Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Extra Mile – Meeting Three – Shop Salesmanship

The last entry (Meeting Two – Pre-service) discussed the fact that many PGA pros that I have known that are in charge of golf shop staffs are put off by any serious discussion of salesmanship as possibly being perceived by members or guests as ‘hard sell’ and put off accordingly. I recently googled retail salesmanship in preparation for writing about a staff meeting that would discuss in-shop salesmanship and came across an article called “7 Truths of Retail Selling” written by Chip Averwater. I thought I would use these truths as themes for our meeting as could the Leader at your meeting.

  Truth 1.   Good salesmanship begins before the customer arrives.

               Salesmanship is 10% presentation, 90% preparation                                                     

“We need to have a compelling presentation of product in order to inspire the customer.”

“We should rehearse helping customers. The first step should be learning about the products and practicing communication. Our FootJoy rep on his last visit volunteered to provide a product knowledge seminar for the staff.”

“We should wear what we sell - most vendors agree and seem to want to help us accomplish this.”

    Truth 2.   Knowledge speaks, wisdom listens.

Great salespeople are easy to spot – they engage the customer and then listen when they speak.

“We should resist the temptation to tell the customer all we know until we have heard their needs and concerns.”

“We should ask open-ended questions and listen carefully to the customer’s answer. A customer who is talking isn’t listening we should empathetically listen and then address his or her needs as best we can with our suggestions.”

“People buy from those they grow to like and create a relationship with – listening conveys empathy and is an important relationship builder.”

Truth 3.     An eagerness to help is the solution to the eagerness to sell.

This truth clearly distinguishes the difference between service and hard-sell.

We don’t always need to be selling our product to be helpful; customers that feel genuinely serviced become loyal customers. We want to bring the expertise and trust we have at the lesson tee onto the floor of the shop.

“The most effective way to sell is to focus on the customer’s needs. Find out what they are, who the product is for, how it will be used and what criteria he has in mind for it. That information allows you to suggest products you honestly believe will meet his needs. When he sees you are genuinely interested in helping him he will open up, work with you and want to buy from you.”

 Truth 4.     Nothing sells like a personal relationship.

 When possible, customers - certainly members - should be welcomed to the shop by name and in the same  manner they would be welcomed to your home.

 “Customers rationalize their buying decisions on many factors - price, brand, service, warranty, etc. –     
       but the key criterion is often a salesperson they have come to know, like and trust."

        Good retail salespeople work to build these relationships; they profile their customers as to occupations and   hobbies, likes and dislikes, backgrounds and family.
        There is software now that profiles golfers down to what clubs are in their bag and when was it last    gripped.
         After any sale follow-up goes a long way to creating a loyal customer.
          Truth 5.     There’s no magic close.

“Retailers often talk about ‘closing’ as if what the salesperson says at the end of the conversation makes everything that came before it irrelevant. There is no magic phrase that causes customers to buy indiscriminately. A customer buys when all the pieces are in place: he has a need: the need is correctly identified; the correct products are intelligently shown; the customer believes a product is a good match for the need; the customer feels the price is fair, the money is available, etc.

True, once an appropriate product is identified and properly explained the salesperson should ask if it’s correct and what else needs to be done to facilitate the sale. Many customers need that focus and

Obviously none of this can properly happen from behind the counter.

  Truth 6.    A return policy is a tool, not a rule.

“The purpose of a return policy is to encourage sales, not to limit when and how a customer can return something they are unhappy with.”

“Take it with you. If you don’t like it you back.” Smart retailers don’t reluctantly offer a return policy – they promote and advertise it. Not only does it create more sales, but if a customer is unhappy with something they’ve bought, you don’t want him to keep it and be continually reminded of the unsuccessful experience with your shop.

“Forget about the few who abuse a return policy and focus on the 99% who will buy more because of the reassurance. If returned merchandise isn’t damaged, the cost is still negligible.

Truth 7.      Just because they don’t complain doesn’t mean they’re happy.

“Customers don’t like to be complainers. Most would rather stew in their dissatisfaction, tell their friends and neighbors about it, swear off any further business with you than tell you they’re unhappy.”

Our market is our membership. Our reputation is our continuing success.                                                   
Let’s do a survey!

Waiting to meet friends in a pro shop recently, there was an assistant pro on the phone who never acknowledged my presence or even looked my way. I roamed the entire shop as I usually do and stopped a number of times to ponder the merchandise inquisitively. Ten minutes later my friends arrived as we made our way into the bar the assistant was still with his call. Interestingly the bartender knew one of my buddies and began making him a stinger before he sat down while inquiring as to his friend’s names and libations of choice. My guess is that the golf shop and bar are not run by the same person and that if you brought up the subject of customer service with the golf pro he would probably tell you about budget cuts. One thing I don’t have to guess about is that I am not buying anything from his first assistant.

I was on my way to an Orioles game about a year ago and my friend asked if I could wait a few minutes while he got a haircut. I was sitting in the salon and the owner came over, introduced himself and asked if I would like a glass of wine while I waited. I thanked him and said that would be great and he asked if I wanted red or white. I answered red. A few days ago – same situation – same friend – same need for a haircut - only a year later. I’m flipping through a magazine and the owner shakes my hand and says “red, right”. I’m thinking this is where I should start getting my haircut.

The Extra Mile - Meeting Four - will be about follow up. 


Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Extra Mile – Meeting Two – Pre-Service

Kinloch Golf Club

Today, with increased competition, customers are much more discerning than they have ever been and only the retailers who understand this have been able to grow their business. Clubs as well as public courses that don’t provide commendable service, professional salesmanship and an incredibly friendly environment will not be attracting members who want to entertain guests or repeat customers who recommend the facility. Whether the customer has just paid a membership fee or waited in line all night for a tee-time at Beth Page, the days of tolerating dirty shops or rude clerks is history. Customers expect to be acknowledged and engaged in conversation by a friendly, smiling, upbeat staff that has been educated to point out value, features and benefits. They look to be professionally attended to, for product to be attractively displayed and they look to be sold.

The days of the self-service shop with the “hang it up and they will buy it” mentality has deteriorated to “hang it and hope” and the hope isn’t being fulfilled. The consumer, no matter what his station in life, knows how much harder he is working and how much more knowledgeable he has to be to make ends meet and expects similar effort before deciding to get out his wallet. With this as mantra let’s take a look at “pre-servicing” in this posting’s mock staff meeting and retail selling in general in the next.

The introduction by this meeting’s team leader could be something like the following:

“Anytime we know ahead of time someone is going to play our golf course, whether they are driving around the corner, staying at the hotel, booked into a cottage, or part of a group or an outing they are a potential shop customer. Any potential customer can be pre-serviced not pre-sold, we want to talk about offering services that can enhance their experience at our facility. Our staff needs to understand the effort as an important part of the Wow culture. What can we suggest to our “soon to arrive” customers?

The following contact possibilities are discussed:

“Colonel Mustard, this is Katie at the club. You have a group of seven and yourself booked into the cottage in a few weeks. Could we get your guests a shirt and a hat and have these favors on their bed when they arrive? We have your company logo and could put it on the sleeve of a club logoed shirt. I’d be more than happy to take care of this for you.”

“Professor Plum, this is the shop at XYZ. You’ve booked an outing with us for the weekend of the Fourth of July. Can we help you with a gift for each of your players, perhaps one of the new performance shirts would be hit with your group? We typically can get you a better deal than you would get from other suppliers and we can see to it that they’re individually wrapped and handed out with a smile.”

“Mrs. White, good day. We just received a new delivery of Tail at the shop. Would you like me to put some outfits together in your size and hold them until you come in Friday?”

“Miss Scarlet, this is Cary at the club. I noticed you are on the tee sheet to play your first round this season. I checked your bag in storage and our records and your clubs have not been re -gripped in over a year. Would you like me to go ahead and take care of that for you?”

“Mrs. Grey, we want you to know how much we appreciate you bringing your ladies group to our course for this year’s outing and that we will be putting a sleeve of a new ball designed for ladies play in each cart for them to try. We were wondering if there is anything else we can do to make them feel welcome.”

“Mr. Green, this is Jason at the club. We received the new Tech hats from Imperial your foursome was inquiring about last week. Would you like me to get them personalized for your friends and you can surprise them this weekend?”

“Mr. Blue, this is Jeff at the club. I noticed you are scheduled to play this Friday and noticed that it’s your anniversary. Would you like me to get you a bottle of that wine from the dining room your wife likes so much? I can have it here at the shop when you finish up your round.”

“Mr. Black, this is John at XYZ. I thought I would email you when I noticed that you are bringing some guests with you to Sunday’s tee time who have never played here before. We know you drink Bud-Lite but what about your friends?” If one of these guests drink Sam Adams Summer Lager and it’s waiting for him in a cooler on the cart on Sunday you will have wowed the group.”

Think about all the things in your life that are scheduled or regular in nature and now picture yourself being offered a ride to and from work when you drop your car off for service or you arrive early for an appointment to get your hair cut and they offer to get you a cup of coffee knowing you take cream and two sugars.

There are a number of head pros with whom I have worked over the years who view any type of selling as hard-sell that could get someone upset with them. Customers who would be put off by the examples of service provided above must have been living under a rock the past couple of years since the current economic climate has resulted in most businesses realizing that retaining existing customers is at least as important and less expensive than  advertising for new.

What is required is a sense of empowerment on the part of the creative employee and a commitment on the part of the Leader to training on the use of the phone as a business tool and email as a way to pre-service.

Over-Inventoried – The Killer

Before moving into the new season or reviewing the results from the one winding down, we should be looking at sales per category, margin and did our buy plan keep our space well merchandised without being over-inventoried. Over-inventoried is the key margin killer in most shops and that being the case, worthy of some definition. There are basically three ways to be over-inventoried and any of these situations will keep your shop from realizing its potential.

The implications of each:

A - Over-inventoried in total number of units
Obviously this translates to dollars and has put as many retailers out of business as has lack of business. Pro shops that have backrooms full of unopened boxes or tubs of stock from previous seasons have almost no chance of making any margin as they will be losing any realized profit by paying out for merchandise that is not working for them and at some point will have to give up margin in order to get the level of inventory back to healthy. Overbought pre-books are usually the reason for unopened boxes. Tubs of residual merchandise are usually the result of too quickly removing items from the floor to make room for unopened boxes.

B – Over-inventoried in total number of vendors
Having too many lines or brands of apparel almost always does justice to none. It is also most often the reason for too many units and usually comes about as a result of not understanding the space and the number of turns involved for the shop as well as not having the ability to say “No”.

C – Over-inventoried in a particular category
Owning too many units in a particular category not only limits your ability to make money in that category but by definition, has to be hurting your potential in some other category either by cramping its space or limiting its open-to-buy.

I visit many shop managers who want to discuss the difficulties they have providing the type of service level I always suggest because of the cuts they have had to make to the shop operations budget. As an example of how this is impacted by being over-inventoried, consider the hypothetical scenario of taking the residual merchandise from a collection of men’s apparel and sweeping it into a tub in the backroom in order to make space for a new delivery. This may become the normal operating procedure throughout the season, perhaps with a sale planned for season’s end; there are now stored tubs of goods doing nothing for the retail effort and they amount to approximately $30,000.  This is not as unlikely a situation as might seem – I have seen it many times. Now consider, ironically, that full time shop staff-help starts at $30,000/year.  If that employee turns out to be an enthusiastic retail salesperson who takes some ownership of the space, the business revenue and ambiance could be dramatically improved and you start to get some idea of the killer that “more goods than needed” becomes.

A healthy inventory level does not insure success at retail but it does create the most promising opportunity to create that success. It’s like going into the bottom of the ninth with the score tied and your team has the middle of the batting order coming to the plate. In both instances, there are still other factors that will improve your ability to score. Having a staff dedicated to service and salesmanship is having “no outs” in this baseball analogy, but concentrating on the process that will determine that elusive proper level of inventory and your subsequent buy plan is the key homework for this time of year to put yourself in position to win the game.