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Volleyball & water polo balls | Selling tips | Brian Bands Sports
September 2014

Selling more...

volleyball and water polo balls

Pierre Bester (right) was nominated as a top salesman by Nick Wiltshire, general manager of Pat Wiltshire Sports in Gauteng. “Pierre Bester has been in the sports industry for the better part of 40 years and has always been a very hands on person, very close to the customer and has always focused on providing the highest level of service as well as after sales service possible,” he says. He has developed a very strong reputation that is based upon ethics and principals, which has stood him well not only in the sporting goods industry, but also in the community, Wiltshire explains. “Pierre has taken the family business to the next level and has brought his son Michael into the business — and this father and son team are without a doubt the premier independent retailers in the Eastern Cape region.”

Selling any product requires attention to detail and you should approach the customer in the right way, says Pierre Bester of Brian Bands Sports in Port Elizabeth.

“If your approach is not right, you will get nowhere,” he believes.

Although a good salesman should be able to anticipate what the customer wants, he will need to take some direction at first. “The rule in our store is that you’ve got to be in eye range of the customer so that when he looks up and is ready to make a choice, you can assist,” he says.

This, however, does not mean that the salesman should stand within 5cm of the customer and crowd him. “Space is necessary,” he explains.

Attracting potential and keeping current customers is as simple as making sure that the service you give them is great. “Service, service, service! Even if they are wrong, they are always right,” he says.

You need to learn to read a customer’s body language and be nice even if they have a nasty attitude. “All you can do is hope they get up the next day with a better attitude,” he says. If you do these things, customers will keep coming back.

Forcing a browser into becoming a buyer is not something that he promotes as it is a negative approach. “Do not force a sale on a customer, if they want to buy, they will buy. Once they have made that decision you can do the rest,” he adds.

Customer comfort

Customer comfort is important to him, which comes naturally if the customers and sales staff are familiar with each other. He feels blessed with the quality of the sales staff that have been with them for years.

“The newest employee is my youngest son, who has been here for seven years — and several more unofficially —, some others have been here for eight and eleven years, but the rest for over twenty years,” he says.

His employees therefore have an established relationship with their customers, which he believes plays an important role when dealing with customers.

“Know their names, and make them and their kids feel at home in the store, because that’s important to them,” he advises.

Another thing that is good to have and contributes to customer comfort is laughter. “Laughter on the floor is terribly important to me, because it means they’ve broken the ice — staff and customers are in a good space,” he says.

Three key factors

    There are three key factors to take into account when selling any sports ball, says Bester.
  • Number one is that the salesman has to have the product knowledge. He cannot advise on how the product works, what is good or bad about it, unless he has the background to be able to tell the customer how the product works. He says his salesmen gain this knowledge from Sports Trader’s articles, other catalogues and the internet, which has become a vast tool to use in order to get information.
  • The display of the product is important be cause customers are buying with their eyes as well. “They are more likely to purchase if the product is well presented,” he says. This also includes having the product at hand for customers to feel and handle.
  • “Retailers need to ensure they have sufficient stock,” says Bester. “There’s nothing worse than having gone through all the effort of finding the correct ball, only to find that there is no stock. This will ensure that both the salesman and the customer’s time is not wasted. It could also prevent losing that customer’s loyalty, as he might go to another store that stocks what he needs, he says.

More about Pierre Bester

Pierre Bester is no spring chicken when it comes to the business of selling sports equipment, having been in the industry for more than 40 years. “I have been in the industry too long,” he jokes. He grew up in the industry and learnt and learnt all the while, which later basically formed his apprenticeship and way into a career.

Bester started working at Brian Bands in 1969 while he was still at school, committing holidays and weekends to the independent sport store that has become a household name in Port Elizabeth.

The original owner — Brian Bands — sold the store to Bruce Baker and Neville Mallet in 1967. In 1974 Bester became a full-time staff member and minor shareholder in the business. In 1997 he bought out his partners and became the sole owner of Brian Bands Sports.

The store sells a variety of sports gear and, he has participated in sports like rugby, cricket, squash, tennis and even a bit of road running.

Although he had no distinctions in the sports he played, it did not affect his selling skills, because he believes just because you’re good at a particular sport, does not automatically make you a good salesman of that particular product.

“I just generally have a passion for sport and selling equipment like volleyball and water polo balls was a natural progression,” he says, because there is a demand for them.

Selling voleyballs and water polo balls

Selling volleyball and water polo balls are different to selling other team balls, like a soccer or netball ball, where customers will most likely want to gain a feel of the ball by bouncing it on the floor or dribbling it, advises Pierre Bester of Brian Bands Sports in Port Elizabeth.

  • “Customers should be allowed to play with the ball in the store, but they should rather throw it against a wall, or in a way that it will be thrown when actually playing the sport,” he says.
  • The ball should also be properly inflated in order for the customer to get a proper feel. If it is not properly inflated it could hinder the ball’s performance.

Inflating balls

  • When inflating a men’s size 5 water polo ball, it should be 90-97 kPa (kilo Pascal’s).
  • A women’s size 4 should be inflated to 83-90kPa.
  • Because cheaper balls are not too strong, customers should be advised that they shouldn’t inflate these balls to the maximum, Bester says.

The salespeople should keep a guide where they can quickly locate it for ease of reference to be able to have the information ready about the correct inflation for a ball size.

The correct size

The salesman needs to know which particular size ball a certain age group or gender should play with, Bester says.

  • Generally, for water polo, U13 players don’t use a ball larger than size 4, whereas younger age groups would play with a size 3.
  • Girls in high school and ladies also play water polo with a size 4, whereas high school boys and men play with a size 5 ball.
  • For volleyball, on the other hand, one size will be used for all age groups, whether male or female.

Different features

Volleyball balls and water polo balls each have their own specific features. Because they are in-hand sports, grip and softness are important.

  • Volleyball balls are usually made of rub- ber, synthetics or leather, but synthetic and leather balls will be softer and more ideal than their rubber counterparts.
  • For a volleyball ball, one should be more focused on whether or not it has a soft feel.
  • On the other hand, in a water polo ball it is more about the grip, as the sport is played in water where the ball could easily slip.

Different price ranges

Retailers should have a variety of options for customers to choose from, because some will want an expensive ball and others a cheaper one, advises Bester.

  • When stocking different quality balls, the salesman should inform customers of the pros and cons of the product i.e. although a cheaper ball may suit the pocket better, the appeal may wear off if they knew it feels soft in store, but once used and exposed to sunlight, it could lose its grip and become harder.
  • This will not be the case with a more expensive ball. The salesman needs to be open and tell the customer this in order to ensure he buys the product that he actually wants and needs.
  • There may be differences in the colour of individual balls in cheaper ranges, it is usually not the case in the more expensive ranges.

Training vs match balls

Training balls are different to match balls and the salesman should advise customers that although water polo training balls are rubber, it has been made this way because it offers more grip than match balls made that are made of other materials.

  • The rubber’s harder texture allows longer use in the sun and water, making these training balls ideal for constant use in these conditions.
  • Training water polo balls are also de- signed to be heavier than match balls as the extra weight help strengthen the players’ arms.

Advise customers to never leave their ball lying in the sun or pool, as it contains chlorine, which can have an adverse effect on the materials of the ball and reduce its lifespan, advises Bester.




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