A great demonstration is by far the best way to sell the concept of home cinema. Here, some of the UK’s top suppliers provide their top tips for using your own set up or those available from themselves.

Paul Cummin, Artcoustic UK

Paul Cummin, Artcoustic UK managing director, argues: “The cinema demonstration is one of the most important parts of the sales process. We believe the demo is critical on so many levels and not just to show off. We try to keep the demo until the last moment, making sure that we’re helping our installers to think about the entire room and the client’s brief. What is it they are trying to achieve and why? They often come with preconceptions of what it is they think they want, our role as consultants is to show what’s possible so well informed decisions can be made.

“To help the installer and client to choose the correct size screen, seating, projector, amplifier and speakers, the system must be considered as a whole, not as component pieces. Once the client understands we’re trying to deliver the best experience, rather than sell boxes, they open up and allow us to really deliver. Once that level of confidence has been reached, it’s time for the demo.”

Before any demo at Artcoustic, the company already establishes that any cinema it helps to create will comply with all the correct and recommended technical specs for screen size, speaker position etc., so the process can then just be about whether the demo impresses.

Paul says: “A good demonstration will far exceed the client’s expectations, making the sales process fairly straightforward. It’s easy to justify a large budget for something you’re genuinely excited by!

“We always check the system over before any demo. Test it, does it look and sound right? Make sure the material is appropriate for the client and their family. Try to avoid too much violence – Judge Dread sounds amazing, but is a bad choice when demonstrating to a family.

“Stick to quality movies and quality directors, they tend to have the best picture and sound. Find scenes at the beginning of movies that draw the viewer in, good examples are American Sniper, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Unbroken. Stopping a clip when the client wants to know what’s going to happen next, is a good sales technique. Leave them wanting more…”

Paul also underlines how important it is to keep the enthusiasm levels high for the people doing the demos, keeping the clips fresh helps, trick is to enjoy the clips as much as the client as this really comes across.

Paul says: “Remind yourself that the client is probably experiencing this for the first time. Be excited for them. Ferrari salesmen don’t have any problem with this, nor should we.

“Ultimately, the demonstration is the final part of the confidence that is required for a client to want to spend a significant amount of money with us and our dealers. They are trusting us with their homes and their money, so they need to feel they are spending it with the right people.”

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James Drummie, AWE

James Drummie, product manager at distributor AWE, says: “Before you start, making the customer feel comfortable and relaxed is important. I always offer the customer a drink and have a chat with them before I start. You need to tailor the demo to the customer’s needs, so use this time to find out whether they are interested in using the cinema for music or movies.

“Preparation is key. Know your music and movie clips, know where you are going to finish each clip, explain why you are using that clip and point out what to be listening or looking out for. The larger the group being demonstrated to, the fewer questions you will be asked, so you want to be able to cover all points, as you won’t be prompted by questions.

“Prepare some bullet points for each clip, know the benefits you’ll be highlighting and stick to the plan. Remember, ‘features tell, benefits sell’, so there’s no point in mentioning a feature if you can’t demonstrate the benefit, so steer away from talking about products. Don’t explain the model numbers of the screen and how the different types of materials perform. Instead, play a clip and demo the benefit.”

As an example here James explains that in AWE’s demo suite, the company has two Draper projection screens – ReAct and Matt White. The product details mean nothing to customers, but the company can show the different performance characteristics that would be appropriate for the room the system will be going in. The same goes for the projector.

James says: “Our cinema room features the Epson laser projector, which boasts an unprecedented Absolute Black contrast ratio. Will the customer understand what that means? not until they see it. For this reason, I play a clip that features a lot of black frames and this demonstrates the feature and benefit.”

Demo material is of course important, for movie loving customers James goes for Unbroken, as planes thunder overhead in the opening scene offering an immersive experience. To show the black levels produced by the Epson projector, the opening scene from Mad Max: Fury Road is a favourite. For music lovers, James goes for ‘100 Square ft’ by Benny Rietveld, featuring Annekei to show how live music can light up a cinema.

All customers that attend an AWE demo, also receive a Smart Home Technology guide, which features a number of home cinema solutions to help them make a choice.

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Barry Sheldrick, Meridian Audio

Meridian Audio’s director of sales, Barry Sheldrick, says: “The best home theatres have the power to create a deep, emotional connection with the client to bring them the ultimate, unforgettable movie-watching experience. So, the demonstration is a massively important part of the journey. It can inspire them to see not just what they can achieve in their own home, but how their life will change in a way that will make the sales process much easier. It is essential then that every component is designed and spec’d correctly and that the system itself is designed to optimise the products to perform the best that they possibly can. The best way for clients to fall in love with movies and music again is to experience the Meridian home theatre in Huntingdon.

“From showing the bombastic power of battle scene in Lord of the Rings, to the subtlety and nuance of a performance by Yo-Yo Ma, a demonstration here can be a powerful, magical and very persuasive asset for installers and their clients in making the sale.”

Barry has five key steps to mastering the demo experience. First, plan the content journey, the demo should flow smoothly, with each clip revealing something about the system. Start with music, a live concert always works well. Music clips are typically 1.78 ratio, meaning no black bars on any projection system and they also allow you to establish a volume level that the client is comfortable with. Next, its action time – move onto another 1.78 ratio clip, this time a movie with some action which will allow you to demonstrate the sense of scale it is possible to achieve. Multi masking – next, move on to 2.35 ratio content, allowing you to show the benefit of a multi masking screen and a projector that can display 2.35 content correctly. Lastly, Barry says finish with discussing the room itself, as an acoustically well-designed home theatre and an effective demonstration can re-establish an emotional connection between the client and their movies and music.

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Mike Beatty, Pulse Cinemas

Mike Beatty, managing director at Pulse Cinemas, argues: “It’s all about the questions. I am convinced as an industry; we are not asking enough of them. A client visits and expresses interest in ‘home cinema’, what this means to him at this stage is anyone’s guess. You as a dealer are left with a choice, do you talk about the best system you’ve currently put together and available for demo, or do you ask how much he has as a budget? Or perhaps you do ask a few questions, but through fear of him walking out without making a purchase, you close quickly on what you have presumed he can afford. With over twenty years of industry experience, it’s my view that none of these common approaches are a guarantee for a happy client.”

Mike continues: “So what is the ‘right’ way? Your client has choices of where to purchase their cinema, so the first five minutes of talking to you will be a determining factor in whether they decide to use your company. Before you ask how much your client has to spend or if they would like a demo, show the client that you’re an expert by establishing if they have plans of the room they are proposing to use? Is it only the cinema that they are looking to install? Perhaps this is a new build, where lighting or multi room audio could be introduced.

“If the client does have plans, get to site ASAP and start to build a rapport and get to understand how your client wants to use the system and the hurdles that you’ll need to jump, before they sit down to enjoy what you’ve created.”

Mike adds: “If there aren’t plans and this is a simple upgrade to an already built room; your work will begin with knowledge. The size, the layout, restrictions, perhaps the baby’s bedroom is above, so soundproofing is something that needs considering. Find out what their priorities are, film, sport, TV, live music, gaming, you need to know what they are passionate about. This will also allow you to work out if a dedicated space or ‘flex cinema in a living area is most appropriate. So its key to listen, but also don’t be afraid to ask some challenging questions and get the client to consider areas they may not have thought about.”

All of these areas are crucial, argues Mike, but the one thing that can really get things over the line, enthuse the customer and pull everything together, is to see and hear a system in action and the company provides just this opportunity at its purpose built facility near Stansted in Kent. Here, Mike says, installers and the pulse team can show how the client can have silver/gold and platinum options and find the right system for their home based an honest and accurate assessment of what the client’s needs are.

Mike also adds: “Consider carefully before discounting the system; leaving profit in the job means you are able to calibrate the system correctly. This is often overlooked. Remember; a wealthy client generally only ever recommends an installer if they’ve exceeded in every area.

“Whenever possible, hand deliver the quote and talk through your product decisions; explain your reasoning behind choosing the products you have. If you don’t, your client will only look at the bottom line figure and compare to quotes that friends have spent, or of course, other less capable dealer/installers.

“It’s very important your client feels listened to and every product selection has been based on information you’ve gathered during your time together. So use examples from your conversations with them to show why you have selected the products that you have.

“All the best custom installers I’ve ever met have had the above and more in common. If you want to find out more, give us a call and come and learn why Pulse is an invaluable AV partner for your business.”

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