Roland's recent dealer day saw 75 retailers given a detailed run-through of the newest additions to the firm's digital piano range.....
So just how do you shift a £3,000 digital piano in this current economic climate?
It has always been a big question for such high ticket items even before the economy went to hell in a handcart and that’s before you even get into the whole digital versus acoustic piano argument.
As is ever the case, sales at retail come down to price (which is another story altogether) and the sales staff offering a compelling argument to purchase. Although retailers might suggest otherwise, price is down to them, however, suppliers can offer support when it comes to product information and helping sales staff highlight those bells and whistles and extra flourishes which can turn an enquirer into a customer.
And so it is that 75 UK dealers came to the Wisemore Campus at Walsall College to hear what Roland had to say about the latest additions to its digital piano range and add to their own product knowledge, in the hope that they can pass it on to satisfied customers.
Sean Montgomery, Roland’s?senior product manager, presented the range to the dealers. He says: “One of the biggest opportunities for selling more pianos in the current economic climate, particularly higher-priced pianos that carry that all important extra profit, is thorough and in-depth product knowledge and knowing how to apply that knowledge in a sales environment.”
As well as some of the more technical aspects of the different models, Montgomery’s presentation sought to reinforce the message that the line is as much about build quality as sound, with a series of short clips showing pianos being subjected to all sorts of stress tests, including shaking, dropping and heat.
All of which helps bring dealers ‘inside’ the product by showing the processes involved in taking it to market and reinforcing the message about build quality.
“There is money out there but dealers have to work much harder to persuade their customers to spend it,” adds Montgomery. “The day was therefore essentially all about product: a detailed look at our new pianos with in depth product training plus, of course, the chance to play them. We also looked at our range as a whole – we now have over 30 pianos across nine separate ranges, a great opportunity for our dealers to sell to new markets and new customers that they may not have previously considered.
“At the end of the day, what most customers really want is the best possible piano sound and touch that they can get for their money. With pressure on household budgets, customers are also looking for ways in which they can save money. Our new models use 40 per cent less power than the previous range and also offer an Auto-Off feature – perfect for households that have kids that leave the piano on all day.”
The new LX-15, which was launched at NAMM was given a proper UK unveiling before being put through its paces by pianist John Maul, while Montgomery highlighted its SuperNATURAL sound technology, which offers 88-note multi-sampling, organic tonal change and natural decay.
Also unveiled was the HP range, the cornerstone of the Roland digital line-up. The HP 507 features acoustic projection technology, progressive damper pedal action and PHA III keyboard action technology. It is taller than its predecessor in order to accommodate the additional sound projection, resulting in a louder piano with more depth than the 307.
Dealers that were there certainly seemed to be keen to find out more about the products and were allowed to get hands on with the models being demoed. But did they come away knowing more than they did or would a simple information pack have sufficed?
Nigel Makepeace from Keysound in Leicester, says interaction with the Roland staff is valuable: “I think most of all, it was an inspiring day, not only in the launch of the new models but seeing the passion that the Roland staff had in their products.
“I thought that the day was well planned and the overall balance was good. It would have been nice to see the new HP models in the polished finish as this design has changed from the previous model.
“These events are important from a motivational aspect and also the in-depth understanding of the importance of research and development. There is always the temptation of buying a cheap non-branded digital piano but this is very much to the detriment of quality, durability, and realism.
“It is essential for confidence in a sales situation and for the long term benefit of the buyer who will hopefully become a lifelong customer. The market is challenging at the moment, even more reason to keep up to date with information and training.”
Rob Blundy, retail sales manager at London’s Piano Warehouse, echoes this: “Roland always make a huge effort to ensure product launches go well with dealers. I have been to a few events for various different Roland products and have always come away from the day very positive.
“It is key that dealers understand the products to be able to sell them. Roland have a very good way of demonstrating new products to everyone that make it easy to understand, whether you are new to Roland products or have experience in selling them.
“We do very well with the Roland brand here. They offer a subtle alternative to other manufacturers, which secures their prominence in the industry.
“I don’t think there is anything more Roland could have done to improve the day. They ensure all features are covered throughout the day and often paused the demonstrations to see if anyone had questions. Even feedback on the new point of sale for the products.
There is also time in the day for dealers to sample the new products and provide feedback. This is important for both Roland and the dealers, after all, we are at the front end of the sales and get the feedback directly from the customers.
“Overall, a great day for Roland to liaise with dealers up and down the country to maintain and improve on their high standards.”
Dealers certainly seem to love the extra support offered by such events. And of course, it is difficult for some of the smaller operations to get out of the shop for a day, but those that were able to make it certainly seemed to come away feeling more enthused and more knowledgeable about the products.
And these days, when all retailers operate at the margins, that can be a huge difference.