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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Education = Knowledge = Power = Money

Posted on September 3, 2010 at 4:00 PM

Recently I received a phone call from a prospective client. He said that he was remodeling his home and that he was having difficulty getting anyone to follow through on giving him a quote for the work that he wanted and that the first quote he received was absolutely ridiculously overpriced.  I assured him that one of my greatest joys in life is giving out quotes and that I could definitely prepare a quote for him. He then called me out, pushing his chips all in and saying, “Fine. I’m at the house right now.” Damn it!


So, I jump in the van and head on down to his house. As I’m pulling up, I can tell that we’re in a really nice area, with his house backing up to the Intracoastal Waterway in a very quiet neighborhood. So I hop out and go up to meet the guy and it is immediately clear that this guy is...something. I’m not sure if he is just cripplingly, socially awkward of if he is rocking some form of Asperger’s Syndrome or if maybe he’s just a doctor, who sometimes seem to exhibit all manner of odd behavior. (We have one surgeon who routinely sparks up weed while we're in the house working. No, I'm no surgeon, but I would *kinda* think that is the type of behavior that you might want to keep on the low-low. ) He won’t look me in the face while we’re talking, instead he looks at the ground or the walls or to the side of my face. Which is fine. As I’ve said before, I’m not going out to jobsites to make new friends; I’m going out to jobsites to make new work. So if you’ve got some kind of Medusa-thing going on where you don’t want to look me in the eyes, that’s not going to prevent us from doing business together.


So I walk into his house and he starts off with, “OK. I’m going to try not to confuse you.”


“Oh, don’t worry,” I say. “I’m not easily confused.”


“Well, I’ve been talking to other companies and I can’t seem to get a quote, so I’m guessing that what I want is overly complicated.”


Now the words “overly complicated” are always kind of exciting because usually they carry the connotation of “extra expensive” which makes me “exceedingly happy.” So I’m thinking we’re all aboard the HMS Good Ship Lollypop about to set sail upon the sweet-sweet waters of a profitable job.


So he says, “OK. In this room, I want surround sound.”


So I give my standard come hither response of, “OK. What does ‘surround sound’ mean to you?”


“I don’t know. That’s just what I’ve been told that I need.”


So I start gently probing like the Good Cop interrogator. (Bad Cop is waiting outside with the car battery and nipple clamps, and he is anxious to get to work.) Turns out that this guy could care less about TV or movies and actually, the idea of sounds like rain or helicopter rotors coming from behind him are not only totally NOT what he wants, but EXACTLY what he wants to avoid. By “surround sound” he meant that he wants to have music fill his room. “The other company said that I needed to have five speakers and they all needed to go in the ceiling.” So I start educating him about the way sound works – well, at least I think I’m educating him; he has a habit of wandering off and examining his insulation and randomly picking at splinters of wood on the studding – and why having your front speakers in the ceiling maybe isn’t the best idea unless you use speakers that are specialized for the task.


“Oh. The other company didn’t say anything about that.”


So we continue walking through the house and it turns out that what this guy wants is the furthest thing away from complicated as possible. In fact, it is distributed audio 101. He basically wants 6 rooms of audio with some simple volume control. So we finished and he says, “Well, I hope that wasn’t too confusing for you.”


I seriously can't tell if he is making a joke or if he is really wondering if I am confused. Hot and getting a bit frustrated from the odd behaviour, yes, but confused, no. “Sir, I’ve been doing this for over 12 years. There’s absolutely nothing about your system that is at all confusing. In fact, it is very basic and straightforward. The only think I need to know is what the original quote was that floored you, because there is no point in me preparing a quote for you to just come in at the same price. Let me know what you’re thinking as far as budget goes so I can come in as closely as possible.”


So he gives me a number which is tight, but doable. So, since it is clear that he doesn’t know ANYTHING about audio, I suggest that he come by my store so I can demonstrate some different system options and go over the quote with him in person. So, the next day he comes with his wife, who is the aggressive Yang to his Asperger Yin. So I start by giving them the proposal that I’ve worked up which comes in right at his number and he seems pleased with that. (His wife however seems totally indifferent to the whole experience, merely interested in what the speakers will look like and where all “those horrible black boxes will go.” The guy seems to have curbed some of his wandering ways and manages to stay somewhat close and on point during the discussion. ) So I start showing him the kind of system that he would have; basically a speaker selector box and volume controls in each room. About as sexy as Patty and Selma Bouvier.


Then I start explaining the way audio distribution works and what kinds of music do they like, and do they listen to the same music all the time – of course not! – and do they own an iPod – of course – and, well, I know it’s more than you want to spend but let me just show you this step up system from Niles. So we head over to our ZR-6 display where I borrow his iPod and plug it in and then point to the keypad on the wall. “Go ahead,” I say.


“What do I do?”


“Press the button labeled iPod. Then just control the keypad like you would your iPod.”


Click, tap-tap, click, play and the sounds of some weird Mexican classical guitar music fill the air. “Wow. That’s nice.” He jumps back into the menu and after some clickety-tappity he calls up some opera. Then he hits me with a stunner of a question. “So, how hard is this going to be for me to work?”


Now, I kind of thought he was actually working it -- you know, because he WAS! -- and getting the simplicity of it, so I just gently explained that he WAS actually working it so it would be exactly as hard as it is right now. Then his wife pops up. “Can you guarantee me that this system will never go obsolete?”


“Excuse me?”


“I’m tired of buying things only to find out that they won’t work anymore after a few years. So, can you promise me that this system will never go obsolete?”


I tell her that no, I can’t guarantee her that it will never be obsolete. Iin fact that I would seriously question anyone in the technology industry that offers such a claim. However, I assured her that as long as they own an iPod, the system will continue to work exactly as it does on the day they bought it. And that Niles is planning on introducing new hardware to it that would allow it to stream music from their computer and the Internet radio. “You know; things like Pandora.”


And ZING! Her eyes frickin’ bulged out of her head like her thyroid just went hyper-critical. “Pandora? Pandora!  I love Pandora! This. This is the system that we want!"


So, they walked in wanting a system around $6000. They left getting a system around $10,000, which was $2500 more than the original "ridiculously overpriced" quote the other company delivered. The difference? A little time and education. Which gave them the knowledge about what they were buying and what they were ABLE to buy. And that in turn empowered them to give me more money. Well, that and Pandora. Whose box apparently also managed to have enough extra space to cram in a ton of extra music. How much extra music? $4000 worth. That's exactly how much!

Categories: September 2010, CTA

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