Winning at Retail

My good friend, Mike Irwin (Bottle Rocket Advisors), recently asked for some help with a blog post he was writing about retail habits of successful salespeople. I was excited to help. Here’s the link to the finished product:

Wins, Losses, and Customer Shaming

I just read an unnerving post in a local cycling group’s Facebook feed. The page manager, who is one of our guests, bought a bike online, and made mention of it in the group. I didn’t see the initial post, but saw a retraction and apology from my friend, which came about because someone gave him crap for not buying from local shops (I’m assuming it was a local shop… most random cyclists don’t care about supporting local shops… just those invested in the shops).

Here’s the skinny on bike shop guys: we love loyal customers. At my current shop, we do our best to build RAVING customers, who believe in our brand (not the bike company, but our shop and staff), and who bring in their friends to give them the opportunity to experience the best introduction to cycling that we can provide.

When we see a good friend and customer come into our shop with a bike purchased somewhere else, it stings a little. We really want our customers to fully buy into what we’re selling. Is it the be-all, end-all of the relationship with that customer? Not a chance. Every time someone walks through our doors is another chance for us to knock their socks off with customer service. Do we shame our customer for buying something elsewhere? No. We continue to support our customer in any way we can, regardless of which bike the customer brings in.

What about internet bikes? Why not support the local shop? I completely understand a shop owner or staffer getting a little upset over internet purchases. I’ve gotten a little irate about the way things are in reference to online sales, gray market component prices, and poor quality knock-off bits through back door channels. Guess what? It’s not worth losing a customer over. There are some things we won’t work on and some things we won’t do, for safety and liability reasons. We have a responsibility to educate and inform our customers that we will provide a better level of service than an online retailer. If a bike is purchased elsewhere, are we going to give our free lifetime adjustments and our 30-day money back guarantee? Nope. We charge what we charge, we sell what we sell, and if someone wants to choose to buy things elsewhere, so be it.

How do we win in this situation? Hold our line. Take care of each guest the same. Provide the best customer service experience that we possibly can. We can’t win them all. We can’t wear our hearts on our sleeve in this industry. As much as we want loyalty from our customers, it’s rarely the case anymore. A select few guests spend all their cycling  dollars at one shop. Just stay the course.

What do we learn from this? Shaming a customer for being stoked about a purchase made online, and bringing them down from the “cycling high” they are on… that’s a load of crap. Negative comments and forum chatter like that travel WAY faster than a positive experience. If someone from a shop (and I hope it wasn’t a shop) put me on blast like that, I’d never spend another dollar with them.

What do you think about customer loyalty? Is it ever appropriate to shame someone into a retraction or apology for spending their hard-earned money where they please?  If so, how would you tactfully handle that and keep a customer at the same time?  Please… discuss.


The Sunday Hustle

Sundays in our bike shop are non-freaking-stop. We’re only open for four hours, and there’s hardly a second of down time during the 1pm-5pm window. As a shop guy, weekends are when we get our most traffic… which means we have more people that want to get on bikes, and we have to do our best to make that happen, for as many people as possible.

Today’s hustle included getting the following bikes matched to their new owners:

– Two Trek 3500’s for 12 year-old brothers
– An Electra Townie Original 7D for a gentleman who wants to ride the Doodle Trail
– A Trek Precaliber 24 for a 9 year-old who outgrew his 20″ bike, and LOVES the Viper Red color
– A Trek 8.4 DS and a Trek Neko SL for a couple who want to become enthusiasts, and want to have versatility to go different places

…and those were just the bikes I handled over the four hours we were there.  It was a great day to pair excited people up with their new bikes. I’ve said it a hundred times… “It’s not a hard sell. I sell fun.”

I love my job.

History Repeating Itself

Several years ago, I got in a little trouble with my blog.  I wrote a post about how I got “pushed out of the service area,” and more onto the sales floor.  It was a bit of a harsh relocation.  There were some new employees at the shop with very strong personalities, and in retrospect, it made more sense for me to be out on the sales floor.  I made a bigger deal about it than I should have, and my complaining and moaning about the situation made a tense situation with my employer.

Thinking about where I’m at right now, and how it parallels the situation I’m in right now… I should have embraced the idea of being out on the sales floor.  Our business in the bike shop, and in all businesses, is 80% people.  I am a natural people-person.  I can talk to a brick wall, and I can get along with almost anyone.  I SHOULD have been out on the sales floor.  I like to think of myself as a fairly good bicycle mechanic, but I am, hands-down, a much better salesperson.  I’m not trying to be cocky about this, I’m just realizing and understanding my strengths and wondering why in the heck it took me so long to understand and embrace that.

If you gravitate towards something or are placed in a position that is not necessarily what you feel is your primary focus, try to understand why you are there, and blow it out of the water.  You may look back and see that transition as a turning point in your career, whether positive or negative.  Whatever you do, just keep moving.

The Game Has Changed

I’ve been silent on the blog for over a year. My bike game has shifted a little, with my focus heading to the bike sales side of things instead of on the mechanic front. It’s been good, so far. I’m a pretty decent people-person, so it isn’t that hard to make the switch. I’ve always done sales at bike shops, just not exclusively. I’m digging it, so far.

As with all my inconsistent attempts at trying to write more, I’m going to promise to try and write more. It’s a good outlet to make some connections, and hopefully provide a little bit of useful information to folks. It’ll probably be more of the sales side of things, useful bike tips, or some things like that, but I plan on being a bit more frequent with it.

All my contact info can be found here, if needed: Feedback is welcome. Good talk… see you out there.

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