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6 Success Stories for Selling Audio

Most successful CE pros in 2010 made their money on audio, and they did it in very different ways: good demos, good DACs, good psyche and good “game” faces.


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Stereo One owner John Selby plays HD audio clips to demonstrate the Mark Levinson and Revel Speakers in his showroom.

4. Eventually They Outgrow the Pimples
In the Chicago area, The Little Guys is tapping into an unlikely customer pool: college-age gamers.

Co-founder David Wexler tells of a 20-something friend of his son’s who visited The Little Guys to scout products before buying online. An avid gamer like Wexler’s son, the young client sprang for a big-screen TV.

Wexler recalls asking, “What are you doing for sound?’”

To which the kid responded, “Oh, I just hook it up to computer speakers.”

Naturally Wexler lectured the guy on all the gaming goodness he’s missing with such a wimpy audio set-up.

The young man then stuck his foot in the door by asking, “What difference does it make?”

After demonstrating a $400 Marantz receiver and a $400 set of speakers, Wexler sold the job. The gamer and his roommate split the bill.

“Yes, it’s cheap entry-level stuff to get them started,” Wexler says, “but guess what’s next, in three to four years when they start making money?”

Wexler says The Little Guys is building up a separate database of younger, hipper clients in order to groom them for bigger A/V buys. He’s clearing out a space for a new gaming room, and hopes to co-host events at the store with some help from the local Game Stop and Apple stores.

Over the next few years, he explains, “We’ll hit them with cool ideas.”

5. It Helps if You Actually Sell Audio
When we asked how business is going, Mike McMaster of Los Angeles-based Wilshire Home Entertainment replied, “We’re selling a lot of floor-standing speakers."

So we asked, “Why is that happening? Are customers asking for audio?”

“They’ve always asked for it,” he said. “We just weren’t selling it to them.”

McMaster attributes the bump in speaker sales in part to a “mind-shift with our staff,” especially after the momentum of a few big home theater sales. The company recently “re-merchandised” its listening room for high-performance audio and brought on some higher-end speaker lines.

It doesn’t hurt that Wilshire is geographically close to the JBL factory, and that the retailer routinely takes customers through the speaker plant. Plus, according to McMaster, “JBL really is making it easier to do business with them.”

Almost as an afterthought in our audio discussion, McMaster remembered, “Oh, and Sonos really took off [last year] because it is stupidly simple for customers and salespeople.”

6. That Receiver is so 2005
While Wilshire’s recent success in high-performance audio was almost accidental, Stereo One in Cape Girardeau, Mo., has been more deliberate in its audio business.

“HD audio is the best-kept secret in Blu-ray,” says owner John Selby referring to the high-resolution lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio formats that accompany the 1080p Blu-ray images.

Typically, customers wander into Stereo One seeking a flat-panel TV. Store associates know to ask about the client’s receiver, which was likely purchased before Blu-ray was common and may be missing HDMI ports, outputs for more than 5.1-channel surround sound, and decoding for lossless audio formats.

“If it’s over three years old, we take them in [to the listening room] and have them sit through the demo,” Selby says. “Most of the time, they had no idea they were missing so much audio quality from movies. … Our close rate is almost 100 percent.”




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Article Topics

News · Business Resources · Audio · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson. [More by Julie Jacobson]

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