Poor upselling skills limit sales opportunities

Simon Wordsworth, chief executive of 59Club, looks at the proactive sales techniques used in golf clubs across the country and finds a lack of professionalism and expertise.

Simon WordsworthNot everybody has the title of ‘salesperson’, but if they are dealing with the general public then they are in the business of ‘sales’. If you’re on a reception desk, inherent in your role is the ‘selling’ of your company. You may not realise it, but your attitude to the people with whom you come into contact and your positivity about your product is all part of the ‘sales’ process – likewise if, in a golf club, you work behind the clubhouse bar or you’re part of the greenkeeping team.

This attitude also needs to be transferred to the people for whom sales is an integral part of the working day – the pro shop staff. Sure, there are techniques which help to make a sale, but if the customer isn’t made to feel important and welcome from the moment they step through the door the process of ‘selling’ becomes increasingly more difficult.

And that is why 59Club’s mystery shoppers analyse every aspect of the sale procedure from initial welcome and eye contact to the moment they walk out of the door clutching, ideally, a receipt and a bag of golfing goodies.

Our latest regional statistics in this sphere show that staff are most pro-active in the north-east, where the ‘tester’ was approached within a minute on 72 percent of visits, with Scottish pro shops following up behind with 63 percent. This contrasts with a lack of pro-activity in the south-east where the figures show a paltry 29 percent, which represents something less than one in three customers being approached.

The Podium (the best three performers overall) score for this category was 63 percent, which goes to show just how well the north-east, as a region, is performing. The industry as a whole is trailing with just 35 percent, suggesting this is one area which requires some attention.

When it comes to interaction and explaining product features staff are ‘on the ball’ a lot more countrywide. But, once again, it was the north-east which performed best of all with an impressive 100 percent return, leading the way from Scotland (83) and the north-west (82). Even the lowest score (London and the Home Counties recorded 57 percent) illustrated that the response was good on more than one in two visits.

The industry average, however, for non-59Club members, was not so encouraging, with a rating of just 36 percent.

Do you encourage your staff to ask a closed question in order to make the sale? Why do you think it would be advantageous so to do? You can see the obvious difference in the questioning style here, and too often a question requiring a short answer, maybe even simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’, a closed question is not utilised.

But those struggling should once again look to the north-east which proved the most efficient with a 69 percent rating; the south-east and south-west both trailed in here with 24 percent. The industry average was just 40 percent while the Podium score achieved 63 percent.

Our testers were also checking to see if any attempt was made to ‘upsell’ supplementary items – maybe in the form of a course guide or, at the other end of the price spectrum, a GPS device. Although the north-east led the way again, it was only with a rating of 53 percent. In the south-east this fell to just six percent, with the other regions scattered in-between and an industry average of a largely unimpressive 20 percent. And, remember, this is not necessarily a sale, merely, the initial attempt to ‘upsell’. So, if attempting to ‘upsell’ is so rare itself, it’s fair to assume, therefore, that additional physical sales are few and far between.

Remember, earlier on when I mentioned that the ‘customer’ needed to feel important? Well, our testers are asked whether their overall retail experience had left them feeling encouraged to purchase, and the results are encouraging despite some disappointing individual performances.

Overall, the inclination to purchase was strongest in the north-west, which enjoyed a rating of 77 percent, just two percentage points ahead of the north-east and Scotland. The remainder scored in the 50s and 40s, save for the south-east, who trailed again with just 24 percent. The industry (non-59Club) and 59Club member scores were almost identical at 53 and 52 percent respectively, although the Podium mark was much higher at 88.

While it would be easy to point the finger and suggest a lack of training in some regions, it should also be borne in mind that, arguably, social pressure from members and visitors alike may preclude overt sales techniques in some areas, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are providing a bad experience to visitors. In the north, certainly, it seems staff feel more comfortable in ‘selling’ to their clients.

We’re all familiar with being asked if we want any ‘side orders’ or ‘starters’ when we eat out, and, almost inevitably, we’ll also be asked, halfway through the meal, if we require any more drinks. It’s the food-and-drink equivalent of the ‘upsell’ and almost a prerequisite of the hospitality industry, or at least that’s what one would imagine. But not in the clubhouse bar it would seem.

Across the industry, the offer of upsell, either by size or addition, in the bar merited a rating of just 13 percent. Again, those friendly, helpful and revenue-savvy souls in the north-east were the best performers on 69 percent, some way ahead of the others. The south-east improved on its rivals here with 35, while the south-west brought up the rear with 14. Overall, the industry merited just 13 per cent with even the Podium scores here attaining just 38 – and this in an area where customers are wholly conversant and largely compliant with the concept of ‘upsell’.

When it came to asking “would you like another drink?”, the overall industry score dropped further to just seven percent, with the north-east again leading the way with 63 percent – Newcastle Brown Ale we presume…

Providing excellent customer service while increasing revenue can be a delicate balancing act – nobody wants to be pestered constantly. But, the happy medium can be attained and, if the customer leaves happy and the tills are still ringing, then even the company accountant might break into a smile.

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