by John Sciacca
In 2006 Chris Nolan film, The Prestige, Michael Caine’s character explains that every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. “The first part is called ‘The Pledge.’ The magician shows you something ordinary. The second act is called ‘The Turn.’ The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it into something extraordinary. But you wouldn't clap yet. That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call ‘The Prestige.’”
Very few trades elicit the reaction that custom installers get from a job well done. A plumber could visit a thousand jobs and probably never generate a single ounce of the excitement that our arrival can produce. Sure, there may be some of the urgency and, “Oh, thank God you’re here!” upon his arrival, but it is usually related to something dire, like a broken pipe, a clogged sink… or worse. Ultimately, at the end of a plumber’s visit, “I fixed your toilet, ma’am,” will just never have the magic ring that, “You want to watch a movie now?” can have for a client.
That is our gift. We make magic. We bring happiness. Not every day, and not on every job, but there are many opportunities throughout our careers where we have the ability to literally produce excited gasps of pleasure, awe, and wonder. And, there are few aspects of what we do that have more magical potential than installing a new home theater system. Even in my personal home theater – years after its install – when I press a button on the remote to raise the masking on my screen and engage my anamorphic lens, I am immediately a smiling, happy client amazed that this… this… awesomeness is happening in my own home.
But like any magician, our “tricks” work best and have the greatest impact when we preserve and protect the great reveal.
Generally our “pledge” is the promise to do something amazing. The family has either decided to upgrade something existing or to add something new entirely. Now, clearly, the level of “Wow!” is in part dictated by how much work we’re doing. And I’m not implying that you should expect to be rewarded with a standing ovation for swapping out a DVD player for a new Blu-ray, but when the job is of significant scale — let’s say a completely new system in the family’s newly renovated room over the garage – the stage is set for you to literally perform magic.
In the case of our business, we are often literally turning something from one thing into something else. We are most definitely taking “the ordinary something” – a previously unused room, a boring living room, a poorly installed system – and making “it into something extraordinary.” But “The Turn” is the part where I think most installers blow their biggest magic-making opportunity. Sure, they might do a bang-up install, using wonderful equipment and correctly positioning, calibrating everything, and handing over a wonderfully working system. They might do all of that right, but still miss the moment that is my very favorite part of the project: the reveal.
Most installers allow the client full access to them and the room during all phases of the setup, installation, calibration, and optimization of the system. The client stands there and watches the wire being retro’d in the wall. He walks away and comes back to watch you unboxing all the gear. He walks away and comes back to see the screen going up. He returns to watch test patterns on the screen or whatever lame disc is on hand and hear test tones or some music playing out of his new speakers. So, when it comes time for “The Prestige” – or the big reveal – the moment is lost.
They’ve seen all the magic. They’ve already watched you practicing your big saw-the-lady-in-half trick and now there is nothing special to it. Sure, the trick might still be interesting to watch, but once you’ve seen all of the behind-the-curtain goings-on, it doesn’t have any magic left. They’ve seen the big screen; they’ve heard the sounds coming from all around the room; they’ve heard the pounding of the sub. Sure, it isn’t the same as watching the movie, but they’ve thrown the lights on inside of Space Mountain and seen that it’s really just a basic roller coaster that twists and turns in the dark.
I’m not going to claim that you can keep every client away from every install. This is especially difficult if the job is part of new construction where the final install could be measured in days or weeks, or if the install is in a living room right in the midst of daily activity. Also some clients are just aching to be a part of it all. But as you near the end, the final day(s) where products are being delivered and actually setup in the home, if you can, find a tactful way to bring your client into the act. “Mr. Client, I am really excited to unveil your new system because I know that you and your family are going to love it. What I’d like to do is kind of hold off on showing it to you until we are entirely completed so you can really experience the whole system at once. Would that be OK?”
If the client can feel genuine passion and excitement on your end, they are far more likely to be totally on board. In fact, they’ll probably be totally into the idea of a reveal and make it an occasion where the wife and kids and maybe even friends all come in for the big moment. Ultimately, we sell toys to grown-ups, and who doesn’t like the idea of having something exciting to unwrap?
If you get this opportunity, do… not… BLOW IT! Plan your demo. Bring the family in, spend a moment describing what you’ve done, have the material cued up and ready, dim the lights, and press play. Make sure that it is something impressive but make equally sure that it is something suitable. Sure, you may love the skin melting off scene from Terminator 2, and it might even look and sound amazing, but that doesn’t mean it’s the appropriate clip to use for your reveal. Judge your audience and select something appropriate. I remember going to a demo at a Microsoft exec’s home that featured six-figure speakers and amps that I had been dying to hear, and he selected a Celine Dion concert DVD, totally blowing the moment and misjudging what would have impressed a crowd of journalists.
You only get one chance to demonstrate a new system for a client for the very first time. Make this a moment that is memorable and you can believe they will tell their friends about it.