Selling Against the Mass Luxury Trend

Client expectations have intensified in the past decade, putting increased pressure on your margins, workmanship, and timeliness.
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Clients Today Compare Almost Everything They Buy from You to the Apple Experience

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Ira Friedman is the CEO of Bay Audio, a manufacturer of custom speaker solutions. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School. Client expectations have intensified in the past decade, putting increased pressure on your margins, workmanship, and timeliness. Frustration levels have increased as clients perceive a widening gap between what they want, and what they get. You’re not to blame; Amazon, Toyota, and Apple are now the new arbiters of craftsmanship, ease of use, timeliness, and value.

Look back 50 years ago to the luxury providers of the day, from McIntosh Labs, to Cadillac, to The Waldorf Astoria. These brands catered to the wealthiest consumers. But that’s all changed with “mass luxury.” Companies like Apple have brought luxury and craftsmanship to the masses. Amazon has changed pricing perceptions and delivery time. Toyota builds a bulletproof car affordable to college students–a luxury unattainable 50 years ago. Marriott’s Fairfield Inns are budgetpriced hotels rivaling high-end properties in cleanliness and comfort.

The apparent result of mass luxury is the blurring of client expectations. Today, the average consumer receives the same levels of craftsmanship, reliability, and service once reserved for the wealthy, because companies like Apple, Toyota, Marriott, and Amazon sell everyday luxuries at an attainable prices.

Apple’s iPad (or any tablet) is another prime example. For a reasonable price, a customer can purchase sophisticated equipment that is beautiful, reliable, and functional. And, anyone with an Amazon Prime account can get it delivered overnight. When a client buys sophisticated electronics, it’s no longer a “luxury experience,” but a class-indifferent Technology Experience.

This experience becomes the new paradigm for technical purchases. Clients now compare just about everything they own to an Apple product–their car’s telemetry system, their programmable coffee machine, their cable TV menu system, and their new vacuum. All technology experiences are compared with the Technology Experience.

This is where you come in. Everything you sell will be compared to the Technology Experience, and unfortunately, you fall short. Let’s not sugarcoat this: the CI business is messy, buggy, usually over budget, and often not on schedule. And yet, the CI business makes a technology sale, so it gets lumped into the Technology Experience by the client.

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Today, the average consumer receives the same levels of craftsmanship, reliability, and service once reserved for the wealthy, because companies like Apple, Toyota, Marriott, and Amazon sell everyday luxuries at an attainable prices. From the start, your client compares your proposal to the Technology Experience. Why are your prices higher than the internet? Why is a control system (a system that surely can’t be more sophisticated than an iPad) so expensive? And why does this project require so many labor hours? These are fair questions in the context of a Technology Experience, which forces you to justify your prices and methods.

You can overcome the trap of the Technology Experience through a simple device that psychologists call reframing. Reframing is a preconception-breaking tool that presents information in a novel way.

Preconception #1: Your technology seems expensive.

Client: $20k for a control system? That’s excessive.

Salesperson: Like all technology, the cost of control systems has come down in the past 10 years. Sophisticated systems once cost $75,000. By relying on iPads and commercial-grade networking devices, we now configure a system for 25 percent of the cost, with enhanced reliability and ease-of-use.

Preconception #2: Your labor costs are high.

Client: $20k for labor? That’s excessive.

Salesperson: Systems like this once took twice as long to design, program, and install. Our industry has made tremendous efficiency gains in the past years, which allows us to offer systems like this to more and more homeowners.

Reframing is simple; you’re showing how technology and process improved in the past few years, and how these changes slashed prices. Instead of fighting the client with an all-too-common statement like, “There’s a lot of work that goes into a system like this that you don’t see,” you’re acknowledging CI systems follow the same laws of the Technology Experience as other products they own. Accept the new Technology Experience as a consumer reality, and use reframing to acknowledge this shift.

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