The industry veteran, who just returned to the Sony Electronics fold as its newly named head of sales for custom installation (CI), talked to Connected Design about his goals out of the gate

Jeff Goldstein

Connected Design: You bring some of your very diverse CI and specialty retail relationships to this new position. How are you planning to leverage your experience within and outside of Sony in your newest role there?

Jeff Goldstein: Even though the scale is significantly greater than when we started out years ago, there’s really a duality to what I’ve been brought back here to do. One is to focus on and continue to grow the channel for Sony within the CI-oriented dealers. The other piece of it is product development. I have a longstanding history of working with the business groups in Japan and those in the U.S. to identify the opportunities and help them spec out what needs to be built in order to be important to integrators – understanding from them what kind of features are needed, what integrated functionality is needed in compatibility with control systems. All of that is going to be leveraged as part of what I’m doing here this time around.

Being that your new position includes both sales and product development as aspects of the job, how are you planning to balance these two aspects and make them mutually beneficial?

One is an offshoot of the other. It’s important that we create a good feedback loop between the dealers in the field, our guys in the field, and our headquarters, so that we can crystallize the information about what’s happening in the field. That’s where we’re going to be able to drive thought process around developing products. Even though it sounds disparate, it’s actually pretty connected. Hand in hand with what makes a good product for this channel is making sure that through dealers, you’re getting the voice of the customer back into that development loop. It’s critical for success in this channel.

Regarding product initiatives, what are some areas of special interest to Sony for development? Are there any new categories that Sony might pursue – or perhaps place greater emphasis on than it had before, such as in the commercial space?

Commercial plays into our interest, in as much as there is a market increase in dealers doing light commercial work. Obviously, we have considered that, and we will be having conversations with our counterparts on the professional side of the business to make sure we are linked up and ready to provide dealers with the right components and solutions for that type of work.

The rest of it is, Sony sells across all the sub-categories in the integration channel; we sell video, we sell audio. So it’s also about strengthening those things so that we’re presenting the right ecosystem of products around getting the job done for the consumer and the integrator. That’s where my focus lies.

What are your views about what you perceive as custom integrators’ most pressing needs from the manufacturing community – and in what directions might you take Sony in answer to these needs?

From my point of view, I think partnership is one of the most important things we can give to our dealers. It’s not, for me, about how we make sure that we’re reacting to what’s on sale this week. It’s more about creating value-add for the dealer in the relationship with Sony. I think we’re uniquely positioned to do that and create a lot of different extensions to our program to help the dealer do better business. That includes products, programs and co-marketing to make sure Sony and the dealer are maximizing opportunities….

There’s a lot we’re digging into, and it relates to every aspect of our dealer interface. There’s products, programs, dealer support and how do we be the best partner. It means a lot of different things to different people. Sony’s in a very good position in the industry right now and I want to make sure we continue to enhance what we’re doing.

What are your short-term goals for Sony in the CI space? And what are the long-term goals?

My guiding principles are really about making sure we maintain the trajectory we’re on, and secondarily, making sure Sony is the right choice for a dealer when going out to do an installation so that we’re a natural choice – and third, to be the best partner for the integrator that we can be.

Those are my three tenets of how to be successful in the CI business. Some of it is very old-school in thought, about how to create dealer engagement and work with them in how to market in their own territory, and the other part is new-school-think about how to draw more attention to the Sony–dealer partnership so the consumer can make an educated choice.

What are your views on how the CI industry is evolving and how Sony fits into that broader picture? There is influence on the consumer side by voice-assistant devices that get consumers’ feet wet in whole-home integration.

Putting my product development hat on right now, I think Sony needs to take a look at the average job and what is really being installed, and where Sony can sensibly enter… I think we have to look at all of it and decide where is Sony going to be able to add the most value for the integrator and the customer. Typically, it starts with great gear – a great screen, great audio support for that screen, and making sure there’s compatibility across all control systems inclusive of the voice-guided ones.

I think there’s a tremendous opportunity for Sony to tap into trends that we see happening in the market. Some of it’s not necessarily the whiz-bang latest stuff; it’s just things that are done every day in custom install, and it’s about driving more attachment of Sony in more places in the system.

What is Sony’s message for architects and interior designers?

We’re not just about talking to the consumer about using Sony authorized integrators, but getting into the job while focusing on the architect and interior designer as a target for communication, is something else that I’m very interested in. It’s not just enough to tell them about Sony; you need to help them understand how these things go together, and what they have to do with their designs in order to accept these types of devices. And I think Sony can be a big help there. It’s not just about TVs; it’s about everything.

I came back to this role because this is something I’m very passionate about. This is really a passion project for me. I’m very passionate about this class of trade and this channel. Getting involved in this area of the business, and bringing to it the long years of expertise both inside Sony and out, I think, will be good for Sony, for our dealers, and good for the industry.

(Photo: Sony’s CLED display, which was shown at CEDIA 2019)