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Ray Keener: The Expert Counselor

Published March 13, 2012

 

I often go bike shopping with friends and friends of friends. Mostly newbie women riders looking for road and commute bikes who are not too sure what they want.

 

So I ask if they have any brand preferences, then go to Full Cycle, Bicycle Village, University Bikes, or Boulder Cycle Sport, depending on the brands they want to see.

 

I remember Expert Counselors as guys with spouses or gal pals, much like me, except the conversations went very differently.

 

The EC’s in my shop days were usually there to hear about the minutae of the bikes, Shimano vs. Suntour, center-pulls vs. sidepulls, steel cranks and rims vs, alloy, those sorts of things. (I know, I’m showing my age.)

 

I’d recommend one thing, the EC would disagree, we’d start to debate, the woman would stand off to the side and roll her eyes. Sound familiar?

 

Now, I take a much different EC approach. My goals are three:

1. Help the staffer get a better understanding of who they’re selling to. It’s shocking how many times shop folk launch right into their spiel without asking the most basic qualifying questions. And the questions they do ask are often not the best ones.

 

“What kind of a bike are you looking for?” Beginners are there to find out what they need, not tell the shop guy or gal what they want. “What kind of a bike do you have?” works better.

 

“How much do you want to spend?” Another clinker. Find out how and where and how often they ride, start by showing them the best bike they might need, and see how they react. Go down in price if necessary.

 

2. Interpret what the staff person says at a level my shopper can understand. In my Selling Cycling staff training program, we start with: “How much do you know about bike technology, and how much do you want to know?”

 

Most of my current shopping companions would answer, “Not much at all, and just enough to make an informed purchase.”

 

I remember a shopping trip last fall. A 50-something woman friend looking for her first road bike. We went to the store, the sales guy knew me, and I think maybe he was trying to impress me.

 

Two hours and one parking ticket for her later (“I can’t believe it took so long!”), we walked out of the store. The first thing she asked me: “What’s carbon fiber?” If this never happens in your store, congratulations!

 

3. Remind the shop person to talk about all the benefits of buying from their store. We train staff to lead with this before they talk about bikes, not leave it as an afterthought. 

 

Most of the people I’m helping with their shopping are at least considering Craigslist or buying online. They need to hear from the shop why buying in town, from their store, makes more sense.

 

I think shop folk forget this because (a) So many of the shop packages are so similar now, and (b) Shop people don’t really need the services the shop offers, so they tend to discount their importance to the customer.

 

So to sum up: If you’re a shop sales guy or gal who’s wary of those Expert Counselors, lower your tech talk to the customer’s level, ask a lot of questions before you talk, and focus on what makes your shop unique. 

 

Then we pesky ECs can go for a ride instead of going bike shopping! And if you want to train your staff with Selling Cycling to avoid the three pitfalls above, call me at 303-442-2466.

 

 

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