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Triathlon gear | Selling tips | Tribe Multisport
January 2015

Selling more...triathlon gear

Dave Harrington, right, has been in the industry for 20 years — the last few years as owner of a triathlon store, Tribe Multisport. He is a good salesman in the multisport retail environment because he partakes in multisport events, from triathlons — he’s completed numerous full and half Ironman events — to multi-stage mountainbike events, to Xterras and Duathlons. He therefore understands what it takes to prepare for the event, what you’re mentally going through during the event up until recovery afterwards. “He can relay this information back to you, whether you’re an elite, intermediate, or beginner in the sport,” says Christo Snyman, sales director at Ultimo in Gauteng. “Dave also has the ability to sell you exactly what you need — he won’t under or oversell you”.

Being a successful salesperson takes a bit more than a love and passion for the sport for which you are selling products, explains David Harrington of Tribe Multisports in Johannesburg.

The way you greet and approach customers definitely influences whether they will make a purchase or not. You should have a warm and friendly approach, he says.

“Good sales people become part of the environment of the products they sell,” says Harrington. If you use the products and are actively involved in the sport you will be good at your job, he says. His own experiences with triathlons have definitely contributed to his knowledge bank when it comes to giving triathlon advice.

Product knowledge can also contribute towards making a sale, he says. You can gain product knowledge by using the equipment you stock, as he does, by reading about the products and how they work and through the training sessions that suppliers give.

Managers and store owners should be encouraging sales reps to train staff, he says. Brands come and train his staff, which he believes has only been beneficial for them.

He also notes that gaining knowledge about the products you sell should be seen as continuous education, as you can never know too much about anything in your store.

Although the above contribute to being a successful salesman, you should always listen to the customer, he emphasises.

Forcing customers to buy what you want them to buy is definitely not the way to go. “Ask questions, listen to what their needs and wants are, so that you can pitch your sale to that,” he explains.

Once you have found out what they want, you move on to the stock your store offers that suit those needs. At the end of the day, you’ll win or lose some, but that’s a fact of how the retail environment works, he explains.

A passion for what you are selling, and the environment you are working in, are important. He has found this to be 100% true for himself.

When selling triathlon equipment, some of the main questions to ask customers shopping for triathlon equipment are whether they are new to the sport, or growing in it, says Harrington.

Once you know the level they are on “you can guide them to the equipment they require,” he explains.>

Another important question to ask is what type of triathlon events they are considering entering - for example, is it an ultra-distance or standard distance, as this will give you an indication as to what they may need.

The different triathlon categories, such as swimming, cycling and running, means that customers require products suited for their specific style and needs in every section. This may be one of the hardest parts about selling triathlon products, Harrington feels, because every customer that walks in may open a world of possibilities, that are totally different to the next customer.

More about David Harrington

David Harrington and his partner Steve Pettitt opened Tribe Multisports, a triathlon-specific store, in Bryanston, Johannesburg, three years ago, because they could find very few stores that catered for the multi-sport discipline that includes swimming, cycling and running.

“We opened the store, after seeing a gap in the market,” he explains.

They saw it as a service to improve triathlon and mainly wanted to assist women in the sport as participation was moving from male-dominated to a 50/50 split between males and females.

“We wanted to help female participants in a professional manner” says Harrington, who found that some stores treated women differently to men taking part in the sport.

He also wanted to improve service to first-time participants who are nervous and apprehensive about the sport. “We listen to them and give advice to help improve their enjoyment and experience of the sport,” he says.

Harrington has worked in other retail environments for 20 years and still does importing and distributing of international brands. His involvement in selling triathlon products came “out of a pure passion for the sport,” he says. He has a great interest in the sport and follows, as well as participates in, many competitions because “I love the sport and have a passion for it,” he explains.

He has participated in events like several Iron Mans, Xterras, road races, and many more.

He believes his passion and interest in sports like running, having worked in different retail environments with cycling products, etc. these all help him to offer his customers useful advice.

Tips for selling triathlon gear

There are some products that customers will have to have in order to compete in any triathlon – and these items may be different to the equipment and clothing you will sell for competing in swimming, cycling and running as individual sports.

The main difference between selling equipment for a triathlon and the individual sporting codes is the fact that a fast transition is needed in triathlon.

  • Triathlon-specific clothing like a triathlon suit, which is a body hugging all in one, offers a fit that allows the wearer to perform optimally throughout all the stages of a triathlon. It is an investment and cuts down on a wearer’s transition time as they won’t need to change in between stages. These ‘tri suits’ are more often used by advanced triathletes who know what they need in order to be most efficient in each leg of a triathlon.
  • Specific triathlon shoes, which are easy to pull on or off, will improve transition times between the cycling and swimming stages. A customer who is new to triathlon might, however, not be inclined to buy triathlon-specific gear until he or she is sure that they will participate often. There are, however, certain factors to keep in mind when selling individual swimming, cycling and running equipment to a customer who will be participating in triathlons.
  • Swim stage:

    Finding the right equipment for the swim leg of the triathlon means more than just goggles and a suit, it’s about how well they fit the wearer.

    • When swimming in the sea, goggles have to fit well so that the waves don’t cause them to move around. When fitting goggles, advise customers to try on as many as possible in order to ensure they get the fit that is most comfortable for them. If it is comfortable when fitting in store, it will be just as comfortable in the water.
    • Tinted lenses are ideal for use during tri- athlon races as participants are most likely to encounter more sunlight than when swimming in a pool indoors, where clear lenses would be fine.
    • Advise customers to invest in chlorine- resistant swimsuits that will not wear out from training in chlorinated pools and can be used for competition as well.
    • It is also advisable to select a training swim- suit made of more durable materials like polyester, which would last longer than nylon that thins and stretches easily.
    • When swimming in low temperature wa- ter, a wetsuit is strongly recommended to keep the wearer warm and because it gives buoyancy in the waves, but advise customers that it may slow down their transition rate as it will take longer to remove a wetsuit.
    • It is important that a wetsuit doesn’t bulge in are as as it will collect water and slow the wearer down. The wetsuit should also have enough stretch to allow necessary shoulder movements. You can ask customers to mime swimming movements to check.
    • To keep a swim- or wetsuit in its best shape for longer, customers should always rinse them after use. It is not recommendable to wring them because they will stretch.
    • When selecting a swimming cap, latex is the most affordable, but silicone caps are more durable. Lycra, on the other hand, is the most durable, but will cause the most drag while swimming.
    • Cycle stage:

      When selecting a bicycle for the cycle stage, knowing the type of terrain customers are competing on helps determine the gear they need.

      • For varying terrain a road bike may be beneficial as it offers the necessary speed for triathlon racing, as well as a large variety of styles and price points. On the other hand, if a customer wants speed and cost is not a factor, a triathlon-specific bicycle is more aerodynamic and exercises the hamstrings more, which will prepare them for the last leg of the race. If the cycle takes place on a trail, however, a mountain bike would be ideal.
      • Cycling shoes that clip into bicycle pedals provides pedalling strength, but if a customer knows pedalling is their strength, they may benefit more from a stiff-soled cycling shoe that can also be used for the running stage.
      • When fitting a customer’s helmet, make sure it is compatible with the sunglasses they will be using and recommend that they use sunglasses with photochromic lenses, which will automatically change to their surrounding conditions, ideal for the changing light conditions one may encounter during a triathlon.
      • Advise customers to also carry a mini re- pair tool kit in case of a flat tyre or other problems they may encounter.

        Running stage:

        At the end of the race, it’s all down to shoes, therefore advise customers to look for support, cushioning and comfort, based on the specific race length and terrain.

        • Toggles and stretch laces are recommend- able time-savers that allow the wearer to easily pull shoes off or on.
        • Using socks is a personal choice, but if your customer finds his feet often blister during his run, socks made of moisture-wicking material would be advisable, even though it will take more transition time to put them on.
        • A hat or visor may be useful for keeping sun or rain out of the eyes.
        • Remind customers that they should take care of themselves on race day by staying nourished, applying sunscreen and having first aid supplies on hand in case of minor accidents, especially anti-chafe products. Wearing any new items on race day is not recommended as it could cause many problems. Therefore, advise customers to stick to what they know and have used during practice sessions.

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