Tuesday, January 15, 2013

LED Selling- Door to Door is Dead

Jim, a friend of mine who runs a small veterinary clinic, told me an amusing story the other day.

He had just finished giving a young poodle its annual shots, and was standing behind the front counter updating the patient’s records when in walked a most curious gentleman.

Clearly, the poor chap apparently couldn’t read, or didn’t read well, and had sauntered by the no-soliciting sign on the door to “hawk his wares.”

Now, I am not a critic of door-to-door selling. I sold many boxes of doughnuts in High School to support the marching band and I lost count of the number of boxes of chocolate bars the neighborhood helped me consume for the ROTC. Whatever a person does in their profession, short of it being illegal or harmful, is okay with me. The point here is the appropriateness and the correct channel of product distribution. I am making fun of no one!

So, in walked the door-to-door salesman. Jim, my friend the Vet, had seen all types of door-to-door  peddlers since the clinic opened in 2002. There had been Avon ladies, Fuller-Brush sales-types, Tupperware-oriented dealers, a person selling Irish cheese and even an investment rep from a St. Louis firm selling mutual funds. All of whom believed the no-soliciting sign did not apply to them (for some reason).

“In he walked rolling a large black metal case, like a suitcase on wheels,” Jim related, “He wheeled it up to the counter area, popped the top open to reveal an electronic sign and proceeded to plug in the device to an open receptacle without asking.”

“I can tell you that Mrs. McGuire was there with her 3 long-haired dachshunds and they went berserk!”  

“Then he turned on the display to reveal the most God awful light show I’ve ever seen!” Jim said.

“Somehow the yellow light with the red glare reminded me of a carnival I once went to as a kid!”

“This is an LED sign that every business on your street is buying. Dave, next door, the CPA, said you guys might like a quote on one of these to help your business, so I thought I’d come on in!”

Jim had already been thinking about an LED display and had interrogated me the last time I took my dog, Sassabelle in for her shots.He already knew the LED sign facts. Jim was was just dismayed that this type of product was being sold door-to-door with an instant and unwanted demonstration by someone who really seemed to be a sales novice just “shotgunning” the businesses on the street.

“You know,” Jim said later to me, “The display I really  want will probably wind up costing $30,000 and that’s a lot of money! It’s like buying a nice car.”

“What next? Will the Chevy salesman come into my clinic trying to sell me a new Malibu?” he joked.

A live, on-site, LED sign demonstration is an excellent way to take the proposed LED project from the concept stage to a three dimensional and “real” experience. No doubt the LED sign demo is an effective and recommended strategy and many sign companies use this approach. But this attempt by the door-to-door LED sign sales guy, extemporaneous and unsolicited as it was,  minimizes and marginalizes what is usually a specialized and involved big-ticket transaction. This creates a very dubious impression to the astute client.  In one breath the LED sign marketing concept is introduced and in the next breath an offer of monthly financing terms is announced.

Talk about an assumptive close!

Jim, the Vet, accessed his computer and Google. He found that had he bought into this offer,  the door-to-door salesman would be paid off, never to be seen again, once his deposit was received. The continuity of care and service is fractured as soon as the deal is consummated. This is not “cradle to grave” service as provided by the best domestic LED manufacturers.

In the last 5 years, I’ve seen advances in the LED display industry and improvements in quality and a trend towards simplicity. Like any product’s life cycle there is momentum to make the products more “plug and play”. Perhaps there will be a day when the customer will walk into Costco or Sam’s Wholesale Club and load their 4’x8’, P-16, RGB display into the back of their Ford F-150 and take it back to their business. There they will clip it up to some simple frame by themselves, like a customer does today with a 60-inch Vizio TV from Wal-Mart.

That day is not today.

Know your manufacturer, ask a lot of questions, scrub their Website and visit them if you can and always ask for references. Some U.S. based, LED manufacturers can “WOW” you, and provide in-depth consultation and great support with world-class customer service. But the casual and impromptu door-to-door unsolicited selling effort is best left to lower-priced items so if it  turns out to be a poor choice, all you’ve lost is $2..99 and a candy bar you may not have needed anyway.  

You never know when the door-to-door salesperson will become the “invisible man”. Seems to happen with predictable regularity.

The usual disclaimer: all posts, reflections, writing, and other mutterings of opinion are mine, and do not reflect the opinions or beliefs of Vantage LED, unless I specifically state. I provide "food for thought", one opinion amongst 300,000,000 in the USA. What is YOUR opinion? Email me at michael@vantageled.com and tell me what you think.

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