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SEN’s Howe Urges Proactive Selling, More Demos For A/V

National Harbor,
Md. – Put an emphasis on in-store demos. Sell vs. just taking orders. Get back
to the basics of selling vs. just taking orders — because there is still
plenty of A\V technology ready to be sold.

That’s some of the
advice Jeannette Howe, executive director of Specialty Electronics Nationwide,
a unit of the Nationwide Marketing Group, is giving dealers at the group’s

meeting at the Gaylord National Resort

, here, this week.

Howe discussed
with TWICE a variety of industry issues, starting with the decision by TV
suppliers to emphasize national retailers in 3DTV’s debut.

“I think it was a
huge mistake. [3D TV] is very complicated, and you have to explain it,” Howe
said. “Specialty retailers can explain the technology and effectively
demonstrate the excitement — demonstrate that you need a 3D Blu-ray player to
add to the experience.”

She said she is
“adamant” that salespeople at retail need to explain “the connectivity of an
effective [3D TV] system. There are a lot of questions, and we can provide the

Howe noted that in
the past 18 months the A/V industry has “lost a lot of great dealers,” but that
there are still a lot of opportunities at retail. “Consumers want a great
experience … but it is taking them a longer amount of time to come back” and
make purchases.

Custom installers
and A/V specialists “just can’t run wire on new-home construction and make
money. That business model is over. We live in a retrofit world now. You have
to go wireless [in some cases]. Many installers and dealers have to re-tool
their businesses, go back to their existing early adopter customer base and see
if they want to change their systems,” she maintained.

“Early adopters
are always ‘adopting.’ They need to follow up with their key customers,” she

When comparing
this year to mid-2009, Howe remarked, “We were still going through the
analog-to-digital TV transition and many retailers became order takers. They
have forgotten how to sell.”

She noted that one
of her members decided “only to display 3D TVs in his store. People now know
when they see an out-of-focus screen that it is 3D. Once they put on the
glasses and sit for the demo, he said we can keep consumers for an hour,
especially if it is a family. How can you ever keep consumers at attention for
an hour?”

Howe sees the
Smart Grid project with the industry providing more energy-efficient CE
products as “a great opportunity down the road” and thinks that more “IPTVs
will be sold than 3D TVs.” But she added that the discussion about IPTV vs. 3D
TV is just a “fourth-quarter discussion” because by next year most big-screen
TVs will have both.

The SEN executive
director thinks that 3D TV will give new life to home audio. “You need to
position 7.1 audio and others as the ‘3D TV audio solution.’ Consumers will
understand that. They should talk about 3D sound at retail.”

Howe is hopeful
that the Consumer Electronics Association’s (CEA) 3D Days at retail to be held
at stores nationwide during September will be helpful to the industry. “Every
store will have a 3D video and 3D audio set up. This is outside of CEA’s
culture, but they need to create more of these types of demonstrations.” And
she reminded that during those days ESPN will be broadcasting in 3D, which will
make for compelling demo material at retail.

In education SEN
is offering Bedrock Learning online and has a deal with Control4 for its
members to get a special SEN training program if you sign up to buy its
products, Howe said.

When asked if this
show represents the most demos SEN and Nationwide has ever presented, she
remarked, “We went wild … almost too many classes, but dealers need training
and this was well received.”

While Howe is not
sold on selling video game systems or software because the margins are “worse
than TV and I won’t advocate bringing in a category will little profit,” she
does advocate having retailers “put video game systems to demonstrate 3D and
other capabilities.”