in April 2006
Church Leaders Part 2
By By David Lee Jr., PhD
Winning the contract.
Editor’s Note: This is a continuation
of David Lee’s “Contractor’s Corner”
discussion about working with church leaders, published
in April 2005.
The Ninth Annual Worship Center Survey
conducted by Sound & Communications [mailed
with the March 2006 issue] indicated that the House of Worship
market is one of the most prominent purchasing sectors of
new communication technologies in the United States and
will be continue to be for many more years. This continues
to be good news for systems integrators.
I spoke with more than 500 church
leaders in 2005 and early 2006, and I found that many are
trying to understand and address the communication needs
of people in the experience culture that prevails in the
early part of the new century. They are also trying to decide
how communication technologies can be used within existing
worship traditions. In addition, local church leaders are
struggling with the decision of who they choose to help
them decide which technologies they need to purchase.
As systems integrators, Sound
& Communications readers obviously believe that
you can help local church leaders select and use media technologies
that can provide worship experiences desired by many people
in the early part of the 21st century. The question is,
then, during the innovation-decision making process, what
attributes does your organization have that can persuade
local church leaders to award you the contract? If I knew
the absolute answer, I would be a gazillionaire. However,
Everett Rogers has developed a theory that has been found
to be reliable in more than 5000 case studies (see Diffusion
of Innovations, Fifth Edition, by Everett M. Rogers,
Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group) that can help
us address this question.
Rogers describes an innovation
as an idea. Your company then is an “innovation.”
During the innovation-decision process, a decision-maker—in
our context, a church leader—must obtain a significant
amount of information about an innovation (your company).
This information helps the decision-maker become persuaded
that the innovation he adopts will be the best for his organization.
In this new century, a church leader can obtain information
about an innovation from numerous communication channels,
such as television, the internet, brochures, salespeople,
friends, and from both unhappy and happy users (the most
effective source of persuasion).
For a church leader to decide to
adopt or reject an integrator, he must obtain critical knowledge
about the company. It is up to you to provide that information
through communication channels. Rogers argues that perceived
attributes found within your information and your actions
generally determine whether or not a church leader will
adopt your skills to address his communication needs.
Rogers’ theory suggests that
five primary attributes help to explain the adoption
or rejection of an innovation: (a) relative advantage, (b)
compatibility, (c) complexity, (d) trialability and (e)
observability. Applied in our context as systems integrators,
these five primary attributes can explain (and in some cases
predict) why a local church leader rejects or adopts your
company and gave you the contract to consult and upgrade
his facility’s media technologies.
"Relative advantage” suggests
that an innovation is perceived to be better than a competing
idea. “Compatibility” suggests that an innovation
is perceived to be consistent with the existing values,
past experiences and needs of potential adopters. “Complexity”
is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as difficult
to use. “Trialability” is the opportunity to
experiment with the innovation on a limited basis. “Observability”
is the degree to which the results of an innovation are
visible to others. In brief, innovations that are perceived
as having greater relative advantage, compatibility, less
complexity, trialability and observability generally would
be adopted over other innovations or, in this context, your
Let’s apply Rogers’
ideas and additional food for thought to help determine
a thoughtful approach toward winning the contract. First,
consider what advantages your organization has over your
competitors. How and through what channels can you communicate
these advantages to church leaders? My tip: Building genuine
face-to-face relationships with church leaders is the strongest
form of communication. Although it requires a lot of effort,
this provides a greater advantage toward winning the contract
over integrators who rely more on less personal forms of
Next, consider compatibility. How
do you know that your ideas and values are compatible with
the church leader and social system at the church? My tip:
Do your homework. Visit services at the church, identify
the church leaders, study the denominational values, style
of worship, and even identify which of your employees might
best adapt and relate to the particular congregation.
Third, consider complexity. Is
your company able to respond quickly and clearly to the
church leader’s needs? My tip: Be professional. Present
a sense of calm and confidence, adapt to ever-changing scenarios,
and clearly communicate ideas and plans. Make the relationship
as comfortable as possible.
Fourth, consider trialability.
How can the church leader and others in his social network
get to know you and test-drive your abilities? My tip: Set
up a scenario where they can test you. An effective company
website with promotional incentives to church leaders offers
a good introduction (and they can gain a sense of compatibility).
Send the church leader and support cast a handwritten note,
your company T-shirt or coffee cup, along with your email
address and/or cell-phone number. And lunch works well once
you get in the door. Your actions and words are your test-drive.
Fifth, consider observability.
Think of local church leaders you have served successfully.
My tip: Get the church leader in contact with other worship
clients who are happy with your work. Their positive recommendations
are the strongest form of persuasion.
The version of perceived attributes
theory that is applied here provides us insight into the
mind of the church leader during the persuasion stage of
the innovation-decision process. Clearly, winning the contract
hinges on both our genuine skills as systems integrators
and our ability to find creative and credible ways to display
our best attributes to local church leaders. There is no
doubt that this requires a significant amount of work. There
is also no doubt that working smart and hard at communicating
with church leaders that you are best suited to meet their
needs offers the greatest opportunity for you to win the
Lee, PhD, is CEO of Lee Communication Inc., and a member
Sound & Communications’ Technical Council.
He travels extensively around the
world consulting with churches, organizations and governments.
comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.