Talking Shop: Audio Advisors

Jeff Hoover is the president of Audio Advisors in West Palm Beach, Florida (audioadvisors.com; 561-478-3100) - and everyone thought he was, well, a little crazy when he built the Design Center, a $2 million showcase of rooms outfitted with the latest gear. But Hoover knew better. The 6,300-square-foot center, connected inside to the retail store but also sporting its own entrance, houses 16 rooms with different lifestyle environments. This way, potential clients can experience what it's like to have, for example, a flat-panel TV in the bathroom, a sound system in the kitchen, or (right) a home theater setup in a media room.

"The vast majority of business is done by sitting in a conference room with a client and looking at pictures in magazines, and then by taking them to see other homes," Hoover explains. "But even then, it's difficult to paint the picture." That's why the Design Center makes perfect sense. "And it gives us the ability to sell electronics to women. A couple will come in here, and the husband will say, 'This is what I want in the living room, this is what I want in my den - and this is my wife.' And the wife takes it from there."

All without any pressure, says Hoover. "There's no commission structure, so there's no desire for a salesperson to load anyone up with a certain vendor. And this means that a customer's comfort level goes way up."

While Audio Advisors offers products from more than 40 companies, the core manufacturers include Mitsubishi, Rotel, Sharp, and Sony for audio/video gear, Crestron and Lutron for home automation, and B&W, Klipsch, and Snell for speakers.

Hoover feels that Audio Advisors is more than just your average shop. "We are an electronics systems contractor," he asserts. "We work on much more than home theater, such as lighting controls and motorized window treatments. We are a service business that also happens to sell some electronic boxes. And none of the big-box or Internet companies can approach the level of service we give to our clients."

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