Hiring the next generation of HiFi Salesmen
In the inaugural installment of this blog, “Where have all the audiophiles gone?” I asked who was going to buy the stuff we sell. The next question is: who’s going to sell it?
Walk into most Audio Salons and you’ll see a bunch of middle-aged guys—there are virtually no gals in HiFi—dressed in khaki slacks and golf shirts embroidered with store logos, clustered around the front counter. Most of them are college-educated, virtually all of them are “Lifers” in the HiFi industry but ALL of them have one thing in common: they all started out as audio hobbyists.
This sort of resume worked well for the first generation of High End salespeople: after all, enthusiasm sells! Back then, we had hundreds of customers lining up to buy gear, prices were reasonable, there was no internet competition and the customers, like the salespeople themselves, were Audio Geeks. There was both a kinship and a common viewpoint that made this salesman/client relationship work. This will not, I think, be the case in the future.
At SSV, we’ve seen an increasingly large proportion of our sales come from our most expensive products. These items are being purchased by wealthy professionals, so the salespeople who cater to these clients need to be just as professional. Audio knowledge, though essential, will be secondary to sales professionalism. As opposed to hobbyists, sales professionals will focus on making as much money as possible by promoting the best interests of the dealership and its brands first!
Going forward, salesmen must recommend products based upon the needs, desires and budgets of the customers, as well as the best interest of the dealer. In the past, a salesman developed a Love Affair with a particular component or brand and would therefore make “Blanket Recommendations,” advocating that product to everyone with whom he spoke, regardless of whether it made sense for the individual. We still see this silliness today: a salesman so focused upon selling a given item that everything else is neglected, or even denigrated. (Sales 101: NEVER bad-mouth a competitor!) What’s worse, we see salespeople underselling: spending a millionaire’s money as if it were their own…and leaving serious profit on the table! These aren’t just bad habits: they’re poor salesmanship! Imagine a doctor who wrote the same prescription for EVERY patient, regardless of the symptoms? Just like a doctor, the salesman will need to interview every customer to make an educated assessment of what products will satisfy each client’s requirements. Any other behavior is amateurish. It is an injustice to both customer and dealer and oh, by the way, it takes income out of the salesman’s pocket!
Even more importantly, salesmen need to exploit all of the programs and promotions offered by the dealer’s suppliers. If a vendor has a “Trade-Up Program,” EVERY relevant customer needs to know about it. Same thing if there’s a new product or a special deal. Again using SSV as an example, Simaudio offers a VERY generous Trade-Up Program: one-year at full MSRP, two years at 75%. Every Sim customer should be called 30 days prior to expiration of the offer. (You’d think that commission salespeople would know this without being told!) To our chagrin, Dylan and I keep hearing from customers who never heard about this offer! Two years ago, we started selling a $19K processor by Datasat (you probably know them better as DTS) and explained how dealers could pluck “Low-hanging fruit” by calling all of their past theater customers and pitching the new processor. To this point, only Lyric has done this. Funny thing here is that Lyric salespeople aren’t paid commission! They’re just behaving professionally.
Almost every day on the road—especially during Summer—I’ll walk into a dealer and hear the salesmen moaning about how bad business is, how little money they’re making, etc., etc. And yet, rather than complaining, if those same salesmen worked the phones and took advantage of all of the “Calls to action”—cash spiffs, points for product, trade-in/trade-up programs—provided by their vendors, they’d be generating serious cash!
Lately, I’ve encountered a couple of young, money-motivated salespeople. They dress better, know less about HiFi, more about selling, come to work every day with a game plan, spend less time kibitzing and complaining, more time on the phone and they treat everyone who walks through the door as a serious opportunity to promote their store…and themselves. Do I need to tell you they’re making money?
The streets really ARE paved with gold, guys…reach out and grab it!