How to Sell High End Audio

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Focal: Selling High End Car Audio

“We’ve been taught to sell technology and features but that’s the last thing we’re selling.   It’s the passion people have for music; that’s why they walked in the door.  Music is important to people. Use that as a tool,” said Nick Wingate, National Sales Training Coordinator at Orca Design & Mfg.

The key is you want customers to hear music as they’ve never heard it before, and once they hear audiophile quality, they are changed forever or “ruined for life,” he said during a recent Orca Design & Mfg webinar.

This begins with good source material, for which he provides a list (below).  If you demo an MP3 on high end speakers it will sound worse because the speakers will pick up every flaw in the recording.

Nick's Demo Music List

The goal is to put 7 to 10 tracks from Tidal or Quobuz on your phone or burn them onto a CD. Listen to the tracks several times so you know which instruments to point out. (Or contact Wingate and he can give you a cheat sheet).

Back in the day, before a generation was lost to MP3, people would pay $3,500 for an Alpine CD player.  They paid it because they demanded that level of quality.

Going back a bit, there  was the boom in car audio in the 80s when the compact disc replaced the cassette and brought high quality sound into the car.  When MP3 came along around the year 2000, an entire generation developed a lower standard of listening.   That matched a decline in car audio.  In the last several years, that’s begun to change.  “There’s been a resurgence in higher end music because of FLAC files and DSD files and studio masters available for download. We have the opportunity to use that technology today to teach our customers that there is something better out there,” Wingate told dealers.

The demand for high quality audio is still there.  He explained, you can have a 2006 Merlot from Bordeaux  that costs $15 or $50.  You know the difference when you taste it.  Hence the demo, when it comes to speakers.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming you know about a customer. “You don’t know their income, their taste in music or if they have ever been exposed to the high end,” he said. Invest 20 -25 minutes in the demo and no more.  If they haven’t made up their mind by then, they are not going to make a decision that day, he said.

Teach them where to stand in the demo to get the imaging and staging.  When you put on the music, tell the customer what to listen for—that guitar on the left or the piano on the right.  “Tell them what they will hear and where they will hear it…. Once you do this, you become the expert in the eyes of the customer… they not only have confidence in you but in the store.”

“I’m telling you it works,” he said.

Selling high end audio first, is about having the confidence to sell higher end product, he said.

The 13 top car makers are all selling high end audio systems and digital signal processing (DSP) as part of their systems. It started in 2014 with Acura and Krell.  The next year, Volvo teamed with Bowers & Wilkins and eventually you had Lexus and Mark Levinson, Mercedes Benz and Burmester and BMW and Bowers & Wilkins.

Bose started a new brand called Bose Professional to fight the competition at the high end.  Bose Professional has teamed with Infiniti. “That ought to tell you how imaging and depth of stage have become really prevalent,” said Wingate.  Cadillac has teamed with professional headphone maker AKG to release a 32-speaker system next year in the Escalade. There’s Lincoln with Revel, and Genesis with Lexicon. Thirteen luxury car makers have been selling DSP in high end audio systems for the past 5 years.   “They’ve done this for a reason. This is where the money is.”  The audio system offers the best margins than anything a car dealer sells, based on Wingate’s research.

The aftermarket can build systems that sound even better.  He said dealers should be selling DSP, just as the car makers.  “When you haven’t had a good system for 25 years and you get into a Lexus LC 500 it’s going to blow you out of the water. If we can get somebody in the store, and you can create a sound stage and tonality just like they’ve got in that car only better,  then you’ve got them.  It’s the reason manufacturers are doing it; its part of the luxury experience,” he said.

These are the buyers that grew up in the age of compact disc and appreciate good sound.  “They’ve made it, they’ve got their kids through school and now they want for themselves,” he said.


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  1. Long time ago I proved this to one of my Dealers. He said he doesn’t get hi end customers so I said just put these speakers on his Board I was the Macrom Dist at the time so we through on the mid level Italian built speakers. Within a week he sold 4 pairs 2 pairs of mids & the other bought the higher end without even auditioning them.
    My point if a Customer walks into 10 stores sees same product he will basically just walk out the door. The customer told my dealer only reason he stayed because he never seen that brand at all the stores he went to.
    That’s why it’s Good to have a higher end Brand in stock not just your normal run of the mill equipment. So do your home work see what hi end Brand you like & make sure it’s not in every store around than it gives the customer a reason to listen
    To the product that he hasn’t seen or listen to already.

  2. Well done introduction to selling luxury to the consumer. BUT when it comes to ASSUMING facts about the customer… IF THE SALES PERSON PROPERLY QUALIFIES THE CUSTOMER, the sales person will KNOW and therefore not have to ASSUME anything about the customer. With that knowledge in place the sales person can near perfectly aim the presentation to meet and/or exceed all of the customer’s expectations. Closing the sale is much more likely if the customer is qualified. There are 6 steps to completing a sales transaction and ALL of them are equally necessary. The QUALIFYING step is just the most important of the 6 equally important steps.

    Ray Windsor

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