I sat down with Gordon Shackelford, industry stalwart and VP of Sales for Krell, to find out his latest news and how he sees the luxury market careening towards 2018. Part One.
Maureen Jenson: Congratulations on becoming VP of Sales for Krell…you really are an industry icon. Give our readers some background information on yourself.
Gordon Shackelford: Thank you for chatting with me today, it’s been a privilege to have been in the CE industry so long and to have made many lifelong friends. Like most of my generation I got my start in two-channel audio. I started as VP of Operations with Enlightened Audio Designs in 1991. Although we started making two-channel DACs we developed the first high-end Dolby AC-3 processor that was introduced with a big splash at CES in 1994. We decided to sell EAD in 1995 and I was recruited by Yves Faroudja at CEDIA that year, and I spent 10 years there as Director of Sales. While there were many highlights during those years, the one that stands out for me is when Faroudja showed Blu-ray quality 1080P at CES to the public for the first time.
In 2006 I started my own custom install consulting business and was delighted to have one of my big projects featured in Sound and Vision’s December, 2006 issue. I then went to Listen Up in Boulder, CO in 2010 where I sold many JVC digital projectors which then led me to work with Panamorph in 2011 and then Sony in 2012. At Sony I was their 4K Technology Specialist and had two wonderful years getting dealers and customers excited about the new Sony 4K projectors.
In 2014 I took on a two-year custom integration project. Then in July of 2016 Rondi D’Agostino called and said she was revitalizing the Krell audio brand in the marketplace and asked me to join that effort. I happily said “Yes!” as I’d always loved Krell’s superior quality and performance; we’d used Krell many times in our demo theaters at Faroudja during several CES and CEDIA Expos to enthusiastic approval from the public and press. Currently we are working diligently to re-establish Krell as the go-to brand for needs that speak to and go beyond our two-channel heritage.
MJ: Krell recently released the Theater 7 seven-channel Home Theater amplifier. Tell us about the product.
GS: The Theater 7, a seven-channel home theater amplifier, uses iBias technology to maintain Class A operation up to 100 watts into 8 ohms for the left, right, and center channels, and up to about 50 watts for the other four channels.
The amplifier design uses Krell Current Mode technology that is fully differential and mostly discrete, and which utilizes a Burr-Brown OPA134 video Op amp.
The Theater 7’s power supply consists of two 700VA toroidal transformers with 160,000uF of capacitance. This power is shared among all the amplifier’s channels so all of that power is available to the channels with the most demand. In a Chorus 7200, for example, each channel only has access to one 700VA transformer and 27,200uF of capacitance. In operational theater conditions the left and right channels require the lion’s share of the power and this power distribution arrangement gives the Theater 7 an extremely effective power supply.
For me, the beauty of the Theater 7 is its utility and stunning sound performance at an approachable $7,500 price point. The feedback from customers after the launch of this product has been most gratifying. I have sold several pairs of Theater 7’s with great effect and satisfaction into ATMOS systems that are amplifier channel intensive.
MJ: Krell has always been a name synonymous with “The Best”… what are your thoughts on the luxury market in mid- 2017?
GS: My first thought is that we truly live in interesting times. The luxury market today occupies a totally different landscape than the halcyon days of the 1990s where customers spent as much on audio as they did on video; and in those days video was, compared to today’s standards, extremely expensive. Considering that a control system often represented half the total cost of a project, the grand totals of projects were often staggering.
Today, the prices on displays of all types have plummeted. For example, that last Faroudja 60” plasma TV I sold in 2005 with a Faroudja video processor was $60,000, and we were selling about one a week. Today, regardless of your taste in display technology, you can get the best 60” of any variety for around $7,000 with cheaper models featured online and in big-box stores for under $1,000. The cost of control systems has plummeted as well.
This phenomenon has collapsed what any consumer, let alone a luxury consumer, is willing to pay for an audio counterpart to current priced video displays. Factoring in the shift to the most convenient form of audio conveyance (MP3), what they are willing to pay for any audio system becomes radically different than it was in 1998. In 2017, I believe that luxury goods customers are more cautious and value driven than ever, and today’s high-end CE salesperson needs to be flexible and damned well prepared.
MJ: How has sales training changed? Where do you put the emphasis in 2017?
GS: Salespeople are a classic example of nature vs. nurture. “Are they born or can they be made?” is one of the cosmic questions often asked in our industry.
Can trainers teach others how to do excellent salesmanship? As a VP of Sales, I am forced to come down on the side of, “Yes, I can show them.” Sales training used to be a simpler, more straightforward transaction; now it is much more complex as customers these days are much more heavily armed with facts (and fallacies) than ever … thanks again, Mr. Internet.
So the first thing I say in training is this:
You are most likely not as smart as the people coming through the door to your store or at least they view the situation that way. So disregard your own encyclopedic product knowledge and refrain from regurgitating product specs. Instead, let the customer establish rapport by doing the talking, and you be a careful listener.
Eventually you will understand what they are wanting to accomplish with their purchase, or at least they will give you enough hints that you can then ask them follow-up questions which should illuminate the way to a possible solution. Once you have a fair idea of what the customer wants, you can move on to offering options based upon your product line. One’s enthusiasm towards, love of, and appreciation for the product being sold, based upon personal experience, is the epitome of what a salesperson should present to a customer.
It is this connection of mutual appreciation that forms the nature of the relationship, which is the goal and basis of all sales training.
Next week, I’ll follow up with Gordon and talk about Krell’s latest components and where he sees the evolution of the custom integration industry going.
Krell Industries, Inc.
Vice President, Sales
Krell Industries, Inc.
45 Connair Road
Orange, CT 06477-3650