Madison's guest iceBike* speaker and sales trainer shares his wisdom on the best methods of sealing the deal

Ray Keener: “If you can’t sell in 15 minutes, the customer isn’t ready to buy”

Bike retailers visiting Madison’s iceBike* last month got the chance to benefit from a number of seminars led by retail gurus.
One such expert is Ray Keener, president of Growth Cycles, founded by Keener in 1996. A regular writer for US-based Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (BRAIN), Keener created the retail staff training programme following the close of the Bicycle Industry Organisation, of which he was executive director.

Growth Cycles runs a selling cycling training shop programme, run via a DVD – and online, giving retailers the chance to take part in the training in-store.

Keener has produced customised programmes for the likes of Trek, Specialized, Giant, Camelbak, Thule and Mongoose.
So what does the Growth Cycles programme cover? A multitude of points, tactics and skills designed to help bike retailers and staff develop their skills in selling product. Covering a range of bases, the programme features ways of helping distinguishing between casual and expert customers, and covers core competences vital for retailing.

Keener’s H.A.N.D acronym is one of the devices he employs in the training programme as an, erm, handy way for retailers to remember some essential sales techniques. H stands for customer welcome, such as “Hello, how are you?” The A for ask questions, like “what brings you in the store today?”

When the sales man or woman has heard the reply they can then (N) narrow the choices available to the customer, likely through further questions, if necessary. Finally the D is for ‘direct the sale’ – “would you like to buy today?” Straightforward, yet to the point and saving no end of wasted time.

It sounds simple, but it’s all designed to look after potential purchasers. “If a customer is happy then they’ll buy more,” Keener tells BikeBiz. “And if you can’t sell in 15 minutes you’re probably not doing it right.”

The knowledge gap between staff and consumers is just one of the key points of the training driven home by the training. Keener says: “You have to go down to a customer’s level as opposed to bringing them up to your level of knowledge.”
The skills training also includes areas still relatively new to the industry, such as how to compete online, and even how to make the best use of telephone calls into the shop.

“Store branding is key – it’s what sets you apart,” stresses Keener.

In his seminar Keener addressed the questions of why bike retailers should bother to train their staff in sales techniques. He also included a recommended training strategy for dealers. Over 70 people filled the room in two seminars at iceBike*. Attendees were able to benefit from a show special on signing up to the Selling Cycling training programme.

While the seminars would have been the first time many UK bike retailers would have come across Ray Keener, the Growth Cycle boss is a distinctly more familiar face in the United States. He estimates: “40 per cent of shops in North America use my programme.”

In fact there are about 1,600 US bike retailers registered on the Growth Cycles programme. The stores have used the DVD, online videos and their three components of general sales techniques, category-specific training and SKU-specific training – all wrapped up in a snappy easy-to-digest-format.

There are samplers of what the training programme has to offer on YouTube on the Growth Cycle channel.

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