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Dont Get Flattened

How to Stay in Business Selling Flat-Panel TVs

Whether its a plasma or an LCD, flat-panel TVs are on the minds of almost every customer you have. But with HDTVs for sale everywhere, from big-box retailers, membership warehouse clubs, and even the huge hardware chains and countless online operations, how can a custom integrator stay in business selling them at such small profit? This basic conflict must be addressed if you are going to continue to grow and run a successful business into the future.

Present Better Products
There are dozens of brands available, most of which your customer has never heard of before you propose it. Certain manufacturers products provide amazing picture quality while others simply dont. Some units are easily controlled and integrated into your systems while many others are not. Some vendors even choose distribution policies supporting specialty retailers and integrators while foregoing the big-box strategy or an easy Internet opportunity.

Most customers know nothing about flat panels, other than that they saw a 42-inch unit at their local warehouse club for cheap, the signage said HD, and that they want you to match this price. Everyone understands that both a used Yugo and a shiny new BMW can get him or her to and from the grocery store. They also realize that the experiences are not identical and hardly interchangeable. For example a longer warranty often accompanies more premium-level products, which provides increased security to the customer. Demonstrate to your client that there are genuine performance differences between brands and models within brands, and fight the good fight that all brands of panels do not look the same. Your customer knows that this is true and just needs to hear you, their expert, say that quality does matter.

Offer the Convenience
In addition to performance, ease of use is an important component to the experience that you provide. Installing a unit that offers discrete IR codes and RS 232 control will help your customer really enjoy using their purchase. A panel that they have difficulty operating doesnt make for a happy customer. By specifying a quality remote control with programming, you will be well on your way to receiving your next referral as well as improving the important bottom line. Many of my customers are now selling more and more RF remote solutions, eliminating pointing the handheld remote, while increasing the overall system reliability.

Most panels, out of the box, must be adjusted for optimum viewing. Attending a certified calibration class (Sencore, ISF, etc.) is a fairly small investment of time and dollars that will pay tremendous dividends to you over time. This additional service will guarantee the panels highest possible performance and most accurate picture.
Video calibration is a service that can and should be charged for, of course. Proper set up will be the difference between good and wow performance. Your ability will certainly help differentiate you from most other companies. This knowledge and skill set will help you create more happy customers, again delivering the desired referral business that you depend on, as well as a healthier bottom line.
Yes, you can stay in business selling flat-panel TVs by showing your customers value and doing it the right way.

Michael Levy started Cutting Edge Distributing Company in 1996 and was a founding member of The EDGE Distributors Group. He served three years as the groups president and remains active on the groups board of directors.