How Can We Be Better Salesmen In Our Golf Shops?

by Brian Dobak
December 13, 2010

As assistant golf professionals, we may prefer not to be “counter jockeys”, however in some cases, it is what it is. When we are “holding it down”, we are surrounded by merchandise, opportunities to sell it, and everything else that comes with a merchandising operation. How can we be better salesmen in our golf shops? Before we share with you some industry perspectives, allow us to discuss some points of interest that have the potential to sharpen your skills as a salesman in the golf shop.

Utilize Your Sales Reps

Unfortunately, many club professionals see a sales rep and they run the other way. Many also go as far as not returning their phones calls. But if there is anybody that wants to help us sell, it’s the sales reps. The more we sell, the more we turn our merchandise over, and the more we turn our merchandise over, the more we buy again….and sell even more. Bring them in for product knowledge seminars. We pay a high dollar for the quantity of hard good and soft good products we bring in, we should get something a little more in return than just the product. Seminars are in their job description and in my experience, they aren’t utilized enough. Sales reps relish the opportunity to get in front of you for a presentation or seminar on his/her products.

Merchandise Presentation

Which stack of shirts would you be most inclined to purchase from? That are folded with paper inside to add structure and clean look, or a stack of shirts that look like pancakes one on top of the other. The days of leaving shirts in their plastic packaging and displaying them on a table, are long gone. Merchandising is downright competitive and it has become another way to add value to a member or guests experience at your club. The presentation of your golf shop with regards to organization, cleanliness, and style, play a significant role in increasing the buying-morale of your members and guests. Folding shirts may not be the most enjoyable task to do, however it’s making a much bigger difference than you think. As an assistant golf professional, take the initiative to practice this and other presentation tasks, as much as possible.

Study Up

It’s as simple as browsing the websites of your vendors. For example, you can learn so much about your Maui Jim products by browsing their website. Maui Jim sunglasses block 100% of the suns UV rays. Their sunglasses are polarized meaning they absorb 99.9% of reflected glare, which means they are as glare-free as it gets in the sunglass industry. Additionally, with the glare out of the way, three earth elements boost color, increasing both the amount and color your eyes naturally perceive – like a graphic equalizer does with sound. All Maui Jim lenses are water-proof, anti-reflective, scratch resistant, and distortion-free. Finally, for driving and general wear, Maui Jim lenses are 20% thinner and lighter than conventional laminated glass lenses. It will take you 5 minutes to read this on, and the same can go for your other vendors.

Get Your Hands Dirty

Folding shirts may seem like the most menial task ever but believe it or not, there is a lot of good that can come out of it. When answering the question the title of this entry poses, Jim Donigan from Peter Millar stated in his past interview with us, “Touch the product, turn it inside out”. Folding stacks of shirts can certainly be monotonous, but you are touching the shirts, looking at the shirts, and feeling the fabric. Throughout the process of folding and stacking, enough information can be learned to make you an expert.

Get Personal

Take more time to get to know your members and guests. In other words, do your best to understand them, both personally and professionally. Golf professionals at public or resort courses might think, “Well why would I do that if I am likely never going to see them again”. Wrong attitude. No matter where you work, get personal with your members and guests. Engage in conversation with them and draw interest from them. It may even be valuable for your staff to sit down together, brainstorm, and list everything on a spreadsheet that you know for each member like favorite sports teams, favorite apparel vendors, hobbies, etc. This way you can refer to the list to personalize your service to the members.

As promised, here are some industry perspectives from those who most definitely know a thing or two about salesmanship:

Lisa Langas, Sport Haley

I think that assistant professionals can be better “salesmen” by just being themselves and talking about their passion – golf! However, in order to do this a few things need to be done to set the right tone in working with customers:
  1. Don’t think of it as selling. You are providing a solution to your customers/members to help them play this sport better, look and feel better while playing, or encourage them to support a business which is important to them. 
  2. Get out from behind the counter and work with the merchandise. This includes being involved in displaying and setting the floor with merchandise so it makes sense to be easily shopped by your customer/member. When you are working with the merchandise people will want to talk to you which makes it much easier to help them select products that they are looking for. 
  3. Conversational selling works great in a golf shop. You have the opportunity to really get to know your customer and develop a relationship with them. Make it about them and what they need and they not only ask your opinion/advice, but actually act upon it. 
  4. Be knowledgeable! You need to know what inventory is coming in each month, what your customer service expectations are, why merchandise is priced the way it is, and learn about the vendors/products being sold in the shop so you can explain features and benefits and be an expert. People are willing to pay a premium for the right solution when they feel they are working with an expert.  
  5. Invest in your self in terms of selling techniques, customer service standards, visual display ideas, etc. You can do this by reading your PGA magazine best practices e-mail, check out books on the topics, look at other golf shops and see why you like a shop or not, take photos of shops that you like the displays or flow of the merchandise. A great resource is the Association of Golf Merchandisers which is focused on the education and training to be successful golf retailers.
Craig Kirchner, Leading Golf Shop Retail Consultant & PGA Magazine Contributor

“Being good at anything usually involves being confident. Being confident in sales begins with knowing what you are talking about. Training golf staffs to be better at retail involves planning product knowledge seminars with your vendors and having round table discussions about service and sales. Bettering yourself involves taking every advantage of information available and reading things like Pay It Forward Golf. We recently had Andy plate from Polo speak at Old Chatham not only about the new line but Polo’s new management, attitude, and marketing. Dean Hurst at Bayville now sets up his vendor meetings so that the entire golf staff can see the line and spend time with the rep. It all really begins with understanding the service aspect of retail and realizing that anyone walking into a retail space deserves to be acknowledged and provided quality assistance. The challenge in each shop should be to know three things about any item in inventory that aren’t readily apparent so as to be able to strike up an interesting conversation.”

Corey Crelan, Vineyard Vines

I think it is important to just acknowledge that “sales skills” are vital and not optional in just about every aspect of a golf operation. Teaching, club fitting, apparel, tournaments, outings, and simply selling yourself all have a sales aspect to them. In order to be a successful professional you must have a handle on selling.

Jim Donigan, Peter Millar

The most important single thing is get out from behind the counter and learn from old dogs like myself. When a new shipment comes in, try to get involved in putting it out and merchandising the group. Try to figure out what you can put every item with; if it’s a golf shirt, try to figure out how many different pair of shorts and sweaters it can go with (that are currently in the shop). It doesn’t even necessarily have to be the same brand. Don’t just match it up to 1 sweater and 1 short. Be prepared when the customer says, “I already have a sweater that color.” When a guy is sniffing around something in particular, don’t ask if he needs help, go grab the other things like it and put them together and say, “Hey, you know what would look great with that? This!” Always know which of your members are your “buyers”. Pick out special things for them and tell them it’s in their locker. That shows that you thought of them and grabbed it before anyone else had a chance to snag it.

As you can see, there is definitely something to be said about the importance of polishing our salesmanship abilities. The golf business is a business now more than ever, and never before has the business required it's assistant professionals to play such a large role in selling not just the experience, but the tangible product that comes along with it.