adding furniture to his portfolio for his clients.

Shaun explained the shift to selling high quality office furniture like this. It began with conversations with the senior management of several of AVI-SPL’s enterprise customers. Partly because of the transformations necessitated by the pandemic, the imperatives became—more than ever before—transforming workspaces as quickly as possible and doing more with less.

But the dilemma facing many (maybe most) organizations was severe. The IT department had the immediate and urgent need to upgrade and repurpose communications and tech, mainly because so many employees began working from home or offsite. They were in the midst of workplace transformations to a more collaborative approach. The need for speed and connecting co-workers and partners became critical.

Despite this very real need, however, many organizations were not prepared with a budget allocation for the needed (but unanticipated) upgrades, and the business downturn made them reluctant to increase expenses above the absolute minimum.

That’s when AVI-SPL started more looking closely at what Salamander brought to the table in terms of: bringing technology and people together while eliminating the need for extensive remodeling, speed to market, standardization yet custom-configurable products and high quality for worthwhile long-term investments. Underlying everything, Salamander provided the building blocks of these modern, necessary turnkey systems.

Approaching commercial clients often meant working with multiple internal departments that typically worked with their own specific focus, all with a common goal but each with a different yardstick, so that meant that Shaun had to work with many departments simultaneously. The conversations often began with IT departments, Shaun explained, as a “What if?” What if AVI-SPL could reduce the time necessary to bring these dramatic changes about—incredibly important to the IT folks—while at the same time appealing to the real estate group with the certainty that changes could all happen without the added cost of room construction and building disruptions, while outfitting spaces in current, state-of-the art ways.

Full ReviewFocusing in on the room types the client had up coming

Stake HoldersAV and Facilities

Discuss both Standard and Custom Capabilities Discussion of materials and design elements

Space Design

AVI-SPL tied both ends of the story together and presented their plans and ideas to the key stakeholders who were responsible for delivering the upgraded technology.

In many instances, the conversations began during demos held at AVI-SPL’s Chicago area showroom. They brought in all the stakeholders from IT, operations, corporate real estate and facility management. They began with the introduction of Salamander Huddle and Huddle Lite products. Those product lines were an instant hit because of their fit and finish, size, and the ability to adapt for virtually any space or room. Plus, they nailed the specific IT requirements in spades.

The next step was a meeting between AVI-SPL and those stakeholders and including experts from Salamander Designs in the discussions. One of the key takeaways from those meetings, per Shaun, was the overriding feeling of engagement on the part of Salamander. It was clear Salamander was more than just a furniture maker—they were in it for the long haul and clearly interested in the satisfaction of the clients and building long-term relationships.

The “light bulb” moments, as Shaun explains it, happened when all sides realized “Wow! This really makes sense.

In other words, they could see their own department objective being solved in the comprehensive, yet simple solution. If they deployed Salamander furniture combined with AVI-SPL’s expertise it meant they could adhere to their standards and do all they set out to do from the standpoints of cost saving, scalability, maintaining standards and speed-to-room-completion.

All parties loved the large Salamander portfolio of standard items, but also the opportunity to go “off book” with customization to match existing furniture and décor really resonated with the real estate and furniture groups.

Through the pre-sale process, clients were able to see the benefits of AVI-SPL working so closely with Salamander. After the highly successful initial team calls where many questions were answered, the next step brought Shaun and Chris Discotto together to work on the plans and designs. AVI-SPL was able to provide engineering drawings and detailed specifications. This created greater efficiencies in furniture design and room installations and virtually eliminated change-orders and minimized scope-creep.

Together AVI-SPL and Salamander created drawings and renderings showing variations that included different furniture and finish options. Shaun reconvened the business groups and presented the illustrated report. This was followed by production of proof-of-concept, not of the hardware, but of the rollout which included installation of nine units initially.

In this instance, the client had preexisting contractual obligations to a specific furniture installer. So AVI-SPL formed a business alliance with that vendor so the program could proceed quickly. Chris Discotto and team also worked with the installer to ensure seamless completion of the project. One byproduct of this cooperation was the creation of a sort of playbook to guide all parties and assure proper installation and operation. This became a key element of strong customer service above and beyond, which is always deeply appreciated by clients, and allowed for ease and consistency.

The success of this project fueled more projects with the same client. The next involved three conference rooms and AVI-SPL moved beyond Unify Huddle solutions to install low-profile cabinets and other Salamander furniture.

That project also involved 14 Huddle spaces, each of which was very much like a private office. And now that AVI-SPL had it down, this project moved with even greater efficiency. When the client began internally debating whether the last three open spaces should be outfitted as private offices or as huddle spaces, one of their team members pointed out that every space that contained Salamander furniture had exactly the same infrastructure—that meant that it was not necessary to predetermine use of the space—it could be easily changed later!

Turning the conversation to other clients, Shaun and Chris outlined the process of qualifying and approaching jobs with new customers. The process always begins with asking questions, all with the intention of getting to one place: can AVI-SPL solve a problem for this client? The second step, per Shaun, is positioning Salamander as a solutions provider, more than just a furniture manufacturer.

As much as Salamander is furniture,” said Shaun, “It’s so much more than that. They enjoy taking all the information and designing the ideal solution.

Because of the ability to fine-tune Salamander products to meet the needs of Cisco and other communication technologies and hardware, AVI-SPL can offer special SKUs to their clients. And the most important part? The custom SKUs are 100% turnkey solutions, and that efficiency has enormous appeal to their customers.

The business practices that Shaun and Chris discuss in this webinar (and you should really listen for yourself) – click here  are more classified as an approach to business instead of a sales plan because they are genuine and sustainable. And, because success depends on fairly deep penetration into a client’s culture. The dynamic that we are all aware of—but rarely talk about—is the divide between some IT/AV people and the facilities managers. Savvy integrators like AVI-SPL know how to navigate these waters and—more importantly—can help the IT/AV groups align.

Shaun acknowledges the need to have buy-in from all groups, saying that reinforcing the value proposition is a key. It’s important to bring all groups together and to educate all stakeholders about the value and benefits of professionally planned AVI-SPL solutions, solutions that often include office furniture from Salamander Designs that brings people and technology together in newfound ways.

Chris added that one thing many companies like is the “lifecycle” of Salamander furniture. Customers use the term “regenerative” to describe the way Salamander product can be re-skinned and redeployed, and/or totally repurposed. With mobile furniture solutions, systems can be rolled from room to room and accommodate every need – fixed or ever-evolving. It makes them view the initial investment as a long-term plan that saves time and money. What they are buying today can work with whatever they may be buying in the future.


No Wall Reinforcement or in-wall cabling needed for display installation saving time and money.

Standardizes / Simplifies Deployment

Adaptable Furniture Systems that support tech, and maximum user engagement.

Meeting Spaces for unified communications and interactive flat panels.

Retrofittable; Move, Re-skin  and accessorize as needs change – Exponentially increasing lifetime value.