Recently I found myself in need of a new garbage disposal, in-sink grinder thing for our kitchen. Our previous one had failed in a spectacular fashion, with a hole that blew through the side of it, spewing tons of water out of it when we ran our dishwasher. Like most disposals, ours was located in a cabinet under our kitchen sink, so we didn’t noticed the mini-flood until it filled the cabinet with water and then it overflowed out all over the kitchen floor.
To say that I know absolutely nothing about garbage disposals would not be totally true. I mean, I know the how to use the switch on the wall to turn the thing on and off and I know how to reach down into its disgusting and potentially deadly maw to retrieve some piece of silverware that has decided to end its life in the most grisly fashion possible. But because this unit came with our home, I had never had the need to shop for a disposal.
So, I knew I needed something and I had a basic idea of how it worked, but beyond that I was pretty much a total noob. And in many ways, this put me into the same position of many of our customers when they find themselves needing a new component and coming to us to get advice.
When I got to the Home Depot I headed to the disposal aisle and looked at the wares. They had several units set up ranging in price from $79 to $299, and a nifty display that let you hear the relative loudness of the different units, with the cheaper ones sounding like you were throwing handfuls of change and chunks of metal into a roaring jet turbine and the flagship models giving off a low kitten’s purr.
I stood there for a bit pawing over the different models and trying to decide which level of luxury my disposed and grinded food deserved when a Home Depot employee headed over and asked if I could use any help. I explained my situation and pointed to the model that I was considering—a middle-of-the-road affair costing $179–and asked which one he would buy. With no hesitation whatsoever he pointed to the cheapest model on the shelf, the Badger 5, which was a plain-looking unit with a Spartan black, plastic housing, and a small motor that made bone-grinding sounds like what you would hear in a Saw movie.
I pointed to the model I had been considering, the stately named Evolution Select wrapped in a luxe red metal case, and asked if he would spend the extra $90 for that unit and he said, “Hell, no! Not in a thousand years.”
Now, on the one hand, I certainly appreciated the man’s honesty. (However, to not even be willing to consider that in a thousand years his needs for disposing of sink garbage might not change frankly just seemed a bit short-sighted in my opinion.) He could have just as easily said, “Hell, yeah! In fact, you should go all the way to the flagship model! That baby makes grinding up your garbage like a day at Disneyland! I can’t wait to rush home after work and just grind away!”
But the experience also gave me some great insights into the sales process and how I sell AV gear to my customers.
I felt some brand affinity to InSinkErator as that was my previous model and it had served me well for more than 10 years. In my case, the salesperson explained that sticking with that brand would make installation of my new model easier. Sold! How often do we hear a customer say, “I’ve owned XXX products all my life?” Unless there is some significant reason why that brand isn’t right for them (“I’m sure you did love your Pioneer plasma, but unfortunately they got out of the TV business several years ago…”), why swim against the current of their emotions? We sell Yamaha, Marantz, and Denon receivers and when someone comes in with a strong loyalty to one of those brands, that’s the line I steer them toward. And if your company doesn’t sell the brand they love, it’s pretty easy to say something like, “Yes, XXX does make some great products, but unfortunately we aren’t a dealer for them. Can I show you something we like just as well?”
The Middle Ground
Just as the top of the line is usually overkill for many people, the bottom of the line is often not the right choice either. When presented with a good, better, best scenario, many people prefer and, benefit from, the Better. Especially with modern AV gear where the middle-of-the-line options are often packed with features and performance that exceed most user’s needs, and that would have been considered flagship just a few years ago.
Know the Extremes
Sometimes the extremes (the good and the best) are the right call, and we shouldn’t shy away from prescribing them when they are the right solution. In my home system, for example, I have the flagship Marantz AV-8801 pre-pro, and it’s not because I just wanted to donate the extra money to D&M. You will encounter high-end enthusiasts whose passion for AV—and whose budget—demand the best performance. Or they might need a specific feature—9-channel processing, Zone 2 HDMI, 192/24-bit streaming—that only comes at the top. Conversely, sometimes the entry-level is the right call. How many times does someone need just a basic amplifier to drive an audio zone or when a budget speaker would fit the bill?
Explain the Step-Ups
In the case of the disposal, for the extra $90 you got a metal case that sure seems like it will last longer than the plastic housing of the cheap one. You got a more powerful motor and a dual-grind stage in case you ever needed to dispose of a body Hitchcock style. You got twice the length on the warranty. And you got much quieter operation. (“What do I care about how quiet it is?!” my Home Depot helper groused. “It’s not like my wife and I are grinding up food in a library or something!”) Those are all valid step-up points for $90. Sure, I might have decided that I didn’t need any of those features, or that the $90 was more important in my wallet than Home Depot’s coffers, but we should always be able to explain what the ABC300 offers over the XYZ100.
Ultimately, people are going to buy what they feel is right for them. I opted to go against the advice of my salesperson and spend the extra $90 because amortized over (hopefully) 10 years of life, I’m willing to invest an extra $9 a year for quieter operation and hopefully less clogging. But if we do our jobs correctly, we’ll be able to lead them to making the best choice for their system now and (hopefully) years to come.
John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.