Picture this: You’re in the office and you doze off. It’s a glorious, breezy summer’s day outside. You wake up and realise that you’re no longer looking at the drab walls of your cubicle or the oil patch on the workshop floor – you’re on the top of a mountain now. As you look out across the landscape, you notice vivid, green woodland at ground level and vast swathes of neatly- trimmed fields that stretch off into the distance. You look down, and realise your foot is resting on the pedal of a full-suspension carbon mountain bike. It could be a Mondraker or a Specialized. You have no idea how you got here, all you know is that it’s a wonderful day, that the bike park in front of you is beckoning, and that you’re going to conquer the dusty trails that stretch out in front of you on a shiny new bike. It’s a nice image, isn’t it?
Though it may sound a bit sentimental, as a bike shop owner or employee, when a customer reaches out for your help on picking their next ride, you aren’t just selling a bike, you’re selling the who cycling experience. The images of liberation, freedom and, ultimately, fun are the propelling forces behind your capacity as a salesperson. “When I go into my local bike shop, I’m largely ignored,” comments Joan Miller, a passionate cyclist and avid consumer of specialist cycle media. “Nothing about the experience makes me feel compelled to purchase anything. In fact, if my town weren’t so limited in options, and their mechanics weren’t as well-trained in repairing high-end bikes like the one I have, I doubt very much that I’d ever set foot in there again.”
Let’s face it; no one is going to be inspired to jump in the saddle by a disengaged store employee simply rattling off technical specs or a snarky clerk with a shop full of dead stock and a misplaced sense of entitlement. Of course, ultimately scoring big sales doesn’t hinge on one golden thing, but as a shop, it’s your responsibility to provide the optimum conditions to enthuse the rider into making that purchase. This includes maintaining a friendly demeanour regardless of whether the customer is a weathered cycle nut or a first-time buyer with a big budget and no idea what they are looking for. Obviously the more they spend, the better the product, but right now they don’t know that – so this is your chance to tell them.
By connecting the customer’s interest in cycling with the vision of a memorable experience, you’re engaging their emotions, and linking their sense of happiness and even the rush of adrenaline with purchasing a product that can facilitate this. It’s an age-old technique that you’ve experienced if you’ve ever watched a John Lewis Christmas advert – rife with emotional connotations – and then tried to purchase whatever stuffed mascot stole the spotlight in any given year. This sounds like trickery but remember, your product is not only clean transportation, but also promotes regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle, unlike that wildly overpriced, unnecessary stuffed penguin you may have bought your daughter a few Christmases ago.
On a recent trip to the Raleigh compound in Northampton, I was told by a brand manager that the information Raleigh provides for its different models totally depends on who that product is aimed at. The marketing team’s first job is to visualise that customer in their heads, and this provides them with the basis for all further information and communication. Whereas a carbon junkie is going to care about every last gram of weight they can shave off their bike, a mature amateur looking for a simple upright Dutch bike isn’t thinking along those lines at all; what they care about is comfort and durability. Those two different audiences have very different ideas of a post-purchase riding experience – its your job to bring these images to the forefront of their mind, and with the help of your service, make them a reality. This is an advantage you have over the larger, online chains; you have the knowledge and ability to make sure the customer’s purchase is correct for them, and if they leave the shop floor feeling inspired to ride, you’ve done your job and simultaneously scored what could potentially be a big sale with a customer who will no doubt return.