It is so tempting to sell what you have and not what your client needs. We have become elitists that force our clients into higher end systems, so much so that we forget to listen to what the client wants. If we’re not making them get more than they actually need, then we’re tearing down our competitors to get the job.
If you want to build a bathroom, you need a sink and a toilet and a shower or a bathtub. A bathroom can be expensive or cheap, and most people understand that concept. Homeowners understand that a tile could be 50 cents or 50 dollars. For the most part, TVs are the same way. Sure, there are “made-up” specs that confuse even the most knowledgeable enthusiasts, yet even this can be broken down and explained.
In our industry, it seems that the issue resides in the process of quoting a system. This could be a home theater system, a whole-house system, or a commercial system (think restaurant or conference room). This is where everything gets mucky. There are so many different ways to skin a cat that it makes it extremely difficult to compete on the dollar alone. I will say I have no issue losing a bid (in the rare times that this happens) to a company that will do the job right. If you lose a bid, it should be due to a better solution or a better relationship, and of course, we know price matters. However, I cringe when I know the company is not equipped and will do it wrong. They lead the sale on the price alone and forget to provide a lasting solution.
This past week I sat with a client to discuss the house he is building. He has two rooms of music in his current home and wants to expand to additional rooms in the new house. His wife is an iOS user, and he is an Android user. He knows he is only going to build once, so he wants a solid system, yet he is only going to listen to music for the time being. He and his wife are in their mid-30s with only one child and are not interested in surround sound.
The first company this client met with spec’d out a control system. I put the system together as a control system and as a Sonos system. His idea was to have the client purchase the control system so he has the ability to upgrade in three to five years. If you’ve been in this business long enough, you know how silly this is, because everything will be different in that timeline. The right choice is Sonos. They only want music, and Sonos is a music only system. They’re not going to add on control of additional subsystems for a long time, if at all, and Sonos works brilliantly on both the Android and iOS side.
I grapple with every system I sell because technology changes at such a rapid pace. I want my clients to be clients for life. I’m not just “working” or “doing a job,” I’m trying to improve someone’s life. Stop rolling your eyes right there. Yes, I know I’m not curing cancer, but music CAN change your day, your mood, and, in turn, it can change your life. People watch TV at the end of the day to escape from life, and we are there to help them with that escape.
Can you make a square peg fit into a round hole? Of course you can, because you’re a stellar sales person. But should you do this? The longer I’m in this business, the more I begin to think I might be a rare breed. I’m not here to make money (well, I’m hoping that is a side effect). I’m here to find the right solution to make your life better, whether that’s in a conference room or in your living room.
I believe there is a place in this world for Sonos, Control4, URC, and Crestron systems. If you listen to your client, you can find the right system for their lifestyle and their budget. I feel the same way about TVs, but that’s another story. Stop telling your clients there is only one option. It is fine to specialize in one of these mentioned systems and be good at it, but don’t tell someone who only can afford Sonos that they’ve made the wrong decision, because they have not. On the flip side, a client that has 11 flat screens and only two people in the house and who is building multiple buildings on the grounds will be perfect candidates for Crestron’s Sonnox and DM products.
The truth that so many in this industry do not want to admit is that there is no wrong answer—just wrong uses. Start listening to your clients and selling them what they need instead of what you want to sell them. I’m not against directing them, as we should do; because we do know everything that’s available. Just don’t use your power for evil.
As Uncle Ben said in Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
How do you find the right system for your clients? Tell me in the comments section below.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is the president of Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.