It’s all about the customer – Top tips for bike shop sales

By Jake Voelcker, owner, Bicycleworks

A customer looking for a new bike walks through the door… How does the conversation go? What does your sales process look like? Do you ask what they will be using the bike for? Award yourself 10 points! Do you ask a bit more about themselves? 20 points! Or do you show them a range of shiny new bikes and tell them how great they all are? Uh-oh…You lose 50 points!

The theme is: always ask questions. The customer doesn’t want to hear about your road bikes if they came in to buy a folding bike. They don’t care how great this year’s e-MTBs are either… but how do you know unless you ask? It’s not about you. It’s not about the store. It’s not even about the bikes. It’s all about the customer.

Consultation and diagnosis
Think of yourself as a doctor. The customer has symptoms – they want to get some exercise, or they are dissatisfied with their current bike, or they need to start cycle commuting – and they may already have an idea of what medicine they think would work, i.e. what bike they want.

But would a good doctor give the patient any old medicine they ask for? You need to check if they have described all their symptoms. Are they only going to use the bike in the city? Or would they like to try some longer weekend rides if they get a good enough bike? Then you need to check if the medicine will cure the symptoms. The customer might want a folding bike because it’s easier to store. But what if they have a 20-mile daily commute and need to carry heavy luggage? Is a folding bike still the right option? In the long-term the customer won’t thank you for selling them the wrong bike even if it is the bike they asked for! But if you carefully listen to their requirements, make some recommendations, and then sell them the right bike, you’ve got a satisfied customer for life.

“… and what else?”
Always ask more, dig a little deeper. Jane Doe came to buy a commuting bike, but if you ask a few more questions, she may reveal a plan to cycle across Europe next year. So now you know she is in the market for a touring bike as well. Joe Bloggs says he needs a basic bike to get to his new job. But if you ask, he may tell you he works night shifts. Now you can show him the model with dynamo lights, and ask if he needs hi-vis gear too. He’s happy because he’d never heard of dynamo lights and he thinks they’re a great idea. You’re happy because you just sold £150 of upgrades.

Logic or emotion?
It’s not all about sensible upgrades like dynamo lights. A big part of the customer’s sales decision is based on emotion, so work with that. Sell them an idea, a dream. How will this bike make them feel?

For example, if they have told you they are looking for a bike as part of a weight-loss plan, then start your sentences “Once you are cycling regularly…” or “As soon as you achieve that fitness level…” This shows you understand them, you believe in them, you buy into their dream.

If they show interest in the prints of touring bikes on your walls, reveal that these photos were taken by customers who cycled the very same model of bike around the world last year. Even if your customer is buying the bike for commuting, they now feel they are buying into the dream of being able to cycle it around the world – who knows, maybe they will!

Don’t fall at the last hurdle
Finally, don’t lose the sale at the last minute by making the customer do all the work. Don’t leave an awkward silence, which forces the customer to say “I can’t decide now, I might come back,” and definitely don’t jump in and say anything as blunt as “so, do you want it?” Make it easy for them to say yes, smooth the way. At the right time, say something like “I’m so glad you like it” or “from what you’ve told me it’s just perfect for you, what do you think?”

A three-step consultation
Have a few opening questions ready. For example: “Where do you work?” and “Where do you live?”
These are great questions to get to know the customer better, and pick up clues about their personality, their life, their likes and dislikes.

2. Create a simple consultation process. Be open with the customer about this. For example: “I’d like to ask a few more questions, this will help us to narrow down the options and show you exactly the right bikes. Is that okay with you?” Then ask questions like: “What will you use your new bike for? Anything else? And what else? What do you dislike about your current bike?”

3. Once you have learnt about the customer and worked out roughly their requirements, you will need a simple menu, or a palette of options, so that you can deliver your recommendations. In Bicycleworks stores, we walk the customer through the relevant options and accessories in our online bike builder, having first chosen broadly the model which best suits their needs.

After implementing this system, we have seen our average sale value jump from £650 to £800, simply because we are asking the right questions and offering genuinely useful, worthwhile upgrades and upsells.

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