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Ray Keener: Three fine lines

Published April 22, 2014
A blog by Ray Keener

Editor's note: Ray Keener is a longtime friend of Bicycle Retailer and writes occasional columns, blogs and articles for the website and magazine. Ray's background includes stints as a bike retailer, executive director of the Bicycle Industry Organization, editor of a trade magazine, founder of Growth Cycle and now executive director of the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association. Keener created the Selling Cycling staff training program from 1997-2012, used by more than 2,000 bike shops worldwide.

I stopped into one of my many favorite Boulder bike shops this week to check on the status of a special order.

Spring is sproinging here in the Rockies, so the shop was busy. Two staff waiting on customers at the front counter, four customers. 

One of the guys looked over the heads of the customers who were being helped and said to me, “Someone will be right with you.”

Wow! I got all tingly! That one little highly effective phrase gets used all too infrequently in any retail environment.

Which got me to thinking: As the season is breaking all across America, If I Owned a Bike Shop, what three retail phrases or lines would I be drilling into my staff’s heads at this point?

“Someone will be right with you”

It’s easy, in the off-season, to lose the habit of greeting customers when you’re not ready to help them yet. When you don’t have very many customers, it’s not a skill you need.

And when things start to heat up, it’s crucial. Research has shown that customers who are at least given a reasonable expectation of being helped soon will wait twice as long to get waited on.

Sometimes just making eye contact and smiling or making a friendly gesture is enough. Anything is better than the “No one knows or cares that I’m here — I’m leaving” scenario. Most of those folks will never come back.

“What brings you in the store today?”

NOT “Can I help you?” “Need any help?” or any of those variants that can be answered with a “no.”

Of course you can always get “Just looking” to anything you ask. Then follow up with “Anything in particular you’re looking for?”

Too many retail salespeople make it abundantly clear they’d rather head back to the counter and continue their discussion of this weekend’s crit with their co-workers.

It’s always better to risk asking too soon or too often than too late or not at all!

“Would you like to get it today?”

Closing sales is really uncomfortable for many shop people who aren’t trained in retail and who don’t self-identify as “salespeople.”

They just keep talking and talking until the customer either asks to buy or gets worn out and leaves. The fear of being seen as “pushy” gets in the way of the sale and wastes a lot of time, both the staffer's and the customer's.

Not only is asking for the sale (at the right point, obviously) a good way to GET the sale, it also is the ONLY way to uncover objections.

If the customer says yes, the sale’s in the bag. If they say no, you can follow up with questions that will uncover any hidden objections, like color, saddle comfort, price, whatever.

As with the greeting line “What brings you in?” it’s better to employ this closing line too soon rather than too late. You’re showing them the bike they told you they wanted, why WOULDN’T they like to “get it today”?

Summing up

The simplest statement about retail, and I’m not sure where I heard this first: Retail is Repetition. There’s one best way to say things, whether it’s a greeting or closing line, or a pitch for a particular product.

There’s no need to get creative or clever. Just say what works, and say it every time. Have a great selling season, retailers!

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