Driving Retail Strategy by Listening to the Consumer
Back in 1998, Dave Kelley, then Klipsch’s national sales manager, met Mike Mohan on his very first day as senior category manager for home audio at Good Guys in San Francisco.
Mohan took the meeting alone, and Kelley remembers the first words out of Mohan’s mouth to be: “I’ve got to be honest with you. My background is mobile. I’m a 12-volt guy. This is my first day as senior category manager for home audio, and there’s really one of two ways this could go. You could take advantage of my lack of knowledge of the home audio space, or you could decide to work collaboratively with me and we could build the business together. The choice is really yours.”
Kelley chose the second option and the two men proceeded to build Klipsch business with Good Guys from $700,000 to $11 million wholesale over the next two years, becoming professional and personal friends.
Fast forward 15 years to 2013, Mohan is president of Best Buy’s Home business, which includes home theater, entertainment, digital imaging, automotive electronics, home energy management, appliances, Pacific Sales Kitchen and Bath, Magnolia Home Theater and Magnolia Design Centers. He’s held that role since January 2012, having joined Best Buy in 2004 and steadily advanced in leadership roles.
Kelley, now president of Klipsch Group’s global sales, attributes Mohan’s “fairly meteoric rise” to his cut-to-the chase candor, approachability, a deep understanding of technology and laser sharp intuition about the consumer experience.
“In this business, if you don’t have a deep understanding of technology, its application and a passion for the products, you are destined to fail,” Kelley said. “Mike has all that, always with an eye towards the future.”
But, he added, “Mike’s approach is not to look at what’s good for Best Buy or Good Guys, but to always look at the consumer experience: What do consumers need? How do they look at technology? How do we make technology simpler, easier and more enjoyable of the consumer?”
Listening to the customer is the most important lesson Mohan said he’s learned in the industry. “Consumers don’t always know what exact features they want, but they do know what they want to do or have a problem that they’re trying to solve,” he said. “It is our job as retail professionals is to show them what’s possible by assorting, merchandising, promoting, explaining and selling the right solutions for customers.
“That’s what Mike does better than anybody does in the business,” Kelley said.