Sam Cavitt (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of Paradise Theater in Kihei, Hawaii, and Carlsbad, California. People have been selling home theaters for more than 20 years–certainly long enough to have gotten it right. Unfortunately, it has been long enough for some very bad habits to develop in a sales process that should be done in the most professional way possible. When we in the industry fail in this capacity we fail ourselves, our businesses, and most importantly our customers.
I’ve observed at least five selling bad habits and how they affect the private theater business.
While it is understood that “qualifying” a client is important, and at some point, a budget needs to be established, doing so at the wrong time limits both the opportunity to the integrator but more importantly fixes the client’s attention on cost rather than exploring possibilities. It is disheartening to see a client that discovers experiential possibilities that cannot be obtained after an arbitrary price ceiling has been established.
On a recently completed theater project, we took a very circuitous route to meet the client’s performance requirements. This was clearly the result of assumptions, both by the client’s representative and the integrator. “Don’t go crazy” was the instruction from the client rep to the integrator, who “interpreted” this as a comment about price. The client rep that blinked at even this inadequate budget finally approved it. When we eventually had the opportunity to meet the client, it became clear that a higher performance design was desired. Unfortunately the client rep again “translated” his client’s wishes. The client, frustrated by his team’s failure to listen to his desires, asked us what we would do if price was no object. Only then did the high-performance private theater take shape. Ultimately, these assumptions cost the client time and money in revisions.
Once your client understands their dream theater will be the result of an investment and that result is important to them, outline your plan to deliver. Describe how you will accommodate the engineering, planning, design, equipment, and fulfillment required to deliver your client’s vision. Unfortunately, much of what is offered in a home theater is based on convenience rather than results. It is much simpler to sell and install a system into a room than it is to properly engineer a room, then integrate the system, décor, and engineering to deliver a complete solution. Likewise, it is more complicated to design a quiet room environment; so many sales people decide that the “client doesn’t need isolation” and merely specify interior acoustical treatments. Thus, only a segment of vital acoustical considerations are offered. This nod to convenience eliminates much opportunity for integrators, as well-engineered rooms often inspire clientele to upgrade components, not to mention the sale of acoustical equipment and materials. To the client, a limited-project either leads to a partial solution, as is the case when only the system is sold, or a compromised experience, as would be the case when a noisy room masks the detail from their audio components.
There is no penalty for early consideration of design parameters and always a great benefit in results, often with increased efficiency and savings. Why then do sales people persist in procrastination when it comes to hiring theater designers? We think it is because there is urgency to close the sale of the system and anything else is perceived as a distraction.
In contrast to these bad habits, a performance-driven sales process will lead to desirable results. This process ultimately has the client asking the integrator for more, rather than asking to pay less.
Also help the client realize that the results are important to them. Although this seems obvious, we hear too often about clients who infer that performance is not that important or discernable to them. Develop a discovery process that not only enables the sales person to learn about the clients, but also enlightens the client on the unrealized possibilities and how these are important to them. Talk about their past experience in private theaters (theirs or others); have them provide a description of their envisioned room; ask them to describe how they and their family will use the room together and individually. Once your client understands that their dream theater will be the result of an investment and that result is important to them, outline your plan to deliver.