Don’t Talk Down: The CEDIA Idea Xchange

Ed Wenck
Mar 03, 2017

A snapshot of the afternoon focus groups at the CEDIA® 2017 Business Xchange.



The names of the topics are pretty evocative: “Overcoming Hardball Objections,” “Let’s Pick Apart Our Proposals and Contracts,” “Take Out the Tech Talk for Your Customers.” (These workshops were all featured as part of CEDIA’s 2017 Business Xchange conference on improving sales and upping one’s marketing game.)

The topics have all been voted on and each afternoon, CEDIA’s merry band of facilitators are leading small groups discussing sales and marketing challenges, which is collectively called the “Idea Xchange.”

The “Hardball” group is especially robust. Frank White (ZeeVee, Inc.) is role-playing with Patrick Hartman (Diversified Systems International), and they’ve taken on the roles of “integrator dancing on a smoking grill” (White) and “client who wants to preserve his junky old gear that he’s attached to BUT MAKE IT SOUND AMAZING” (Hartman).

“I always suggest repurposing this stuff for the garage,” laughs White. (Seriously, though: White’s offering a workable solution that won’t clobber the audio in the new system the client really doesn’t know he wants yet.)

The other issue that’s coming up on the reg? The customer who, after the initial discovery phase, comes back with “Gimme a list and I’ll get on Amazon.” They want it, but cheaper than you’ll sell it.

“When there’s a challenge on price, I defend it by saying ‘Oh, you want to have a budget discussion.'”

There’s a theme throughout this edition of Business Xchange, one beyond the stated, overarching mission of improving sales and marketing: Effective selling is about asking questions, not insisting to the customer “You need this – no, really, you NEED this.”

It’s something Rochelle Carrington had been stressing that very morning in her presentation: taking on the role of the “nurturing parent,” the one who’s “vulnerable but assertive,” the salesperson who has zero ego but unending curiosity about finding out what a customer wants – no, needs – is the one who wins. (We’ll get more in-depth on that presentation in an upcoming story.)

Randy Stearns, D-tools CEO and leader of a focus group called “Adjusting to Different Types of Buyers,” carries the concepts of Psych 101 as they apply to individual situations: How does a customer learn, for example? Are they visual? Auditory? Kinesthetic?

Amanda Wildman of TruMedia’s workshop is also about listening skills: Wildman’s beef is the unending stream of acronyms and Byzantine geek-speak that pervades the industry. Her message here is fairly simple: “Don’t talk down to your customers.”

Stats and watts and frequency responses are lovely things, but the ability of a client to create a scene – and then instantly and effortlessly recreate that scene – carries a much more effective “wow factor” than reeling off a list of data.

“Suppose a Mom wants a one-button scene so she can have five minutes without the kids driving her nuts – lights, movie, done.

“How great is that?”

Wildman remembers one woman who confided that since the woman’s husband had yielded decorative control to his missus, the wife felt she owed her hubs similar latitude in picking the tech. The woman told Wildman, “I was afraid that rack was going to come to life and take over the house!”

Now? “She tells me it’s her favorite thing about the place,” says Wildman.

That trust, that concern with the end result, is what closes many, many deals. Being a “consultant, not a peddler” is key in Frank White’s estimation.

“Nobody likes to feel like they’re getting ‘worked,’” he adds.



CEDIA blog posts are intended to provide general information and should not be regarded as legal opinions or advice.

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