Buying stereos and avoiding really dumb decisions #3

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Previously   Welcome back. Here are the three topics identified from yesterday that I'll be – time permitting – hoping to cover today:

How to understand how you arrived in such a situation and thus how to avoid a repetition,
How to firmly and unaggressively regain control
Tactics that turn the demonstration toward your objectives.

But first …

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that both the potential customer (usually known as the ‘prospect’ in sales-peak jargon or ‘the punter’ by those that should know better) and the sales advisor see most encounters as a contest. This is both historic and endemic. There’s nothing we can do about this so let’s explore practical ‘work-arounds’ shall we?

The sales advisor needs to sell in order to eat. Naturally this will be in the back of their minds. Does this mean they are inclined to act unethically? Sometimes yes – but in my direct personal experience, usually not. The ‘cards’ are stacked against the buyer from entirely different perspectives and not necessarily deliberately so. This will become clear shortly.

How to understand how you arrived in such a situation and thus how to avoid a repetition.

Err … which situation? The Halo effect situation I identified yesterday i.e. a tendency to make judgements in strictly black and white terms. For example, an amplifier with astonishing bass performance such that this overwhelming feature masks, or causes the listener to marginalise other shortcomings such as a screeching treble, little depth of image, and so on.

So how did you, and countless others arrive at this situation? First, it’s an unhelpful characteristic of human decision making. We all have it. The trick is (a) to acknowledge this and (b) use cunning to overcome it.

Now then, I'm writing from experience of 37 years in the retail side of the industry. I know what I'm talking about through first-hand experience.

Here’s what’s going on. The characteristics of a system – because of course you aren’t listening to an amplifier in isolation – vary according to the spl (sound pressure level) you are listening to. It’s a fact. There are very, very few amplifiers that are tonally consistent at all SPLs. Generally most designers not only know this, but realise it’s devilishly difficult to eradicate.

Logically then, an amplifier has an spl ‘sweet spot’. Similarly with the other amp you are auditioning in the a/b demo. The probability of both amps having their respective sweet-spots at the same spl is near zero. This leads to the following:

  1. Does it matter? Yes indeed it does. I'll explain shortly.
  2. Why? Because you are not comparing under identical conditions
  3. How can this be? Well … suppose amp ‘A’ comes to life at a specific volume setting’ whereas amplifier ‘B’ is similarly entertaining at a higher spl, then what? Which one is best for you?

Incidentally, notice how price hasn’t entered into the discussion?

The salesperson hopefully before the demo would have asked a few relevant and sensible questions. These include your preferred musical tastes, room size, budget and so on. in some cases they’ve heard but not listened. Possible it was just checkbox ticking. Who knows? Arguably if they do listen to your answers, those answers are more to their benefit than yours. Anyway ...

The comparison is set up. From the ‘starting gate’ both you and to a lesser extent the sales person are at a disadvantage. Both amps (and of course the system as a whole} MUST be auditioned at IDENTICAL SPLs and not at the spl that prefers one amp over another. Just for a moment would you like to think through the implications of this.

Oh dear and my apologies because I've run out of time this morning. I'll continue tomorrow. Will you be joining me?

Thank you

Howard Popeck

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