Author: Joe Bell
Top-shelf customer involves special treatment where sales reps “read” the customer, and then offer various touches beyond the customer’s expectations. Such gestures enthusiastically address customers’ wants and needs.
In archery pro shops, ordinary, no-frills service is common. In fact, it’s often below basic service, especially during busy periods when reps have little time for every customer.
To dazzle customers, you need time and resources, right? Well, yes and no. The key is dealing with customers systematically so you can delegate service and offer that sincere, personal touch customers deserve. This increases profits while creating customer loyalty.
To achieve those goals, archery retailers should consider these seven suggestions.
Step 1: Greet and Acknowledge
“When customers walk through the door, it’s critical to acknowledge their presence, no matter what you’re doing,” said Bruce Marshall, owner of the Bow-N-Arrow Shop in Lakeside, California, near San Diego.
“This initial ‘hello’ doesn’t have to be a high-pressure approach,” Marshall said. “It essentially tells customers they’re valuable. From the customer’s response and body language, I can usually determine if they need immediate assistance or just want to stroll the aisles and shop.”
Marshall thinks many shops don’t even greet arriving customers. They might be busy with a repair or talking to another customer. They simply wait for customers to approach. This tells customers to not return; that they should shop online or consider another retailer.
“Even if I’m in the middle of a conversation, I’ll say, ‘Excuse me for a second,’ and at least say hello to the customer walking in,” Marshall said. “I then tell the new arrival, ‘Please let me know if I can help you with anything.’ That goes a long way toward making customers feel welcome, valuable and glad they stopped in.”
Step 2: Evaluate Each Customer’s Needs
Some customers know what they want and others don’t. Your job as a retail professional is to be intuitive and figure out how best to help customers by asking the right questions.
“If a customer is bow shopping, I’ll ask if they have a make and model in mind, and then I’ll use their answer to form my next questions,” Marshall said. “If they want a good bow and their budget is $400 to $500, I’ll tell them we have several solid bows in that range. But I won’t stop there. If the person seems motivated and somewhat serious, I’ll follow up with more questions. Many times, pushing the budget toward a better bow is the right thing for a certain shooter, so I’ll venture in that direction to see what happens. My goal is to help, educate and put customers into the best setup they can afford. Spending an extra $100 to $200 is the right thing for the long haul, and to keep the customer content, especially if you stop them from buying the wrong thing.”
Customers want to feel valued, whether they’re buying a complete bow setup or a $10 peep sight. Bruce Marshall of the Bow-N-Arrow Shop addresses customer needs and never rushes the sale.
Step 3: Never Be Pushy
At the same time, Marshall said to never be pushy about a bow, arrow or accessory. Always be polite. If the customer seems set on a certain item, deliver it. But most loyal customers appreciate an insider’s view. By buying the right product, customers spare themselves money and headaches, something they’ll long appreciate. Ethical service wins customers forever.
Step 4: Hire Good Help
When I got into archery 25-plus years ago, I visited a nearby archery shop all the time. Different sales reps often worked the floor, and not always the shop owner. Some reps were knowledgeable and professional, just like the owner. Others were grouchy and abrupt. Some worked on my bow with diligence, while others seemed hurried.
After getting a new bow set up with a fancy overdraw unit one time, I got home and noticed a loud buzz after shooting it several times,. The screws on the rest were so loose it almost fell off. The shop repairman was in such a hurry to wrap me up that he didn’t tighten the screws. This led me to seek another shop.
Jim Velazquez is a veteran archer and former archery retailer. He’s owned a shop and worked for other shop owners, including his current job with Bruce Marshall. Velazquez said finding good employees is tough.
“When you’re not in your store, your employees are the face of your business,” Velazquez said. “They must know the sport and have great character. They must be personable, somewhat discreet, focused and hard working. If they cuss a lot and need constant supervision, they’re bad for business.”
Step 5: Get them Shooting
Marshall said it’s important to get customers shooting right away, and not just the bow they came to buy. This helps them see and feel what you’re suggesting by stepping up another level on options. This also establishes trust and credibility for what you’re telling them. This has tremendous value, because they’ll learn to rely on you for your knowledge.
Velazquez also encourages customers to try different accessories. Let customers shoot a bow with a particular stabilizer, bowsight, peep sight or release aid. “If they can’t do this, you aren’t giving them much beyond basic service,” he said. “Anyone can buy an accessory online, and for less money, even with a money-back return policy. Archery shops must have goodies to try. Provide customers above-and-beyond satisfaction.”
Step 6: Never Rush the Sale
Don’t push to wrap up the sale so you can rush to the next customer. Controlling this urge is difficult when you’re busy, but customers perceive it as self-serving.
“Keep the sale professional, start to finish,” Velazquez said. “Customers hate feeling rushed by salesmen. It fosters distrust, like maybe they’re buying something they shouldn’t. It makes them less likely to return. Offer your best service and knowledge. If they’re ready, they’ll buy it. Maybe not today, but they’ll be back. Be confident in your ability. It’ll pay off.”
Step 7: Follow-Up
Whether you make a sale or not, follow up before the customer leaves your store. Give out business cards. Thank them for visiting and invite them to return.
“That’s a big gesture in our shop,” Marshall said. “I also follow up with a postcard or email, just reminding them to call or email with any questions about their bow or new bows they’re considering. Email follow-up works well because I can answer questions while I’m at my desk at home, instead of talking on the phone during store hours. It improves productivity and customer satisfaction.”
Many shops have rigid exchange/return policies and repair protocols, which can be good and bad. Rules tell customers this is a business with working guidelines. Even so, don’t be so inflexible you ruin customer relationships.
If you have a 30-day return/exchange policy, should you wreck the relationship when a customer waits 40 days to address the issue? Try viewing it from their perspective, too. Flexibility can pay dividends later.
The same goes for repairs. If someone enters your shop with three arrows and needs them repaired that day, should you squeeze them in? What if the person drove more than an hour to reach your shop? If you’re consistently considerate and helpful to the best of your ability, you’ll build customer relationships that put your business on top.
To learn more ways to expand your business and attract new customers through Retail Growth Initiative services, visit the RGI program page or contact Nicole Nash for more information. It’s free to ATA members!