A couple walked into my showroom yesterday, and after greeting them, the man described how they were in the process of putting an 18 x 20-foot addition onto their home and that they’d like to be able to use it for a media room. He then goes on to explain that they’ve had several surround systems in the past and that he has always been disappointed with the lackluster performance. They were systems that he cobbled together off-the-shelf at Big Box stores or systems-in-a-box, and they never gave him what he expected. This time, he wanted to do it right and go with a pro and make sure that he got a system that was going to deliver the goods.
My immediate thought is, “Awesome. This deal is in the bag.”
First off, I don’t have to try and convince them on the benefits of owning a surround system. It isn’t the, “Well, we’re building a new room, and we thought we might want to make it into a TV room, so we’re out looking around to see what’s involved.” I also don’t have to explain what’s involved in a surround system; the speakers, the layout, the electronics, the wiring, the control… He’s had a surround system, he knows he likes it (or at least the idea of how it should be), and he knows that’s what he wants.
Second, it’s also clear that they aren’t a “we’re really thinking that we might go with one of those $199 soundbars we saw in Wal-Mart” client. Look, soundbars can be a really good solution and they are a huge improvement over what a television’s speakers can provide, but they will never, ever, never be a replacement for a full-blown, properly installed and calibrated surround system.
Third, I know the guy wants to hire me. He said he is tired of the DIY solutions he’s put together for himself, and now he wants to go with a professional designed and installed system. That’s me.
So, I’m basically thinking #Winning and that this is going to be a slam dunk deal.
At this point, I’d like you to take a moment of time and refer back to my “Women Are From Venus, Men Love Tech” blog post.
In that post, I wrote, “In my years of experience selling audio/video systems to men, women, families and couples of all combinations of sexes, I have to say that women rarely feel the same way about tech that men do. For the most part, when women choose to be involved in the buying decisions and design process, they are typically there in more of a voice-of-reason, ‘Do we really need to spend that much? Let’s just get the smaller/cheaper one. It’ll be good enough,’ capacity.”
I got a lot of comments on that post.
Several of the comments implied that the problem was me and that I wasn’t involving the women in the sale or relating to them in the correct way or, “It might be [me] making women disinterested in asking questions."
So, I began by asking them some qualifying questions, trying to understand what they want out of the system, and I was doing my level best to involve both the husband and wife in the process. I’m looked back and forth at them, directing questions to her. “What does the room look like?” “Where will the TV be located?” “Where will you be sitting?”
My typical jumping off point on system design when meeting with new clients is working back from the finished look. So I ask, “How would you like the system to look? Are you picturing the speakers being on the wall, in the wall, on a bookshelf, floorstanding…?”
As I was talking to her—and by “talking to her” I mean looking her directly in the eyes, holding eye contact, and asking her open-ended questions that have “you” in them—she walked over to one of the chairs in my showroom and sat down.
She then said, “Look. I hate all of this stuff. I don’t think we need any of it. I hate all of those speakers around the room. I don’t care about sounds happening behind me. And I think high definition is pointless. Why do I need to see every pore and pimple in someone’s face? As long as I can see the picture and hear what they’re saying, I’m fine. So, you can stop trying to make me happy and just get him what he wants, because if it were up to me, we wouldn’t have any of it.”
So, where do you go from here? It became clear—repeatedly, as she reiterated her, “Look, you’re not going to make me happy” mantra several more times—that trying to involve the wife was not going to help my cause. This was a “battle” I was not going to win.
But, it was also clear that it was not a battle I needed to win. While she didn’t want—in fact hated the very idea of—a surround system, she was not going to stand in the way of it from happening. (Maybe she was getting some new kitchen/closet/bathroom out of the deal…) She had resigned herself to the fact that this was something her husband wanted and that she would not lay down in front of the bulldozer of progress to stop it from happening.
For a while I tried couching things with, “I’m sure that we can find a nice balance between the performance that makes you (the husband) happy and a look that makes you (the disinterested wife) happy,” but then I just stopped trying to engage her. Any input she offered—and by that I mean loud grumbled noises of disgust uttered from her chair—was only negative and disruptive to the flow I was developing with her husband. So I just plowed on, showing the husband different system and speaker ideas. (He was very partial to the ultra-slim Definitive Technology Mythos XTR speakers that match the look of high slim TV, and loved that they would allow me to space the speakers a little further apart than in-wall models to get better channel separation.)
When we finished, I launched the peaceful dove of, “I promise to do my best to make sure you don’t hate it too much.” Will I win her over? Maybe. Maybe not. But in this case, getting the job was winning the war, and I’m counting that as one in the victory column.
John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.