I received an interesting comment to last week’s article about the importance of shopping local (The Slippery Slope of Buying TVs and Toilet Paper). The comment stated, “My problem with the 'Buy local, Walmart is Evil' ideology (and I'm not saying that you believe that) is that it assumes that the locals are delivering more value to the consumer. Although I do support buying locally, far too many local stores operate from the belief that because I'm local/I exist; customers should support me - I find that very few of them deliver the value of better service, knowledge and assistance that justifies a higher price. We as local businesses need to deliver a better value and experience, and then implore customers to honor that with their dollars!!!”
How can you, the local AV integrator, close the sale if your price is the same (or maybe more)?
Become the Client’s Consultant
When a client is in the market for a new television, what is the first question you ask them? If you start with the budget or price, then you’re hanging yourself; never open with money. What do they watch? How far away do they sit from the TV? What kind of smartphone do they own? If they do have an iPhone, you should install an AppleTV. You may not be making any money off this little black box, but you’re introducing the client to magic. The ability to throw pictures onto the screen without wires and to mirror the screen of your Apple device is priceless, and by telling them you make no money off of it, your desire to provide the right experience will build trust (and it took you all of seven minutes to install).
You are the consultant. Your job (which is so different from the sales person at Big Box USA) is to find the right TV for your client, not just to sell one. Your kind of client should appreciate this. I have found that Baby Boomers understand, and the 30-somethings do not, for they will use you for your knowledge and buy it cheaper somewhere else. Maybe you have to get burned enough in your younger years to grow and comprehend the advantage that buying local offers.
Explain the Difference
Everyone can understand the same price, but you need to tantalize with more. What can you offer that “they” cannot? Explaining these differences can often be the push the client needs to make a decision. My company will not just set up your TV and show you how to use it, but we will program your service providers remote to work the TV. This small five-minute task on our end will make the client’s life better in the long run. If it is a larger system and we are selling a customized remote, then we explain the importance of this premium product. In a sentence or two we explain “discreet codes,” “punch-through” and “macros.” Does your client have small kids? You’d better be sure to tell them this remote will be so easy that you can leave it with the in-laws and the babysitter, and they’ll understand how it works. Big box stores cannot price-match this service.
Play the Long Game
Remind your potential client that you are their technology consultant. You are the one that travels the country seeking out new and wonderful products to bring back to them. You keep abreast of ever-changing features and product capabilities for them. When they are ready to add on that soundbar or play music outside, then you will be there to answer the call. If I purchase a new furnace, I am also purchasing the company to maintain and repair it in the future. The same should hold true for your local audio-video expert.
No one should shop local simply because that local company exists, but because we are offering better value, a wealth of knowledge, and most times, the same price. By continuing to do great work, you will always have more business. I implore you to remind your client why you are still around after five, 15 or 30 years and watch the sales close.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is the president of Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.