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What customers want before spending money in your store.

What will get your customers to spend their money in your store? While gun dealers across the country have sure-selling answers, what do your customers say? What do they want?

A recent survey by the National Retail Federation asked customers what they most want from sporting goods retailers.

"This survey is a snapshot of consumer attitudes about how they feel they're treated, and what they want from retailers," said Carlos Collozo, a retail specialist who analyzed the data. "It's a black and white response to poor customer treatment by retailers."

Here's a look at the top 10 customer complaints, opinions and wants. By understanding them, you can create a positive buying experience for your regular and first-time customers.

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#1 "Tell me what you think--please!"

Your expert opinion, and the opinions of your sales staff, is important to your customers and to the buying process. Throughout the entire survey, customers were begging for reliable information about specific products.

Create informational signs about your experience with individual products. Display your personal "picks" and those of your staff. During each hunting season, post information about your favorite lures, scents, and ammunition. Tell your customers what you use.

#2 "Don't treat me like a girl."

In the survey, this sentiment crossed gender lines. Men resent sales people treating them like they're too inexperienced or too clueless to buy a particular product. Women, who are grossly underserved in the outdoor market, resent salespeople who ask them if their husbands, boyfriends or fathers are going to help them with the purchase, or who assume they're purchasing the item as a gift for a male. Treat every customer like he (or she!) is important--because they are.

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#3 "Post information where I can find it, and be sure it's accurate."

Nothing irritates consumers more than examining products that don't have a price attached, or information on how to use the product. Anticipate your customer's questions, and place product descriptions and best-use cards near products. Take advantage of every marketing tool your distributors and manufacturers offer you, and share the information with your customers.

#4 "When you don't know the answer, just tell me!"

Learn to say, "I don't know." Customers resent being BS'd by salespeople who don't know the answer to a question, or who try to switch them to a product they do know about. Train your frontliners to tell customers they don't know the answer but will find out, and then to do it. Customers respect that.

#5 "Don't always try to up-sell me. And, lose the hype."

"Every professional sales person is told to uncover a customer's needs and satisfy those needs with the store's products or services," said Perry Daniels, a retail sales specialist with Damar Management. "But the truth is most people rarely do what they need to do, but they almost always do what they want to do. So it makes good business sense to sometimes just give them what they want."

The salesperson who gives a customer what he wants is more likely to see that customer return for additional items.

The survey also showed that today's well-informed consumer knows when he's getting hyped about a product. Consumers want to know the product features--and their benefits.

#6 "Get someone behind the counter who will give me more help and less attitude."

In many cases, customers feel that salespeople in specialized sporting goods stores, like guns shops, either were clueless or were snobs.

Frontliners need to know more about products than just, "It works real well." In addition, don't make customers feel like they're dumber than dirt. Comments like, "You shoot that for deer?" builds barriers between you and your customers.

How often has one of your sales staff waited on a novice shooter, lectured the neophyte about what he should buy, and then watched the customer buy the product somewhere else? Remember: Customers don't have to buy from arrogant jerks.

#7 "Give me an occasional bargain on a name-brand product."

In the survey, one big complaint was that name-brand products rarely go on sale, or have buying incentives. The truth is, big companies often offer specials, but retailers rarely take advantage of them. Other retailers casually offer the deals but don't "talk up" or promote them, or when an offer requires the dealer to hand out a coupon, they fail to make it available to their customers.

Work with your sales reps, and keep track of each vendor's advertising and promotion schedule. Take advantage of their bargains and pass them on to your customers. And don't just put the product on the shelf. Actively talk about special promotions and encourage your customers to take advantage of them--today!

#8 "Tell me what works!"

What customers want to know is simple: "What works best for the activity I want to engage in?"

To answer their questions, become skilled in conducting "conversational fact finders" with your customers.

"The first questions need to explore the experience and the expectation of the customer. Then ask about terrain and the type of weather the shooter will be in. Little questions will give you all the information you need to suggest the right equipment for the greatest success," said Daniels.

Consumers want your store to have salespeople they believe will provide expert advice. That's one reason they choose small independent retailers over big-box stores.

#9 "Keep track of what I buy and reward my loyalty."

Sometimes it's hard for consumers to remember just what they purchased a year, a month or a season ago. Modern POS systems track what your customers buy, and when. Providing this information to them is easy. Having this information also helps you introduce new products and fulfill your customers' needs.

Rewarding customers for shopping with you instead of the big-box down the street encourages customer loyalty and repeat sales. Offer special discounts to customers who spend a certain amount with you, or who purchase high-margin items. Provide free delivery of large items, or gun cleaning to people who bought those items from you last year. Use these services to get customers back into the store. What you gain will more than pay for the discounts and perks you offer.

#10 "The store is too hot/too cold and poorly lighted."

Customers don't want to shop in an environment that's uncomfortable, or where they can't see what they're buying. Saving money at the expense of consumer comfort is shortsighted, and so is the poor use of interior lighting. Products that aren't properly highlighted and illuminated aren't going to sell.

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Take advantage of the opportunity customers give you when they ask questions, and help them make informed decisions. Stop telling your customers that everything you sell "all works great."

Take charge and answer the hard questions, spend time educating your customers without making them feel stupid, and you'll bring new dollars to your bottom line and new customers to the sport we all love.
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Title Annotation:Outdoor Marketplace
Author:Boyles, Carolee Anita
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Apr 1, 2004
Words:1169
Previous Article:Bracket age groups.
Next Article:Profit from straight talk and expert selling tips.


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