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Fred Clements: Selling requires more than product knowledge

Published January 20, 2016

Editor’s note: Fred Clements works for the National Bicycle Dealers Association. Clements’ previous blog posts can be read on

Successful selling is a transfer of enthusiasm, not a transfer of product knowledge.

So says Sam Dantzler, keynote speaker at last week's IBD Summit in Tempe, Arizona. He is a sales trainer for the powersports and marine industries, and also plans to enter the bicycle industry this year with a web-based staff training program.

Dantzler's bluntly-titled presentation "Discounts Suck. Loyalty Rocks" described the importance of relationships in the sales process to reduce discounting pressures, "moving away from product descriptions and into human connection."

He used the example of Harley-Davidson, a motorcycle that is not the most reliable, not the cheapest, and not the best performer. But it has a following that far surpasses other motorcycle brands.

"Harley built emotion into their brand," Dantzler said. "In a need-based industry, purchasing is more based on logic. But in want-based industries like motorcycles or bicycles, it's an emotional buy. So don't try to attack this logically. Be emotional."

He compared a "dive bar" experience to a high-end martini bar. The specs of the product may be very similar, but the setting and the presentation at the martini bar allow it to command much higher prices, and for the consumer to have a much better experience.

Apple vs. Samsung is another example. Apple has done an excellent job appealing to peoples' emotions to command a premium price. Samsung phones, often with superior specs, appeal more to logic.

"Do you want to be a Nordstrom or a Wal-Mart?" Dantzler asked. "Neither one is inherently bad, but you have to choose one. You can't be both. If you want to sell for full price, you need to build a relationship."

Dantzler noted that human brain development strongly favors emotions over logic.

"By default, we want to do the emotional thing first, the feeling thing first," he explained. "If it's feeling versus logic, feeling wins every time. Bicycles can be the solution to the misery in peoples' lives," he continued. "Bicycles change lives, and that's what you should be selling, not the product. Talk about the customer, their lives, their dreams. Find their triggers and talk to them about what interests them. If you do that successfully, and reach them on a personal level, emotion equals margin. Treat customers like family. Don't just 'clerk' them," he advised.

Follow-up is also a huge factor in establishing a lasting customer relationship. Dantzler says 20 "touches" between seller and prospect is a good benchmark. "Touches" can be in-person, on-line or via other sources. The focus is on making continued contact, building a relationship through many avenues.

"Make up reasons to reach out," he advised. "These are non-sales sales calls. These are outbound communications, not just clerking. Selling this way causes people to come to you, not just clerking them once they're in your store. Farming is more than just harvesting. You have to cultivate before you harvest."

His closing piece of advice was simple but sometimes difficult to maintain in a retail environment: doing it with enthusiasm.

"The hardest part of retail is doing it again and again with enthusiasm," he said. "An actor in a play has to be just as enthusiastic in his 20th performance as the first. Focus on repeatable performances like in a play." No "bad days" are allowed. The audience deserves your best. So does your business.

To learn more about Sam Dantzler, visit the website of Garage Composites,

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