Mention the term ?power conditioning? to any buyer who?s ready to sign off on a major home theater purchase and one of two things may happen. If you are lucky, the buyer replies with a total blank stare; otherwise his eyes would roll, a half frown would appear- a clear sign that the little voice inside his head is now telling him: Watch out, Mr. Custom Installer is trying to pile it on. In my years of working with power conditioning products, the one phrase I hear most often from sales people and installers is: Selling ice to Eskimos would be easier.

Granted, customers do not typically walk into a retail establishment to buy a power conditioner. In fact, most customers who would do their due diligence in researching everything there is to know about home theaters would leave out the vital component of power conditioning. Power is something that our present day generation has too often taken for granted. Flip the switch and we all expect a non-interrupting constant flow of energy. Consequently, the average home theater buyer is budgeting most of his purchasing dollars on acquiring the best deals in screens and projectors and speakers. Selling ice to the Eskimos? Well, not quite. What we need here is a little deconstruction of that concept. First, we need to find a way to?. break the ice.

Eskimos are supposed to take ice for granted, much the same way that the average home theater buyer takes power for granted. And since a knowledgeable sales professional knows the true picture of power, his job is to explain that in easy to understand terms to his customers. The truth is, even under the best of conditions, there are electric surges and spikes that can create havoc for any expensive and sensitive electronics system. Therefore, a power conditioner that can provide system protection against surges and spikes is not really an option or an afterthought luxury, it is a necessary protective element. In fact, a dealer or an installer would be remiss if he doesn?t recommend in the strongest terms a power conditioning element to protect his client?s electronic investment. A happy customer is a repeat and recommending customer, and no customer is going to be happy when he discovers that the damage that his system suffered due to electrical spikes and surges could have been prevented for less than what he had paid for the sales tax of his $40,000 purchase.

Preventing electrical surges and spikes is not the only consideration for adding a power conditioner to a major system purchase. There is no disagreement that clean power enhances the performance of audio/video equipment, and, there is no disagreement that the typical AC power in a home is noisy. The power conditioning is a great device to ?clean up? the power and should be viewed as an integral part of the overall system. A customer will be better served by stepping down, for instance, from a 50? screen without a conditioner to a 42? display with the power cleaned. The overall power efficiency and picture quality that he will enjoy over the lifetime of the display will more than make up for the few inches of downsizing.

From the dealers and installers? point of view, it makes more than technical sense to sell power conditioners. The right power conditioners will insure that the dealer?s exposure to service calls is minimized, which translates to maximized job profitability. Furthermore, the margins on power conditioners are generally good, so the professional dealers are actually getting well paid for doing the right thing by their customers.

Successful dealers and installers understand well the needs and desires of their customers, as much and as well as the capabilities of the systems they have in inventory. They have to. Customer satisfaction is the key to customer referral, and in the installation business, a good referral is the key to networking prospects and future sales. So what does the typical customer want and what does he expect from his dealer and installer?

My personal experience tells me that few consumers of the higher end electronic goods are totally ignorant of the products that they want to acquire. Generally, they come in knowing the relative price range and the type of display that he would like to see in his home. What he wants from the dealer is to ?make it happen? ? transform what he has envisioned in his mind to reality. Furthermore, he relies on the dealer as the industry expert, one who can offer him the best effect his budget will allow.

I often view the relationship between a dealer and a customer as one similar to that of a doctor/patient relationship, or that between an attorney and his client. The customer places his confidence and trust in the dealer, relying on the latter?s experience and product knowledge to design a system that will best suit his living environment and budgetary constraints.

When framed in the right set of circumstances and system mindset, selling power conditioner is nothing like ?selling ice to the Eskimos?. In fact, I?d like to use the analogy of selling ice further by pointing out that you can?t sell ice without the bag, and a power conditioner should be viewed as the bag that holds all that power together. Once your customers are properly introduced to this concept, he wouldn?t think of walking home with an armful of ice cubes.

Finally, and this is really good news for dealers and installers; studies are showing that while the price of the average displays have come down steadily, the average customer?s budget has not been lowered commensurately. This means that the customer now has more bucks in his budget in relative terms. Instead of splashing this ?surplus? on a bigger screen or extra speakers, invest it wisely on the right power conditioner. Your customers will thank you in the long run by repeat business and valuable referrals.

Bob Smith is the Vice President of Product Development for Panamax Corporation. A practicing attorney and a renowned expert on the legal aspects of general contracting and custom installation, Mr. Smith is often called upon to give his expert opinions in court. On numerous occasions he has also shared his knowledge as an instructor in various educational forums of the consumer electronics industry.