Comment: How bike shop managers can get sales staff firing on all cylinders

By Colin Rees, sales trainer to the bike industry with Quest Consultants. Catch Colin’s free sales seminar at The Bike Place in January, for which you can register here.

The fifth article in this series (back articles here), continues some of the basic areas we need to review regarding staff, the store and setting the scene to become the only place in the High Street where people wanting bike stuff start looking. Creating that hard core of customers who just would not go anywhere else is a process that needs planning, thought, a tight team who understand the concept, who communicate well and want to win. In that mix too is a motivator, an open-ended profit sharing scheme for all and a place the internet does not get a look in.

You cannot replace perfect ‘customer care’ levels of service. Online firms may talk on the phone but customers are just another caller to give an order and often, the pure boredom of the work shines through. Amazon has few people, just robots. People will always want to look round, see what’s new, ask questions and that’s a great reason why, done properly, retail will never die. That is providing we embrace change and welcome browsers. Ask yourself, is someone who even just might buy something in weeks to come a time waster? A shop with people inside attract other people, whoever they are, so talk to people where you can be seen.

The customer experience starts when they open the door and goes on to the point where they close it. Do they take anything with them? Is there a branded, goody bag, route maps, coupons, polo mints, other small things to remind them of the difference between you and the chap down the road? If I buy a bike from you, when is the next time I will hear from you? Do you chase customers who miss the 6 week service? In essence, if you do not, you do not provide a 6 week free service. Is everyone on the email list for manager’s specials tailored to their personal riding? These marketing essentials are considered by many owners I have met as a waste of time, but how much time and cost is actually wasted? Your website needs to be as professional as it can be. Are you prevalent with similar messages on social media? Any 16 year old will beg to work on your computer on a Saturday to earn a few bob and, chances are, they will do it ten times better than you might. Some people believe Jeremy Corbyn gained the momentum he did in the last UK election solely on social media concentration running alongside other, more traditional methods.

Going the extra mile means thinking for the customer to give them the best riding experience they can have. It has nothing whatsoever to do with sales because one follows the other. It is a new environment where smiling, helpful staff’ attitude stands out; customers are encouraged to be critical and are communicated with regularly. The team objectives and attitudes are as they should be, totally focused on the hardcore customer base, building it, nurturing it, communicating with it and growing it.

If you have been following the series of articles concerning combating the internet competitor, you will know we are looking for areas where the Internet cannot compete. These must help any bike shop owner anywhere to complete a strategic plan that will not cost a fortune. So far, we have covered a level of increased service we called customer care, refining the staffing and creating a team, providing incentives to grow and communicate properly. Above all is the paramount shopping experience, to encourage repeat business.

I have been saying that creation of a hard core of customers who will not go anywhere else, can easily replace those you miss through internet purchases as your hard core is yours and will be happy to pay full price. What we need to produce from our plan is the number of those customers who you need to support your business and make it grow. So, how many do you need? This is best decided by really keeping check on the average customer spend, and the average number of times they visit. The real test of rises in turnover.

Not scientific? Maybe, but it is an indication of how far you have come and how far you need to go before you can literally forget the internet exists, it will not be a problem anymore except in attracting new customers and that is quite another story.

Before we move on to a fascinating area where the internet cannot reach, it might help to recap where we are so far. We have written a strategic plan to cover all the areas we have discussed; the store, how it looks, the product range, are we stocking too much stuff? Are your sales team trained to sell from a simple representation of what’s actually available?

Only 2% of buyers in the UK go in asking for a specific brand. Other manufacturer’s products can be by catalogue on next day delivery. Sound wild? It’s 2017! Negotiate with your supplierss. It’s time people dumped the phrase, “we’ve always done it like that” and start to think out of the box.

We have looked carefully at our staff and tried over time to create a team of people who all want the same thing, more cash in their pockets but on sales courses, it is interesting that no one talks about money. Eight out of ten talk only talk about job satisfaction. So what motivates your team?

Sharing work as a team member in a great environment, away from competing or dominating personalities, where people are not afraid to criticise one another makes the team stronger. The team helping the team, stronger members actively encouraging and assisting weaker ones, this is a joy to behold – no management involvement!

But money is the big pull and really gets a focus on things. Another part of the course explains how a bike business runs. Life or death is not determined by margin (gross profit). It is made or broken by net profit and that means, saving cost in any possible area and this is why the best profit sharing schemes works on net profit figures rather than turnover. It also dissuades discounts.

Conducting a scheme over a thirteen week cycle takes into account seasons, good and bad and spreads the target. If the target is achieved, everyone gets a bonus. That includes office staff, Saturday lads, even the cleaner in one place I visited as everyone makes a contribution.

Anything achieved over the target shares a percentage between everyone. It might be as high as 50% to the staff and 50% to the business although I confess, much as I advocate that, I am unlikely to find bike store owner sharing that opinion.  Whatever percentage to select to share, remember, that is business you would not have got. You only pay for extra, you do not pay for what they should be doing anyway and you never pay an individual more. Payment of bonuses to individuals is self-defeating, they get used to the extra cash and are aggrieved when they do not get more. There is no point in gearing targets too high. You want them to earn more because that way, the business earns more.

Making a scheme open-ended gives you the argument to say to people, if they want a raise, the means are available. A team reward changes attitudes as staff no longer compete with each other, they help each other, a great sight to watch.