Q&A: Andrew Vloyanetes Explains Three Pillars of Sonos Success in CI Channel
With the recent onboarding of Sonos to the Azione Unlimited group, it seems the beloved audio manufacturer has finally hit a climax to the story that they have been telling for the past year or so.
During the biannual buying group event, Andrew Vloyanetes took a moment to explain the journey Sonos has had, where they want to go, and what's in store for the industry. As the current Head of US Sales and Installed Solutions, Vloyanetes has been at Sonos for nine years, starting in the training and education department, shortly moving over as one of two account managers for the once dubbed Custom Integrator channel.
But it wasn't until he started his position as the Director of Global Business Development that Vloyanetes saw the bigger picture for the CI industry come together.
Technology Integrator: Where exactly does the about-face for Sonos come from? Does it start with Patrick Spence taking the helm a year ago?
Vloyanetes: Yeah I would say that Patrick took over the company there was this new interest around what is this custom integrated channel that we do business in and tell us about the business model. We wanted to understand that a little bit better.
Then, most recently, we hired Patrick's backfill, which was our Chief Revenue Officer [Matthew Siegel] who came on board. He's done an amazing job of starting to understand the customer journey type pieces around the channel, figuring out how do the customers buy the product and getting a good strong foundation around that. If you look into the typical marketing funnel, the installer does the top, almost entire part of that funnel through referral business, through life events, through customers buying a new home or building a new home, and then intersecting with that customer at that event that they're having.
It's just a different sales cycle than what Sonos has been used to in the past. And just really highlighting that's how installers are bringing the product to market.
TI: Expand on how that has changed how you view your audiences and how to differentiate the CI channel from retail.
Vloyanetes: We've developed our strategy where we're top level with what we call Installed Solutions. So Installed Solutions for us is any business where an installer is in a home consultatively selling the product. We break that out into an AV integrator bucket, a security bucket, a national homebuilder bucket, and then we're trying to understand HVAC and electricians and what's going to happen there as well.
And the interesting thing about electrician trade - a trade that has been around for fifty, sixty, seventy years - they had no reason to touch a network as recently as three years ago. Now they're putting WIFI controlled lights in. HVAC, right? No business touching the network. Now they're installing Wifi controllable thermostats.
So you're starting to see some paradigm shifts in these longstanding, massive verticals where we've identified as could be potentials where a user could play an important role. So when we're looking at the AV integrator vertical, [Siegel] has tasked us with come to come to us with a strategy around this vertical.
TI: And what is that strategy?
Vloyanetes: Well, the strategy builds off three verticals. One is trust, the other one's advocacy, and the last one's credibility.
So what you're seeing with us, and we will see more of this roll out with Azione, is that we're trying to build trust with that dealer. We're getting away from the place where we used to do promos retail, but the installers wouldn't have access to it. We would offer special promos directly from Sonos that the installers wouldn't have access to and it starts to break apart that trust part of the equation.
The second piece on trust is, is that we have an amazing field team of account managers now that manage the individual accounts inside the territory. That was a really big focus of ours over the past year. We've started the launch things like dealer tech support numbers, and I laugh because I know that these things are like, like table stakes for a lot of companies, but it's one of those things we just never had employees for, and now we have a dealer install number. We also came to the market with a freight program which was unheard of at Sonos.
Just a lot of these smaller things that are adding up to the trust bucket to say, 'Look, dealer, we're here to help support your business.'
On the advocacy front, we've done a lot of work with people like Richard and some of the trade publications to better understand what's making the trade tick. What are you hearing or what do you see? How can I help influence your reader base around the product and show why Sonos is good for their business?
And then the last piece is really about credibility. We launched our works with Sonos platform recently, and the first list of companies on that works with Sonos program were almost all solely focused in the CI space. So one of our most amazing partners is Dana Innovations who developed an audio express keypad specifically for Sonos. We went deep with integration with Crestron and developing our programs for their specific dealers. We even have a few more partners to come later this year. That helps us build out the credibility part of the equation.
So, those are the three main pillars that we're working with, and it's, it's the strategy is actually playing out really well.
TI: Looking from a hardware standpoint, obviously voice control is a big deal but it doesn't seem like you want to kick longstanding control companies out. What's the sweet spot for being a supplemental tool in the industry and not stepping on any toes?
Vloyanetes: We don't want to be the smart home operating system inside the home. We want to be able to participate in whatever operating system is going to be inside that home. So if it's a home driven by Crestron, we have our platform with API's that allow us to integrate with their system for two main focuses.
Really what we're trying to chase after, especially with voice, but with kind of integration with Crestron, with Control4, with Savant is to decrease time to music. That's super important to us. How quick does it actually take to get something playing? So for a customer that might be your voice, which we think is the ultimate time to music. For example, that might be walking into the house and pressing a button and the shades come down, the lights turned on, and music starts playing. That's decreasing time to music.
We also think that we have two different listeners at Sonos, one is lean forward and the other is lean back. The lean forward is 'I want to listen to Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, and lean back is more of a Pandora listener; 'I want to play jazz' in the background. Partnerships with Dana Innovations iPort product keeps that customer, who just walked into the kitchen, just hit a button and their favorite Pandora station started playing.
I think that that's where we'd really to be in that connected home story, but we're not world dominance, smart home, take over everything and have it be a DIY type product. For us, it's squarely focused on being the audio platform for any home.
TI: Last question. Why Azione? Why Richard?
Vloyanetes: For us, it was two things. Richard and I really hit it off day one conversation. Actually, I'll backup once. It really started with Jason Sloan from Dana Innovations. Jason and I sat down and I kind of laid out the plan of where we were trying to shape things and the three pillars that we want to go after and just asked for his candor and to help me out, help me understand where I should do this, how do I do this and really guided me towards Richard.
He told me to go sit down with Richard and have a conversation with him and be an open book. He may say Azione is not for you and you may say Azione is not for me, but just hear him out. So Richard and I spent the better part of the day going through the strategy of what it was we were trying to accomplish and just had a really good dialogue that worked out really well.
We've got great relationships with the other buying groups that are out there. We feel that the first one for us to take a step into, Azione was really the right fit. It was consumable, it's easy to get our arms around it because we don't have a ton of people resources dedicated to this. Being able to have something that's consumable and able to profile the dealers is important to us too. We really want candid, varied feedback. We don't want a bunch of "me too" type feedback.
We've already seen it in the first two months. Since we've been part of Azione and the engagement we're getting from the dealers on the slack channels that we have and the feedback that we're feeding into our product team, has given us a much quicker time to responses and these were all the things that we believed in from Richard from approaching the group and it's been a phenomenal relationship for the first two months.