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

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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

PrimeTime 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 answers."

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 quipped.

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."


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